Ethnic Politics in Scotland Focus of Faculty Research
When Alma College’s Britt Cartrite traveled to the Scottish Islands
of Shetland and Orkney and the Faroe Islands of Denmark in the summer
of 2008 for research, he found something quite unexpected.
Scotland will likely hold a referendum in 2010 to secede from the United Kingdom. But the islands of Shetland and Orkney do not consider themselves Scottish.
“These islands were first settled by Vikings and still retain many of those traditions,” says Cartrite, an assistant professor of political science who studies ethnic politics in Europe. “Many there don’t even consider themselves part of the UK — they are actually closer to Norway than to Edinburgh. They consider themselves as ‘Nordic Nations’ outside of the European Union.”
Britt Cartrite, left
forces are in play, but Cartrite thinks if Scotland does secede from
the UK, and possibly, even if they don’t, Shetland and Orkney may
declare their independence from Scotland.
The situation is similar in the Faroe Islands. Though the islands are technically a part of Denmark, the people consider themselves a separate group entirely and are pushing for independence.
Many scholars have focused on the issues for Denmark and the European Union if the Faroe Islands secede, but when Cartrite presented his research in Madrid in September, he said few were aware of the issues in Scotland.
“Essentially, all the same issues are at hand – if the Faroe Islands, or Shetland and Orkney, secede, it may create a domino effect that will cause other regions in Europe to secede as well,” he says.
The European Union won’t say how it will react to any secession, Cartrite says, but there are two possible scenarios. Either the EU will not automatically admit the seceded countries as members, as to not weigh down the Union, or it will admit them and shift from a unified stance to a majority rule.
Alma College students will have a first-hand opportunity to experience these ethnic politics during Cartrite’s 2009 Spring Term class. For the second time, Cartrite and Scottish poet Ken Steven will take a group of students to Scotland for a month to study literature and politics.
“It catches the students by surprise that the Scottish identity is defined so differently, depending on the region,” he says. “Even Ken was surprised by the difference in regions during the first course.”
Posted: Fri, December 5th, 2008 at 5:15PM