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Perpetuating Britishness: Rhetorical strategies of political leaders in a nation state under threat

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In 1999 a devolved Scottish Parliament was established within the United Kingdom following a referendum two years earlier. The current governing party in that Parliament – the SNP – held a referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, which resulted in a decision to stay within the UK. However, during the referendum campaign promises were made by the main UK parties to transfer further power away from the British Parliament at Westminster to the Scottish Parliament in the hope this would satisfy demands for greater self-government in Scotland. This paper analyses the rhetoric of the leaders of Britain’s two main political parties in an effort to detect strategies used to construct and perpetuate Britishness in the context of devolution and a threat to the British state. It finds a number of discursive strategies deployed to promote unity and difference to (non-British) others. It also suggests the apparent need by British political leaders to deploy such British-constructivist strategies involves avoiding even acknowledging the reality of a major constitutional reform such as devolution and therefore political difference between the nations of the UK.
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Keywords: Britishness; Scotland; critical discourse analysis; national identity; nationalism; rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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