Saturday, 15 November 2008

The SNP: Regionalist and Nationalist?

I note with some dismay that my pal Scottish Tory Boy has gotten himself into a bit of controversy over his description of the SNP as a "regionalist" party. As an academic myself (ha... ha ha) who is currently studying that topic, I have to defend STB to the fullest on description. According to academic descriptions, the SNP are a regionalist party.

Now I've never been the type of nationalist who gets offended when people use the word "region" to describe Scotland. I've gotten annoyed when I've been mistaken for English, or worse, when people assume Britain means England or use the terms interchangeably. But I wondered why those that STB referred to as "CyberNats" were so offended by the term. The conclusion I reached, and correct me if I'm wrong, was that the term "regional" was an insult, a diminishing the "nationhood" espoused by nationalist/ regionalist parties.

Now I don't really want to wade into a controversy here. Well, actually, maybe I do. But its only to point out the following: Most academics use the term "regionalist" as a catch-all term because the parties who fall into the category invariably want different things - full independence, enhanced self-government, fiscal autonomy, federalism or, indeed, self-goverment to begin with. What makes a party a nationalist party too is based on different aspects - a historic claim to nationhood, a distinct language and/or culture, civil society, independent structures (eg, in education, religion or law) and a claim to represent the best interests of that historic nation.

I'd argue that the SNP fit both criteria. They are - broadly speaking - a regionalist party, in the sense exist purely for autonomous purposes and compete electorally on that basis AND at the same time, a nationalist party, portraying themselves as the defenders of Scottish society. In this way, they are very similar to Convergencia i Unio in Catalonia - competing electorally in one region, promoting themselves as the defenders of the nation and demanding more power for their historic nation.

Anyway, its something I've been thinking about. Any (further) thoughts?


Holyrood Patter 15 November 2008 at 16:30  

you and I are in the same boat, although at different levels, as academics studying nationalism, and I recently argued otherwise, when in a debate forum titled is the UK a nation?

Dont know, with perhaps the exception of the Cornish people of any "regionalist" parties perhaps in England, with Independence in mind. As independents would result in more autonomy for a "nation" with boundries pre agreed defines the SNP as a nationalist party, given Scotlands pretty much accepted nation state existence

Vic Pronoucned Bic,  18 November 2008 at 10:02  

Just for Info the 'sister party' of the SNP in Catalunya is the ERC not CIU.

Malc 18 November 2008 at 10:19  


I don't follow your logic. Are you saying that because the SNP wants more autonomy then it is automatically a "nationalist" party? If so, have a read of Livien de Winter's stuff on definition. Also - question "nation state existence". The UK is a state, Scotland a nation. Neither are both.

Let me be clearer. I'm not saying the SNP isn't a nationalist party. I'm saying that it isn't wrong to call them a regionalist party.

Malc 18 November 2008 at 10:22  

Vic/ Bic.

Thanks. I was aware of that. And I know that the ERC espouse independence for Catalonia whereas CiU campaign for more autonomy within the structure of the Spanish state.

My point was that both CiU and the SNP campaign exclusively within their region/ nation on the basis of more autonomy - making them regionalist parties.

But thanks for the comment.

Anonymous,  19 November 2008 at 13:45  

Aye, Im with you there. In the lingo though are the ERC not technically an irredentist party?.

The one thing though is that there is a plank within the SNP that does want to annex Berwick. Perhaps if they put members up there...

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