Of oil and agency: Scotland and the material conditions of national imagining

James Foley*

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Scopus)
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North Sea oil discoveries introduced a qualitative divide that gave rise to at least the prospect of an economically viable Scottish independence, insofar as it made the “Scottish economy” a legitimate point of contestation on constitutional lines. In turn, this problematised the nature of minority nationalism in advanced, developed, post-imperial capitalist regional economies. The research assesses how economic factors – most notably oil – materially affected the prospects of asserting power, and thus the possibilities for imagining collective agency as a national (i.e. Scottish) project. Oil helped shift “New Left” thinking away from assimilationist and modernising projects of assimilating regional consciousness into “national” projects, while also inspiring outright nationalists to define their own project in relation to the earlier phases of nationalism. The study thus contributes to recentring the study of Scotland, with a smaller emphasis on the local dimension and identities, as against the role of national actors in untangling relationships with wider geopolitical and geo-economic forces. The claim is not simply that global forces formed the qualitative divide that made nationalist action possible; but also that these were conscious considerations of actors in the aftermath of North Sea discoveries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-163
Number of pages17
JournalSociology Lens
Issue number1
Early online date9 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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