The end of Britishness? ICCHS research into identity, heritage and museums in the context of the Scottish Referendum.

Photo of couple dancing at a ceilidh..

Couple dancing at a ceilidh. Photo: Abdelhamid Alhassi (2011).

After months of intense debate and speculation, Scottish voters have woken today to the news that Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom. Announcements from politicians in both Holyrood and Westminster this morning show that, despite the majority No vote, the results have major implications for people living on both sides of the Border, particularly as questions of Englishness and political representation become more prominent.

Discussions of heritage and a shared sense of identity (whether Scottish or British) have been present within both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns and it will be fascinating to watch whether discussions of cultural distinctiveness or similarity continue in the next few years. A number of research projects undertaken by staff at ICCHS have examined the relationship between heritage and identity in the UK and European context that further our understanding of these issues.

Katherine Lloyd’s PhD research analyses the way in which young people in Scotland negotiate issues of place and heritage in the formation of national identity. Her work unpicks common assumptions about the relationship between British and Scottish identities for the younger generation, by examining the multiple and shifting forms of place identification amongst this group. It also explores the role of ethnicity in shaping understandings of identity and considers the responses of young people to the visual ‘tartan and turban’ imagery frequently associated with so-called ‘New Scots’. In doing so, it interrogates the clear cut distinctions made between so-called ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ forms of Scottishness frequently seen in political debates. See Kat’s recent article ‘Beyond the rhetoric of an “inclusive national identity”: Understanding the potential impact of Scottish museums on public attitudes to issues of identity, citizenship and belonging in an age of migrations’ in the special Scottish Issue Cultural Trends: 23 (3).

Rhiannon Mason’s book Museums, Nations, Identities examines the role of museums in the formation of national identity in Wales. Other articles examine broader questions of the representation of various aspects of Britishness, Englishness and Scottishness. More recently, she has also looked at questions of postnationalism, cosmopolitanism, and globalisation and the implications of these pressures for the future of national museums.

Whatever your thoughts on the results of the referendum, this is an exciting time for research on heritage and national identity in the UK and wider European context – watch this space for further updates and analysis!


Rock Art CARE Project Dumfries and Galloway Fieldwork


The project team at High Banks; left to right, P. Warke, M. Giesen, P. Lewis and A. Mazel

The Heritage and Science: Working Together in the CARE of Rock Art project completed its second data collection exercise in mid-July. The team included Dr Aron Mazel, Dr Myra Giesen and Peter Lewis from Newcastle University and Dr Patricia Warke from Queen’s University Belfast.

The team visited several rock art sites in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland to gather further scientific data on the contributing factors to rock art decay. Soil samples were taken and an XRF machine used to analyse the rock composition. These will be analysed at Queen’s University Belfast. The findings, along with the written recordings of risk factors at the panels, will help to further shape the tool kit and management guide that aim to help protect rock art.


This shield motif at High Banks is stunning and probably unique in the whole of the UK, yet there are no protective measures in place. Cattle are clearly trampling over the panel with other potential damage from such as significant moss growth

Nearly thirty panels were analysed in Dumfries and Galloway with most being in a poor condition. Some of the risks identified to these panels were significant, including cattle roaming over the rocks and even cattle feeders placed on or adjacent to panels. None of the team had been to the majority of the panels and it was felt that many lessons were learnt here, even above what the team expected before starting.

The next fieldwork carried out by the team will be in Ireland in early September.

Museums, National Identity and Cultural Policy in Scotland

Doctoral Researcher Katherine Lloyd was invited to discuss her research on the role that heritage plays in young people’s narratives of belonging and exclusion in Scotland at the conference ‘Imagining Scotland through Cultural Policy’ at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

‘One Nation, Five Million Voices’ display in Scotland: A Changing Nation, National Museum of Scotland. Image taken by Katherine Lloyd

The conference was a timely reflection on the development of cultural policy in Scotland since Devolution and posed important questions regarding the impact of the forthcoming Independence Referendum in September 2014. Papers from academics, policy makers and practitioners considered the impact of cultural policy on the Creative Industries and Scotland’s cultural organisations, with perspectives from broadcasting, theatre, museums, community festivals and issues of cultural participation. Case studies from Wales also provided useful comparative insights into the relationship between cultural policy and questions of national identity in the wider UK context.

Reflecting on the aims of the new National Strategy for Scotland’s Museums and Galleries, Katherine’s paper challenged the frequent assumptions made in cultural policy regarding the impact museums may have in fostering an ‘inclusive’ sense of national identity. In doing so, she stressed the need to differentiate between cultural policy as advocacy verses policy based on empirical evidence and called for further research on visitor responses to ‘inclusive’ representations of identity.

Further information about the conference including selected papers can be found here:

More information about Katherine’s research is available at: