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Keywords:

  • National identity;
  • social identity;
  • place identity;
  • citizenship;
  • British;
  • Scottish;
  • English

In this article we question recent psychological approaches that equate the constructs of citizenship and social identity and which overlook the capacity for units of governance to be represented in terms of place rather than in terms of people. Analysis of interviews conducted in England and Scotland explores how respondents invoked images of Britain as “an island” to avoid social identity constructions of nationality, citizenship, or civil society. Respondents in Scotland used island imagery to distinguish their political commitment to British citizenship from questions relating to their subjective identity. Respondents in England used island imagery to distinguish the United Kingdom as a distinctive political entity whilst avoiding allusions to a common or distinctive identity or character on the part of the citizenry. People who had moved from England to Scotland used island imagery to manage the delicate task of negotiating rights to social inclusion in Scottish civil society whilst displaying recognition of the indigenous population's claims to distinctive national culture and identity.