Will the real Scots character please stand up?
Thursday 23 September 1999
Researchers from Edinburgh University are trying to find out after receiving a pounds 1m grant to study Scottish national identity over the next five years. The project will seek to discover whether the Scottish see themselves as hairy, woad-covered Braveheart-types, as portrayed on tartan- bedecked shortbread tins, or the drunk, football-mad stereotypes of Rab C Nesbit.
The project is being funded by the Leverhulme Trust to see whether the national identity of both the Scots and the English changes with devolution.
"Identity always defines you in relation to others," said Frank Bechhofer, one of the sociologists who will do the study. "For a lot of Scots, it's the English they define themselves against. Given that there are six million Scots to 60 million English, it is no great surprise that they identify themselves in relation to the bigger identity. The English are more likely to identify themselves as different to the French or the Germans - but that may change, with constitutional changes and issues like the Scots presiding over English affairs."
Professor Bechhofer believes that Scottish identity is complex and varied, with individuals in certain circumstances claiming to be Glaswegian or Shetlanders before claiming Scottishness. Given that one possible Scottish identity focuses on heavy drinking and football, the researchers also want to look at whether Scottishness is a particularly masculine identity that leaves women feeling less Scottish than their countrymen.
The researchers also want to test the theory that ethnic minorities living in Scotland are more likely to identify themselves as "British" rather than Scottish.
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