1945 is seen as the pivotal point for many of contemporary Britishness – the establishment of the welfare state, NHS and full employment, followed by the inexorable economic decline of the UK and the rightward march of its politics. Thatcher, Blair, Cameron become archetypical villains. But at the same time there is the re-emergence of Scotland: Scottish politics, the debate on an Assembly, then Parliament, but even more culturally and of aspirations for a different kind of society.
The above list has come close to being the dominant and official story of modern Scotland. It part explains why we are where we are. Why Labour were brought back to devolution in the 1970s, then became convincing advocates of a Parliament in the 1990s; the transformation of the SNP; the twilight of Westminster and the Labour state; and the importance of arts, culture and creativity.
Now this version of our recent history is like any perspective, political and partial. It couldn’t fail to be. It also excludes large parts of Scottish experience. It doesn’t address the power of conservatism across society historically and to this day, and radical Scotland’s collusion with it. Then there is the nature of much of public life and the stranglehold of entitlement Scotland – in the public sector, quangos and business life.
Along with this there is the dynamic of Britain and its appeal which is constantly changing. Scots generally were attracted to the idea of progressive Britain at the mid point of the 20th century – whether on offer from Labour or Tory politicians. And still despite their doubts and disenchantments with Westminster, there is a long-term and more than residual attachment to the idea and ideal of Britain (if not all that it practices).