State and Nation in the United Kingdom: The Fractured Union

ISBN : 9780198841371

Michael Keating
256 ページ
153 x 234 mm

The United Kingdom has often been seen as a unitary nation-state. This book argues that it should be understood as a plurinational union in which the key elements of demos, telos, and ethos are contested. Except in the mid-twentieth century, its territorial boundaries have been contested and the matter of sovereignty has never definitely been settled. Since the end of the twentieth century, devolution to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland has made this more apparent. With the weakening of the British national project, tensions between the centre and the peripheral nations have grown, greatly exacerbated by Brexit. Eurosceptics have long argued that membership of the European Union is inconsistent with the sovereignty of the British people and Parliament. On another reading, however, both the UK and the EU are plurinational unions and highly compatible. The EU, indeed, served as an important external support system for the devolution settlement. Brexit destabilizes it. Unionism historically served as a doctrine and a set of practices seeking to reconcile a unitary state with a plurinational reality. Since devolution, it has struggled to come to terms with the new constitutional reality or embrace the idea of shared sovereignty. The Union is under increasing strain but there is no simple way of resolving these strains, either by secession of the component nations, or a return to the unitary state. The peoples of these islands need to find new constitutional concepts for living together in a world in which traditional ideas of national sovereignty have lost their relevance.


1 Nation States and Political Unions
2 Union: Its Challengers in the United Kingdom
3 The Millenium Settlement
4 The Sovereignty Conundrum
5 Union at the Centre
6 Between Two Unions
7 Union and Unionisms in the United Kingdom
8 Economic Union
9 Social Union
10 The Public and the Union
11 The Future of the Union


Michael Keating is Professor of Politics at the University of Aberdeen. He has has published widely in the field of European politics, territorial politics, nationalism, and Scottish politics and is a regular contributor to the international media. His publications include The Oxford Handbook of Scottish Politics (OUP, 2020), Changing Borders in Europe (co-edited with Jacint Jordana, Axel Marks, and Jan Wouter, Routledge, 2018), Debating Scotland (OUP, 2017), and Small States in the Modern World (co-authored with Harald Baldersheim, Edward Elgar, 2015).