The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism

The Cause: A History of Scottish Nationalism is a new BBC Radio Scotland series by Billy Kay that follows the story of Scottish nationalism from the Wars of Independence to the rise of the SNP, and what was perceived as the anglicisation of Scotland in the 20th century.

The first episode The Battle for Scotland traces Scottish nationalism from the identity forged in the fires of the Wars of Independence to the rise of modern nationalism in the second half of the 20th century. We hear the voices of people commemorating the Battle of Bannockburn and the Declaration of Arbroath. Historian Fiona Watson speaks movingly of one of the great unsung heroines Isabella Countess of Buchan who forsook her wealth, her husband and her status to crown Robert the Bruce at Scone – for this she was imprisoned in a cage in Berwick. The First Minister Alex Salmond recalls stories of the men of Linlithgow he got from his grandfather and how they fired his imagination. Throughout the series, we hear how echoes from Scottish history resound down through the years and inform the rise of modern political nationalism.

Identity and culture are at the core of nationalism as in the words of Fionn MacColla we were “Too Long in This Condition” as a cultural colony of England. This provoked a political backlash to what many Scots perceived as the inferiorisation of their culture in the universities and the media. Billy also explores the diversity of reasons why Scots feel a strong sense of identity – from the beauty of the landscape to the passion for their football, literature and music – all of which grace the series with songs from Burns to Hamish Henderson and poetry from Hugh MacDiarmid to John Barbour…

“…we haif the richt;
And for the richt ilk man suld ficht.”

(Bruce’s words to his men at Bannockburn – from Barbour’s The Brus)

Also taking part: Professors Richard Finlay and Allan MacInnes of Strathclyde University, Winnie Ewing, Canon Emsley Nimmo of the Scottish Episcopal Church and intellectual Tom Nairn.


A further four episodes will be made available online at the BBC Radio Scotland website.

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