Scottish Independence: More than a Debate on Identity?

Location: Buchanan C403

The UBC Institute for European Studies and

the Department of Political Science

present a talk by

Dr. Jan Eichhorn

University of Edinburgh

“Scottish Independence: 

More than a Debate on Identity?”

Friday, March 7

Buchanan C403


N.B. This is a brown-bag event.   

Abstract: The referendum on Scottish independence to be held in September 2014 is remarkable in many ways. As the first of its kind in Western Europe in many decades and one in which a member state of the European Union may split up, it has received extensive attention and commentary. Many comments focus on differences between the Scottish and the English and refer to a strong Scottish identity as the source for the desire to become independent. Detailed attitudinal research paints a much more complex picture however. Identity plays a role for Scots, but it is not the most important one. Preferences for and against independence are extensively based on pragmatic evaluations and expectations and similarly those who still remain undecided mostly have very good reasons for it. The strong level of engagement by wider publics is apparent across Scotland’s civic society, but also in expectations for high voter turnout. For the first time in Scotland, the voting age is lowered to 16 for a major vote – allowing us to investigate differences in the political attitude formation of younger adolescents compared to the adult population. Using data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey and a new survey targeting the under 18-year olds, this talk will distinguish key determinants of Scots’ voting intentions in the referendum, compare those to the youngest, newly enfranchised voters and explore why a substantial group of politically engaged Scots remains undecided and what that may imply for the remaining campaign.

Bio: Jan Eichhorn is a Chancellor’s Fellow in Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on political participation and culture and within this context Jan is currently leading two projects assessing the attitudes of Scots on the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. In addition to this work, Jan engages in research on differences in political culture across the European Union as well as research into subjective well-being in relation to unemployment in different national contexts. In addition to the university work, Jan is also co-director of the think tank d|part, has advised officials of the German, Scottish and UK government respectively, and has provided commentary for print and broadcasting media.