Disunited kingdom

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The Independent Culture
The British are at a turning point. After 300 years the union of England and Scotland may be heading for the rocks; if devolution leads to divorce, the effects - on both countries - will be profound. The Scots voted for their own parliament, with tax-raising powers, one year ago. But contrary to expectation, the desire for independence seems to have been stimulated rather than dulled - support for the Scottish National Party has been growing ever since. This week, it holds what could be the most important party conference of its history. If it wins a majority of seats in the new parliament, Scots may well find themselves on the road to full-blown independence. This week's issue of the Sunday Review asks: just what is going on north of the border, politically, culturally and economically?


Author, journalist and teacher Tom Nairn was born in Fife. His books include The Break-up of Britain, The Enchanted Glass: Britain & Its Monarchy, and Faces of Nationalism. He lives in Ireland and works part-time for the Dicuil Foundation at Edinburgh University. He opens our Scottish issue on page 6 with an analysis of the rebirth of a nation


Duncan McLean, born and raised in Scotland, lives in Stenness, Orkney. His most recent books are a travelogue, Lone Star Swing, and an anthology of new Scottish writing, Ahead of its Time. He contributed the Orkney chapter to Scottish Island Hopping and writes about the view from the north on page 10


Ian Bell was born in Edinburgh and has always lived in Scotland. A columnist on the Daily Record, he has also worked for the Scotsman, the Herald, and the TLS. His awards include the Orwell Prize for political journalism. On page 12 he looks at New Labour's problems in Scotland


Stephen Fay began his journalistic career at the Glasgow Herald, where he developed an interest in Scottish affairs which has survived years in the south. His sympathy for nationalist politicians like Alex Salmond (whom he interviews on page 14) is influenced by their preference for parliamentary democracy over the gun


Pat Kane has only ever lived outside Scotland for one year, when pop stardom (with Hue and Cry) saw him supporting the likes of Madonna. He is a successful journalist, currently a contributing editor to the Herald, and won the Sony Radio Journalist of the Year award in 1996. He writes on Scottish culture on page 18


Novelist, critic and journalist James Buchan is a former foreign correspondent of the Financial Times and author of five novels as well as Frozen Desire, a study of money and culture. Although he has never lived in Scotland he feels he has inherited the culture from his grandparents. He writes about financing New Scotland on page 22


Award-winning writer and novelist Janice Galloway has lived within a 50-mile radius of her Ayrshire birthplace all her life. Her literary credits include the American Academy of Arts and Letters EM Forster Prize, McVitie's Prize and the Mind/Allen Lane award. She lives in Glasgow. An extract from her novel in progress appears on page 24