Earlier this year, after more than a year of anticipation, the people of Scotland held a vote to determine whether their country would become independent from the United Kingdom. That vote was unambiguously in favor of remaining part of Britain, with pro-union majorities in nearly every county, but it revealed deep divisions within Scottish society and between Scotland and its hegemonic neighbor, England. Indeed, the histories of the various parts of the island group best known as the British Isles are surprisingly different, leading to persistent divisions that, in the past and into the future, define nations.
As many readers are undoubtedly aware, this past week the people of Scotland held a long-awaited referendum on whether to become an independent country. What, exactly, this means has been more confusing than it should have been, because Scotland exists at a nexus of confusion within the mess of terms used to describe that general region of Europe. With my trusty Imaginary Correspondent, let’s sort that out.
Imaginary Correspondent: I find Britishness quaint and also confusing. Where do we start?