WHILE at university, I read the book Banal Nationalism by Michael Billig.

It discusses the subtle impact that “everyday repetitions of the nation” have in crafting a sense of identity among that nation’s population – think flags flying on public buildings, symbols engraved on currency and national anthems sung in schools.

Applying this concept to Scotland offers a new perspective on our complicated relationship with British and/or Scottish identity.

Before devolution, most instances of “banal nationalism” – such as flags on public buildings and signs crediting government funding for projects – closely mirrored the rest of the UK, owing to the absence of a distinct Scottish Government.

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Over roughly 300 years, this UK-centric “banal nationalism” ingrained British identity so deeply in Scotland that it became the norm.

It’s because of this that in 2014 Unionist campaign was able to portray itself as being “anti-nationalist”, even though supporting the UK is clearly also an act of nationalism.

We know that in the 21st century, independence is the norm – in 1914, there were around 57 sovereign states – today, there are nearly 200. However, many Scots still see their nations independence as deeply unusual, or even sinister.

Where I envision the creation of an independent Scottish state, others see the break-up of a cherished British state. This is especially true of the older generation – who grew up with the “banal nationalism” of God Save the Queen being played before every film at the cinema, and at the end of TV and radio broadcasts every night.

The creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 catalysed a period of rapid change in the “banal nationalism” of Scotland.

Scottish Parliament/executive/government labels begin to surface – heralding a shift in flag displays, national symbols and news focal points transitioning from London to Edinburgh.

The National: 25/01/2023 Picture Duncan McGlynn +447771370263. YesforEu activists outside the UK Government building in Edinburgh, Scotland.  ©Duncan McGlynn ***NO SYNDICATION***NO ARCHIVE***.

This snowballed when the SNP rose to power in 2007. The swift renaming of the Scottish Executive to the Scottish Government bolstered its credibility against the UK Government, especially in the lead-up to the independence referendum.

Flag-flying policies also underwent transformation, with the Union Flag now only mandatory to fly on Scottish Government buildings one day a year. The impact of this is evident – those born in the devolution era are more likely to support the SNP and independence.

Events in and since 2014 prove the importance of these everyday symbols. The unforgettable struggle to hoist the Saltire above Downing Street shortly before the independence vote and the incident of the unicorn – Scotland’s national animal – being dislodged from Buckingham Palace’s gate exemplify the emotive nature of these symbols.

Following the 2014 referendum, the UK Government doubled down on “banal nationalism”.

In 2015, Union Flags were featured on UK drivers’ licences and passports for the first time. The UK transport Under-Secretary celebrated this as “a true celebration of one-nation Britain.”.

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The UK Government also considered putting signs reading “Funded by the UK Government” adorned with Union Flags on taxpayer-funded infrastructure in Scotland.

“Banal nationalism” continues to be contested between Scotland and the UK – look no further than the debate surrounding flying the EU flag outside the Scottish Parliament, or flag-flying on the new UK Government office in Edinburgh.

I’d suggest these “everyday reproductions of the nation” – whether it’s a Scottish nation or a British nation – are having an impact on how Scottish people view themselves, their identity, and their views on independence.

David Mitchell is an independence activist who, as a former modern studies teacher, takes a particular interest in nationalism studies and the history of the Scottish independence movement – writing a history of his own branch and supporting others through the Scottish Nationalism History platform

He blogs at davidmitchell.scot and tweets at @dm180914