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Whatever Became of the British?



Much of the debate about ‘being British’ is driven by the politics of the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. This has led to assertions about the declining impact of Britishness, and how, in the interests of the Union, it might be revived. Data from British and Scottish Social Attitudes surveys show that ‘Britain’ remains an important and meaningful frame of reference, even though people in England and Scotland may not define their prime national identity as British. The relationship between national identity and constitutional preferences is complex. Being ‘strongly Scottish’ is a weak predictor of constitutional preferences because almost all Scots are at the ‘strong’ end of the Scottish scale, whereas saying you are ‘British’ (or not) is a better guide. It is not a matter of choosing to be Scottish or English over being British, but recognising the complexity and inter-relationships of diverse territorial identities.