The Importance of Identity: National Identity and Terrorism in the United Kingdom

  • Nick Brooke
Part of the Rethinking Political Violence book series (RPV)


This chapter examines the link between the construction of national identities in the United Kingdom and the impact of terrorist violence. The central contention advanced is that the compatibility of Scottish and Welsh national identities with a British state identity prevented the emergence of a binary divide in these national societies on the national question, as it had done in Ireland, continuing after the establishment of Northern Ireland. The result was that violence directed against the British government by militant Scottish and Welsh nationalists was broadly seen as violence directed against the in-group by most in Scotland and Wales, diminishing the effectiveness of the political message. Whereas violence directed against the British state in Northern Ireland was broadly seen as being directed against an illegitimate, occupying out-group. Thus, the strength of British identity in Scotland and Wales hindered the development of militant nationalist movements. Furthermore, the compatibility of national and state identities enabled ‘unionist’ political parties to adopt ‘nationalist’ policies without being seen to disadvantage their own community. The deeply-divided nature of Northern Irish society prevented any form of political accommodation for nationalists, resulting in the outbreak of sustained inter-communal conflict.


Terrorism Identity Identity formation British identity 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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