Yes after No: The Indyref Landscape, 2014-16

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Abstract

The visual, symbolic, and material campaign around Indyref 2014 was distinctive within British politics. It was imaginative, one-sided, long-lasting, and responsive to changing political realities. The Yes campaign’s interaction with the landscape was far different from that of ordinary elections or the No campaign. Yes activists interacted with specific places and created micro-landscapes, shaping paint, fabric, and symbolism to suit that place, and making out of it a politicised space. Very occasionally this was resisted or counteracted by No campaigners. With their bodies or vehicles decorated, Yes voters moved through urban, rural, and even maritime, spaces. Occasionally this was done ritually, self-consciously claiming the territory as might a military manoeuvre or royal procession. As the landscape dictated the form and longevity of much of that expression by its texture, topography, and the impact of weather, campaigners imputed a pro-independence voice to particular locations. The prolific stickering, particularly of roadsigns, turned the expanse of the rural Highlands into a Yes campaign-space. One consequence was that Indyref symbolism acted to challenge the prevailing wilderness aesthetic. It re-politicised a space which the wilderness ‘way of seeing’ had depoliticised. The stickers and political micro-landscapes in ‘natural’ locations forcibly made the point that these are peopled places: worked, managed, lived in and travelled through. Those campaigners marked their own existence in a place from which they have been rhetorically excluded. At the same time they blurred the dichotomy between nature and culture, between what is ‘out there’ and what is ‘in me’. Efforts to give, even impose, a political voice are especially significant in a landscape which is objectified and portrayed as ‘natural’ in the dominant discourse. Indyref was a debate about power and autonomy. Campaigning by politicising the landscape was the latest manifestation of an ancient conflict about control over these spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of British Identities
Volume2
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2019

Keywords

  • independence referendum
  • landscape
  • scotland
  • wilderness
  • Highlands and Islands
  • Indyref
  • Wild Land

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