1st Edition

The Scottish Economy and Nationalism Constructing Scotland’s Imagined Economy

By James Foley Copyright 2024
    174 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Scotland’s economic capacity to prosper independently of Britain has become a key political issue, dominating the independence referendum of 2014 and continuing to influence British politics since. But, as this book shows, the Scottish economy is not merely a statistical object – it is also a political, sociological and cultural idea which has been imagined and constructed.

    The book explores the history of how Scotland has been framed in statistical and policy terms, which are laden with conflicts over meaning, ranging from class struggles and struggles against "external control" to the ongoing debate over national independence. Using Scotland as a case study for examining the political meaning of "the economy", the book also considers the origins of efforts to measure the Scottish economy in the British nationalist terms of "regional policy". It then considers the influence, in turn, of North Sea oil, globalisation/Europeanisation, class dealignment and neoliberal "enterprise" ideology in changing the meanings attached to the Scottish economy. These form necessary conditions for the debate on national independence, where the nature and the future of the Scottish economy remain the central controversy. By examining the economic ideas of a self-proclaimed "cosmopolitan" nationalist movement, the study will offer deeper insights into how nationalists are adapting to the crisis of globalisation.

    This book marks a significant contribution to the literature on Scottish independence as well as economic sociology, nationalism, critical geography and political economy more broadly.

    Preface Introduction: Imagining Economies 1. Theorising Nations, Regions and the Imagined Economy 2. Regional Policy, Planning and the Emergence of the Scottish Economic Imaginary Before the 1970s 3. North Sea Oil and the Scottish Economic Imaginary 4. "Europe", Transnational Space and the post-Imperial Scottish Economy 5. Class Struggle, Class Compromise, and Scotland’s Economic "Voice" 6. An Economy of Enterprises: Devolution and Neoliberalism 7. The Financial Crash, the Question of Independence and after: Change and Continuity Conclusion: Scotland’s Imagined Economy? Afterword


    James Foley is lecturer in politics at Glasgow Caledonian University. He received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is the author of Scotland after Britain and editor of Contesting Cosmopolitan Europe.

    "The ‘Scottish economy’ continues to dominate – and to limit – debate about the country’s future. Yet, as James Foley shows, the idea of a Scottish economy is both recent and contested. No student of political economy in Scotland or beyond can afford to be without this rigorous and crucial work."

    Jamie Allinson, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Edinburgh

    ‘This comprehensive and timely contribution situates key contemporary debates surrounding Scotland’s economy in its social, political, and historical context. Foley brings forward an analysis that helps illuminate what we have come to understand as the ‘Scottish economy’. In doing so he explains the development of this ‘economic imaginary’ through the lens of policy, industry, social class, independence, and globalisation. This is an accessible work that will be essential reading for those interested in the key factors which have shaped the economic terrain of a contested political landscape’. 

    Tom Montgomery, Lecturer in Work and Organisations, University of Stirling

    "The 'economy' has come to mean, in common understanding, something more than the social and economic arrangements which exist to organise the production and distribution of goods and services. Even for students of economics it is seen - or imagined - as an entity with its own technical imperatives which cannot be denied.  Using the concept of the economic imaginary, Foley carefully traces the impact on real events within one place - Scotland - from the 1960's to the present time - of the various understandings of the economy. He provides an explanation of important political and economic events in Scotland and, in so doing, he offers an illuminating case study to support the thesis that  economic outcomes are produced by the mediation and shaping of real material forces through and by the political and ideological understandings of those exposed to them."

    Jeanette Findlay, Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow