If you find it confusing to hear someone describe themselves as pro-independence but not a ‘nationalist’, this explanation is for you. Let’s break it down into stages:
2. You can argue that people who support Scottish independence are, by definition, nationalists – if you adopt this OED definition: “advocacy of or support for national independence or self-determination”.
3. However, this definition is complicated in the following ways:
A. Some people don’t like to be described as nationalists because it can be used pejoratively; as a short hand for bigot (the ethnic, rather, than the civic kind of nationalism – in which a person believes that one social group is superior to another).
B. Some people don’t like to be called nationalists because some other people are determined to use it pejoratively; largely as a synonym for idiot. If they are going for more effect, they will shorten it to ‘nat’ or ‘cybernat’, to give you the image of a social deviant addicted to abusing people on twitter. Only in a tiny proportion of cases will someone say ‘nat’ simply because they are short of characters.
C. Some people support Scottish independence for pragmatic reasons. They favour the idea of subsidiarity (taking government as close as possible to a local population or area – so it could be Northern Britain or a Scottish region or island) and see Scottish independence as the best they are going to get just now.
4. ‘Scottish nationalism’ may also refer to something that underpins the independence debate: survey respondents in Scotland express unusually high levels of Scottish national identity – however you ask the question (much more than their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) (click the table to expand). Seeing yourself as Scottish (not British) or more Scottish than British seems to make you more likely to favour further constitutional change – but that link is not inevitable. Indeed, a key debate (when people aren’t simply finding euphemisms to describe other people as idiots) is about the implications of these figures – do enough people feel British enough to help maintain the Union?
UPDATE: @TomHarrisMP put me on to this: