One of the key accuracies in this article is Browne’s identification of nationalists’ preoccupation with a geographical and cultural prescription as the only substantive definer of identity. This he rejects:
“In other words, it is possible to love your country without it being the sole principle of your identity, a pillar of nationalist thinking.”
The nationalist is unable to grasp the nuances which allow people to assume a multiplicity of identities. It is the broader, more generous and more flexible understanding of identity which defines civic UK unionism and distinguishes it so starkly from the narrow confines of nationalism. Part of this flexibility allows a separation of cultural and political identity.
The unionist, whether he is Scottish, Irish, English or Welsh has a breadth of thinking on identity lacked by the nationalist. He can own completely his cultural identity within those descriptions, he can even tie his national identity to those descriptions, but that does not in any way contradict his sense of belonging to a wider UK or to a broader British identity.
Because unionism assumes a much more complicated understanding of identity, in practice it must be more inclusive than nationalism. Browne’s formulation is as follows:
“I am unequivocally against narrow-minded nationalism in all its guises for the simple reason that it is divisive rather than unifying. It excludes by inference all those who do not accede to its credo and it makes its arguments through an unwavering reliance on sentimentality and populism. Being a modern Scot is a good deal more varied than the simple formulations of nationalism allow.”
He continues by reaffirming the wider sense of self held by the unionist Scot. Without compromising pride in the Scottish identity the unionist does not reject the broader social, political and historical contexts which tie him to the institutions of the United Kingdom and to the other peoples of these Isles.
“The Union has as much claim to a formative influence on our sense of our selves as any nationalist rendering of the past. Scotland continues to benefit from having an identity that has the confidence to stand side by side with others as a single, powerful whole. For most of us, there exists no great contradiction in being both Scottish and British.”
Browne is directing his comments towards Scots, but they have equal resonance in the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom where nationalism appeals to atavistic, tribal instincts. British nationalism too, which seeks to define itself on an ethnic and mono-cultural basis, shares all the characteristics of its regional cousins. The conclusion he reaches is framed in the context of St Andrews day and the issue of Scottishness is his prime concern, but it is applicable on a much more general basis wherever a nationalist basis for understanding identity competes with a broader, civic analysis:
“The choice on St Andrew's Day is between a parochial inwardness or a more generous, open and modern way of describing Scottishness both to ourselves and others that allows us to go forward as a nation with pride but not prejudice."