The independence referendum in historical and political context

Colin Kidd, Malcolm Petrie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explains the historical background to the Referendum. It traces the slow, spasmodic rise of the Scottish National Party within a culture dominated for the second and third quarters of the twentieth century by unionisms of one sort or another. Labour was a committed Unionist party, certainly between 1958 and 1974, while the Conservatives, who had earlier amalgamated with the Liberal Unionists, were known electorally in Scotland until 1965 as the Unionists. The surge in SNP support between 1967 and 1974 transformed political competition in Scotland. Ironically, the emergence of strident Thatcherite unionism provided a major boost both to Lib-Lab devolutionism and, over a longer span, to the case for Scottish independence. Contingencies, personalities, and developments within the main parties had much to do with paving the road to the Referendum, which does not conform to a straightforward narrative of the rise of nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Scottish Independence Referendum
Subtitle of host publicationConstitutional and Political Implications
EditorsAileen McHarg, Tom Mullen, Alan Page, Neil Walker
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9780198755517, 9780198755524
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2016


  • Scottish National Party
  • SNP
  • Scottish nationalism
  • unionism
  • Anglo-Scottish Union
  • devolution
  • Scottish Labour
  • Thatcherism
  • democratic deficit


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