Identity crisis: are we becoming a disunited kingdom?
Surveys suggest notions of Britishness are changing. The Guardian invites readers to share their views on national identitySo what makes us? We share the same islands, but we aren't all British. We call ourselves Scots, Irish, Welsh, English and often, but decreasingly, British. Every four years, we rally to the union flag for the Olympics, but when it comes to rugby and football, the divisions open up.There is much shared culture, whether on pop music, clothing, fish and chips, curries and Marmite, comedians and Coronation Street. We also cringed at Tony Blair's attempt to exploit the notion of "Cool Britannia" in the euphoria of his 1997 election victory.But now, for the first time in several centuries, that notion of Britishness is under intense strain. Alex Salmond, the first minister of Scotland, will soon lead the country into a referendum that could prompt Scotland to declare independence, a move that would shatter a 304-year-old political union.Regardless of the Scottish referendum, the UK has four separate governments and now the three devolved administrations, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are winning greater economic and legal powers, cutting London's grip on the country. And in each part of the UK, notions of nationhood and Britishness are changing and, arguably, the links are weakening.Because of this unfolding political situation, the Guardian invites readers to enter the debate about national identity and air your attitudes on Britishness. An interactive graphic will allow us to map the evolving identities across the UK in advance of a series of special reports on the country. We will be asking if it is more and more becoming a "disunited kingdom"?There is much to suggest this is the case. John Curtice, from the Scottish Centre for Social Research, is co-author of the Scottish Social Attitudes survey. He said: "The crucial thing to realise is that in Scotland, British is now very definitely a secondary identity; that's undoubtedly true to a far greater extent than it is in Wales." In England there are plenty of people who, if asked whether they're British or English, will say 'what's the difference?'.Comparing all the latest social attitudes surveys gives us this contrast: if voters are forced to choose, 52% of English voters choose British first compared to 19% of Scots, and 30% of Welsh.In coming days we will look at how these identities are evolving and what the political impact of that may be.Intriguingly, the latest evidence from Wales suggests that devolution may be making the Welsh feel more British. That is one reading of a new study of 3,029 voters by the Economic and Social Research Council, carried out in the runup to the 2011 referendum, which found overwhelming support for giving the Welsh assembly greater powers.Its results, published here for the first time, find that 16% of Welsh voters now feel "British not Welsh", compared to 9% in 2007 and in 2003. Meanwhile, only 19% felt "Welsh not British", a fall from 24% in 2007, with 30% feeling equally Welsh and British.Roger Scully, from Aberystwyth University and the study's co-author, is cautious about reading too much into the Welsh figures since different survey methods were used in 2011."The bigger picture is that basic identity in Wales has not changed much under devolution, or even if you go back and look at the evidence from 1979, since the first devolution referendums," he said."People have very different views now about how Wales should be governed. But not because they have become, in some crude sense, more Welsh."In Northern Ireland, identity can be far more complex; loyalty to a larger nation splits between those feeling British and Irish, mostly down religious or ethnic lines. The 2010 Northern Ireland Life and Times surveys, the equivalent of the British Social Attitudes survey, have shown that 37% see themselves as British, 26% Irish and 29% Northern Irish, with 3% choosing Ulster.But asked the multiple-choice question, 58% of voters in Northern Ireland in 2007 saw themselves, to varying degrees, as both British and Irish. In 1998, 51% of those given a straight choice said they were British. It is 37% now.In England last year, 52% described themselves as British and just 34% as English in a straight choice between the two. That is the widest margin since 1997.Behind such figures emotions run deep. Yet, is national identity in the UK purely a personal badge to be worn with pride at sporting events or could it fundamentally change the nature of British and Northern Irish state. You tell us ScotlandWalesNorthern IrelandScottish independenceWelsh politicsWelsh Assembly GovernmentCommunitiesBritish identity and societySeverin Carrellguardian.co.uk © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions More Feeds