Casting for a sovereign role: socialising an aspirant state in the Scottish independence referendum

Ryan K. Beasley, Juliet Kaarbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines international reactions to Scotland’s 2014 bid for independence as an instance of socialisation of an aspirant state, what we term ‘pre-socialisation’. Building on and contributing to research on state socialisation and role theory, this study proposes a nexus between roles and sovereignty. This nexus has three components: sovereignty itself is a role casted for by an actor; the sovereign role is entangled with the substantive foreign policy roles the actor might play; and the sovereign role implicates the substantive foreign policy roles of other actors. The Scottish debate on independence provides an effective laboratory to develop and explore these theoretical dimensions of pre-socialisation, revealing the contested value and meaning of sovereignty, the possible roles that an independent Scotland could play, and the projected implications for the role of the UK and other international actors. Our analysis of the Scottish case can provide insights for other cases of pre-socialisation and is more empirically significant following the UK’s 2016 referendum to leave the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-32
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Role theory
  • Scottish independence
  • Socialisation
  • Sovereignty
  • United Kingdom


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