Abstract. This article attempts to move beyond assumptions that nationalism is essentially cultural and/or narrowly political, and that it is primarily past-oriented and defensive. We do this by examining evidence relating to the creative (re)construction of the nation from a contemporary economic perspective. Paying particular attention to Scotland and Wales, we show that the mobilisation of national identity within this process of (re)construction is not exclusive to those who seek greater political autonomy. National identity is also mobilised, often in a ‘banal’ fashion, by non-political national institutions such as economic development agencies. We argue that, within the strategies and discourses of economic development, historic national characteristics are reconciled with contemporary needs and aspirations through four processes: reiteration, recapture, reinterpretation and repudiation.