Stuart Kelly

Our Friends in the North

Acts of Union and Acts of Disunion: What has held the UK together – and what is dividing it?

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Profile Books 172pp £8.99 order from our bookshop

Bannockburns: Scottish Independence and Literary Imagination, 1314–2014

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Edinburgh University Press 280pp £19.99 order from our bookshop

On 18 September, people eligible and registered to vote in Scotland (including 16- and 17-year-olds) will be asked ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ This year’s independence referendum provides the impetus for these two books. In both cases, the writers have had to scrutinise the past in order to contextualise the present. This means that the books could, I think, be read profitably for years to come, whatever the outcome of the vote. Both Linda Colley and Robert Crawford have expertise in the field. Colley’s Britons was a ground-breaking investigation into how Scots, perhaps more than others, contributed to a new ‘British’ identity in the wake of the 1707 Act of Union. Crawford, although a poet in his own right and a keen-eyed reader of T S Eliot, is perhaps most lauded for Devolving English Literature, his seminal book that explained how, for example, Scottish universities created the first ‘Eng Lit’ courses to facilitate their graduates making their way in England.

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