On Intersections of Land, Law, and Literature, from Primitive Territories to the Post-National Future


The Blurriness of Nation, Federation, and State: Brexistential Threats (May 30, 2016)

I have based my my subtitle here from language in Griff White’s excellent Washington Post analysis of the way in which many Scottish separatists believe a vote for leaving the EU in the upcoming “Brexit” referendum will reanimate the Scottish independence movement.  White refers to the prospect of leaving the EU as having an “existential impact” for many Scots. (For a great guide to Brexit issues, see this Brian Wheeler and Alex Hunt BBC article: .)

While many analysts have reported the great amount of debate over the so-called “Brexit,” usually arguing that the UK leaving the EU will cause tremendous disruption to the world economy, and will in particular deprive the United Kingdom of its holding of the lion’s share of financial dealings, the prospect of bringing back the Scottish independence movement so quickly after its most recent instantiation is fascinating, indeed.

As readers of this blog know, I have been very keen on thinking through the various ways in which nationalist energies are being aligned with economic interests in the Scottish independence movement.  My assumption has been, with the rapid fall in oil prices on the global market, and with the reliance on oil revenues for the funding of a future state, that the calls for a Scottish independence movement would be far in the future. But perhaps this “existential impact” is indeed making those fires return much faster. As I’ve argued elsewhere, perhaps the disintegration of Europe into a number of ethnonationally fused, capitalistically streamlined states may indeed be on the horizon.

It is fascinating to see how the notion of an “existential” threat is assumed due to Scotland being alleged to be more “European” than the United Kingdom minus Scotland. The essence of the Scottish independence movement, of course, has come from its view that it is a nation that is not truly able to control its own destiny within the United Kingdom: allegations of its votes never having true purchase on the direction of the country have been a perennial part of independence movements. Oddly enough, Scotland would seem to be just as much as a minority within the EU—if not more.

Nationalism always seems to be able to steer current events towards its narrative, and I do not doubt for a second that the Scottish separatist movement would indeed be re-energized if the Brexit vote ends up resulting in a call for the UK to leave the EU. I wonder if the subtleties of juggling state-, national- and international sensibilities will be made to be part of a rich and intriguing debate—or if it will indeed just be an excuse to reignite the same Ethnonationalist debate from 2014.