Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past & Scotland’s Present

There can be no relationship in Europe’s history more creative, significant, vexed and uneasy than that between Scotland and England. For centuries the island of Britain has been shaped by the unique dynamic between Edinburgh and London, exchanging inhabitants, monarchs, money and ideas, sometimes in a spirit of friendship and at others in a spirit of murderous dislike.

This important new book by Tom Devine, Scotland’s premier historian, explores this extraordinary story in all its ambiguity, from the seventeenth century to the present. He shows that, when not undermining each other with invading armies, both Scotland and England have broadly benefitted from each other’s presence – indeed for long periods of time nobody questioned the union which joined them. But as Devine makes clear, this has for the most part been a relationship based on consent, not force, on mutual advantage, rather than antagonism – and it has always held the possibility of a political parting of ways.

Now, as this potential parting comes under intense scrutiny and Scotland and England’s relationship hangs in the balance, Independence or Union is the book everyone should read to understand the future of the United Kingdom.


“Its just bloody brilliant. Easily surpasses any of the glut of books surrounding our constitutional upheaval of the last five years or so.” – Kevin McKenna, The Observer

“Never less than compelling …Independence or Union is his best book to date, is required reading and a perfect example of why history matters.” Alan Taylor, The Herald, 5 March 2016

“A wonderful book … absolutely splendid … explains lucidly and convincingly the continuity of Scottish identity from 1707 through Margaret Thatcher and to the present day. It also, as all great histories should, explodes a few shibboleths along the way.” – David Speedie, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, New York City, 24 March,2016

“This fearless book … surefooted, balanced and reliable in analysis throughout.” – Colin Kidd, London Review of Books, 18 February,2016

“a gripping volume … deserves to be read by everyone interested in the future of the United Kingdom and by those involved in the European referendum … This is analytical, synoptic, argumentative history at its best;it slays myths and tells us the ‘why’ of a momentous story every intelligent Briton should understand … a cracker.” – Andrew Marr, Sunday Times, 28 February, 2016

“The book offers a crisp and well-paced assessment of the Union from 1707 … Devine addresses with elan the historically federal relationship between the two countries … a thoroughly reasoned assessment.” – Donald MacRaild,Times Higher, 27 February, 2016

“Devine’s compelling new book … likely to be the standard text on Scotland’s history of the Union.” – Alex Massie, The Times, 27 February, 2016

“Briskly, clearly and fairly he sketches a complex and detailed  history,bringing new life and fresh perspectives to old stories. His aim was to write a history with a commitment to impartiality, the use of representative evidence and due respect for conflicting opinions. This he has done brilliantly … if he hadn’t already been knighted for services to Scottish history, Devine would have been high on the list for preferment after this new work.” – John McTernan, Prospect Magazine, 6 February, 2016

“The most respected historian in Scotland, whose considered opinion is valued by both unionists and nationalists alike.” – Sean Bell, The National, 7 March, 2016

“Given the high regard in which Sir Tom Devine is held,I suspect this book will, for some time, be the ‘official history’ of the relationship between Scotland and England. As one would expect it is thorough, readable and grounded on statistics rather than stories.” – Stuart Kelly, Scotland and Sunday, 6 March, 2016

“Like much of Devine’s work it is informative and pleasantly easy to read … a clear account of Scotland’s constitutional trajectory over the last four centuries.” – Jamie Maxwell, Scottish Review of Books, 18 March, 2016

“Tom Devine has had a huge intellectual influence on Scotland in recent decades having made major and thoughtful contributions to many important historical and contemporary debates … has proven himself time and again a first rate [ historian] who has contributed hugely to our growing awareness of who we are and why we are the way we are…

This wide-ranging book covers not only over 300 years of Scottish history but huge changes ,the rise and fall of ideas and powerful forces ,along with this nation’s place in a wider context. Devine has a real way of telling this, while giving a place for people, traditions and the many complexities involved.

A generous,generalist account of Scotland’s last 300 years and its accessibility and vast range provides a welcome service in opening up the flowering of history to a wider audience. Gerry Hassan, Scottish Review, 23 March, 2016

|Debunking myth … thought-provoking and even handed … this evenly balanced contribution forms a record of tempestuous times.” – Country Life, 30 March, 2016


Tom Devine

Tom Devine is currently the Sir William Fraser Professor Emeritus of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh, having previously held professorial chairs at Aberdeen and Strathclyde. His special field is the history of the Scottish people at home and abroad since c.1600 on which he has published over three dozen books and numerous articles in learned journals and essay collections. One of his works, The Scottish Nation (first published in 1999) became an international bestseller and has sold nearly 80,000 copies to date. Devine’s scholarship has been recognised by the award of several high-profile prizes,including the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), the nation’s supreme academic accolade,as well as honorary degrees from universities both at home and abroad. He is a Fellow of the RSE, an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy and a Fellow of the British Academy. Tom Devine was knighted in 2014 ‘for services to the study of Scottish history’ – review excerpts for Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present (Allen Lane: The Penguin Press 2016).