British or European?

Brexit has placed me in the unenviable position of having to choose between pillars of my identity. There are many pro-EU unionists like me today.

Edinburgh is a European city. This is the city that gave birth the David Hume, capital of the country that provided Mills and Adam Smith. Ideas that transformed the entire continent of Europe. Edinburgh is the Athens of the north, and Scotland is a European country.

The 62% vote for remain unarguably demonstrates and reinforces this reality. However, the British state as a whole has voted to leave the EU, to build barriers between our island and the continent of Europe. This then compels people of my political persuasion to reevaluate just how I see political, cultural and individual identity.

“My dream is dead”

The scene where Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation starts laughing hysterically on the basis “my dream is dead” is certainly relatable now. I found myself in that moment when the Brexit result became a statistical fact. First hysterical disbelief, then the morose & sombre reality. Uncontrolled laughter followed in quick succession by outrageous weeping. I’m not ashamed to admit I was in tears. After all, my dream is dead.

Scottish, British, European. A pro-EU, secular, liberal Britain is finished. A beautiful dream that is no more. Now we need to confront the realities we face, and the hard choices needing to be made.

Who am I? I’ve always answered unhesitatingly: Scottish, British, European. Those are were the triple pillars of my civic and personal identity. I breathed them in, this was who I was. But now, with a second indyref all but inevitable, and opinion polls showing a chaotic picture vis-a-vis how Scots now feel about separation from Britain, who really knows?

UKIP, Farage, and the assortment of (less than honest) Brexit politicians and journalists have created a stark choice. And it’s one many pro-EU, Scottish Unionists like myself shall need try to answer. British or European: choose.


How can I?

My dream is dead.



  1. I’m sorry for your distress, Dean.

    I’ve never felt British, but I certainly always felt European.

    I worked on European projects and studied in France funded by the EU.

    I feel as at home in France as I do here in Scotland.

    There’s a lot that is wrong with the EU. No one could deny that. But then there’s a lot wrong with all levels of government. Westminster is hardly perfect. Edinburgh has faults. Local government is not a glowing example of perfection.

    I voted to stay,nonetheless.

    Scotland voted to stay.

    As you said on Munguin’s Republic, at least we have some leadership in Scotland.

    Sadly lacking at UK level.

    We’ll work it out.

    Cheer up.

    When are you back in Scotland?


    • I’m spending the 4th of July with some US friends I’ve made out in China. I’ll be back in bonnie Scotland around July 15th. Then I’ll be deciding my next adventures.


  2. Hello Dean. I’m a first time reader of your blog because of Tris’s new listing of you. Having travelled over the years from the opposite direction, that is from a pan-British left position to support for a social democratic independent Scotland, I have sympathy with your identity conflict.

    Perhaps the question is, can you identify with a British government run by Johnson, Gove and the hard right, or would you be happier fighting for genuine conservative values in a self-governing Scotland, where that perspective and balance will have a real voice as Holyrood evolves?

    I would never vote for Ruth Davidson and Co. but 20 – 25% of voters in an independent Scotland might well do so.

    The situation in England is horrifying on all sides. Our only chance of keeping our European identity and political sanity is clear.

    Best of luck in thinking it through.


    • The biggest question about keeping our European identity will come down to how ready EU member-states are to have Scotland come in/stay. Spain is wrestling with Catalonia, so my biggest worry is that they’d seek to block a newly indy Scot from retaining membership.

      This is all so uncertain, and there is no rule-book for the uncharted territory we’re in now.

      It makes the decisions needing to be made so much harder.


  3. Fair enough Dean.

    Everyone in Scotland is by definition Scottish, British and European as a matter of geography.

    Not sure I understand why you feel the removal of a political project (one which is abjectly failing on so many fronts) should change your identity. Nobody as far as I am aware is going to stop people freely exposing themselves to what ever arts, cultures and people they wish to.

    I wish for an independent Scotland free from all formal political unions. I will still remain Scottish, British and European and every bit as importantly I will be a global citizen. I don’t need some third party to define me.

    I want my country to be fully in control of it’s own destiny and neither the UK or the EU offer us that.

    To be honest, I’m pretty stunned at the whole reaction to this referendum decision. Of the hundreds of people I spoke to before the EU vote virtually everyone was pretty apathetic to the whole thing (both remain and leave voters). Within the political and media classes it would now appear that the whole nation is now rabidly pro-EU. Of the 50-60 people I have talked to since the referendum they are still pretty apathetic.

    I’m sorry you fell your dream is over but I don’t share your grief for the loss.


    • I detect some heavy doses of ‘buyers remorse’ floating about, especially among some elements of the lay voters who protest voted Brexit. I’ve no scientific justification at all, just a feeling I’ve been getting.

      The reaction is been so massive maybe because a) it upends the whole post-war settlement among the western alliance networks b) has ended London’s future as the European financial capital c) will most likely be the catalyst for the break-up of the Union (UK).

      People have realised the scale of what they’ve done, and I’m hopeful that they regret it (we will all sadly come to regret Brexit, it will lead to massive unemployment and recession)


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