Perspectives on European Politics and Society 15(4) pp 464-482

Traditionally, minority nationalist parties (MNPs) have employed the notion of Europe in order to advance an alternative to centralized administration within the unitary state. This study examines whether earlier claims of MNPs’ repositioning on the European Union (EU) are supported by a discourse analysis of manifestos in UK meso-elections. The findings confirm a significant shift in MNPs’ framing of EU policy at the regional level; no longer advanced as a principal route to autonomy, voters are latterly invited to view the EU more as a fiscal-support mechanism. The wider significance of the findings is in pointing to post-devolution instrumentalism and an ideologically fluid phase in MNP attitudes to the European project. In the wake of state restructuring, meso-elections present new discursive opportunities for MNPs to seek a mandate to build on the degree of self-government already attained through the (re)creation of regional polities without principal reliance on the goal of ‘independence in Europe’.