Ever since my youth I have been fascinated by Scotland. We read William Shakespeare’s Scottish play Macbeth for no less two years in my high school English class in the late 1950s, and I visited Scotland in 1982. I could never forget Macduff’s anguished cry, “O Scotland, Scotland!” in Act IV, Scene iii of the play, nor Fife, Dunsinane, Scone or any other other place names in the play.
Scotland’s relationship to England has always been complex and ambivalent. By Scottish tradition, in 843, after centuries of internecine wars among the Scottish clans and among the “petty kingdoms” of the Picts, the Scots of Dál Riata, the Britons of Strathclyde and the Angles of Northumbria, Scotland was united under Cínaed mac Ailpín, the king of the Picts, whose name was later anglicized to Kenneth MacAlpin. In the thirteenth century King Edward of England conquered Scotland; after the first Scottish war of independence against England, led by William Wallace (Mel Gibson’s Braveheart), there followed several more wars between Scotland and England, until 1603, when the Union of the Crowns joined the two nations under one king, James, and the Act of Union created the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. Even as Scots served in the British armed forces and mingled with Englishmen, however, they still had their unique Scottish identity; their accent often betrayed their ethnic difference. The Scottish people adopted the English language, but it was not their native Gaelic tongue.
The Scottish referendum of 2014 on separating from the United Kingdom, which the nationalist separatists lost by a small margin, seems to have been the most important event in Scottish history since the Union of the Crowns. In 2016, after the “Brexit” faction defeated the pro-Europeans by a small margin in the British referendum on leaving the European Union, some Scottish leaders called for staying in the E.U.
Nations often have the same unconscious meaning for their members as the early mother has for its child. The very word nation comes from the Latin word for birth. Could there be a psychological connection between the wish of the Scottish nationalists to separate and individuate from England and their collective internal mother image, between their wish to secede from Great Britain and their unresolved self and identity issues?
The Scottish story is fascinating. The Cypriot-Turkish-born American psychoanalyst Vamık Volkan has shown that large-group psychology is very different from individual psychology; but the need of the large group for clear boundaries may unconsciously echo the individual’s need for a self separate from that of the mother. There is also a psychological fit between the leader’s narcissistic needs and those of his followers. The Scottish affair deserves a major psychohistorical study (see http://vamikvolkan.com/Large-Group-Psychology-in-Its-Own-Right.php).