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Scottish Quotations

I like to have quotations ready for every occasions - they give one's ideas so pat and save one the trouble of finding expression adequate to one's feeling.

Robert Burns

A variety of quotations in prose and verse reflecting all aspects of Scottish life and outlook from the 1st century to the present dayNew quotes added every week.

Calgacus (Galgacus) (?-?):  Leader of Caledonian Confederation (1st century)

They make a desert and call it peace.

(First recorded Scot – speech attributed to him by the Roman writer Tacitus before the Battle of Mons Graupius 84AD)

David Cameron:  English Politician

It would be wrong to suggest that Scotland could not be another successful, independent country.

(On the example of small nations like Finland and Norway – April 2007)

Myles Campbell (Maoilios M Caimbeul):  Poet and Teacher

Aile a gheallas Errach
Ged a tha e fuar fhathast
Tha spiorad uaine san aire
Aig talamh is daoin’.

A promise of Spring in the air
Although it is still cold
People and earth
Are aware of a green spirit.

(Latha Faoiltich, from Balitean 1987)

Sir Walter Menzies Campbell:  Politician

Drive less, fly less and buy less.

(The three things he does to safe-guard the planet’s resources)

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908):  Prime Minister

Even good government can never be a substitute for government by the people themselves.

(Speech in his Stirling Constituency 1905)

Robert Carlyle:  Actor

The Stone is about being pro-Scottish. It’s not about moaning, complaining or crying about the fact that Edward stole the Stone a few hundred years ago [1296]. It’s more about what it means to the Scottish psyche.

(On his new film ‘Stone of Destiny’ – Scotland on Sunday 8 June 2008)

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881):  Writer and Sage

No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

(Heroes and Hero-Worship, i. The Hero as Divinity 1840)

The true University of these days is a Collection of Books.

(On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History 1841)

The character of Burns is a theme that cannot easily become either trite or exhausted. 


It is noteworthy that the nobles of the country (Scotland) have maintained a quite despicable behaviour since the days of Wallace downwards – a selfish, ferocious, famishing, unprincipaled set of hyenas, from whom at no time, and in no way, has the country derived any benefit whatever.

For one man that can stand prosperity, there are a hundred that will stand adversity.

The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.

Vain hope to make men happy by politics!

War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle.

Work is the grand cure of all maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind.

(Rectorial Address at Edinburgh University 1866)

Talk that does not end in any kind of action is better suppressed altogether.

I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

Make yourself an honest man and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.


A country [Scotland] where the entire people is, or even once has been, laid hold of, filled to the heart with an infinite religious idea, has ‘made a step from which it cannot retrograde’. Thought, conscience, the sense that man is denizen of a Universe, creature of an Eternity, has penetrated to the remotest cottage, to the simplest heart.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919):  Industrialist and Philanthropist

In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves;  to provide part of the means by which those who desire to improve may do so. 

I well remember that the stern doctrines of Calvinism lay as a terrible nightmare upon me… I grew up treasuring within me the fact that my father had risen and left the Presbyterian Church [in Dunfermline] one day when the minister preached the doctrine of infant damnation. This was shortly after I had made my first appearance.


Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.

(The Gospel of Wealth, North American Review 1889)

America would have been a poor show had it not been for the Scots.

No man can become rich without himself enriching others.

J.R. (Johnny) Cash (1932-2003):  American Singer and Songwriter

I enjoy writing a simple love ballad or a simple song. I just wrote a Scottish folk song called “A Croft in Clachan”, and it’s just a simple story set in the seventeenth century about this boy leaving the town of Clachan to fight the English and then coming back home to the girl he’s going to marry. When I was writing it, Paul McCartney was talking about “Mull of Kintyre” and he said, “You should finish it. ‘Mull of Kintyre’ was the biggest song I ever wrote.” That’s something to think about! A Scottish song was the biggest song he wrote! So I finished it.

(Interview with Steve Turner, Brighton England 1988)

Flagnote: The great American singer and songwriter Johnny Cash was proud to trace his family roots back to Strathmiglo in Fife. In 1677 his forebear William Cash sailed from Glasgow aboard the Good Intent and settled in Essex County, Massachusetts. Subsequent generations of the Cash family moved south to Virgina, further south to Georgia, and eventually inland to Arkansas where J’R: Cash was born at Kingsland in 1932.

John Chamberlayne (1668/9-1723): English Translator and Literary Editor

The diet of the Scots is agreeable to their estates and qualities. No people eat better, or have greater varieties of flesh, fish, wild and tame fowl, than the Scots nobility and gentry in their own country, where they can furnish their tables with ten dishes cheaper than the English can provide three of the same kinds; and of their wines, the French themselves did not before the Union drink better, and at very easy rates. The tradesmen, farmers and common people are not excessive devourers of flesh, as men of the same rank are in England. Milk-meats and oatmeal, several ways prepared, and kale and roots dressed in several manners, is the constant diet of the poor people (for roast-meat is seldom had but on gaudy-days); and with this kind of food they enjoy a better state of health than their more southern neighbours, who fare higher.

Magnae Britanniae Notitie: Or the Present State of Great-Britain With divers Remarks 1718)

Robert Chambers (1802-1871):  Author, Bookseller and Publisher

Yule’s come and Yule’s gone,
And we hae feasted weel;
Sae Jock maun to his flail again,
And Jenny to her wheel.

(The Book of Day)

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936):  English Writer

For Scotland has a double dose of the poison called heredity; the sense of blood in the aristocrat, and the sense of doom in the Calvinist.

(The Innocence of Father Brown 1911)

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965):  English Prime Minister and Author

… as to the future, we have to secure for Scotland a much more direct and convenient method of bringing her influence to bear upon her own purely domestic affairs. There is nothing which conflicts with the integrity of the United Kingdom in the setting up of a Scottish Parliament for the discharge of Scottish business. There is nothing which conflicts with the integrity of the United Kingdom in securing to Scotsmen in that or in some other way an effective means of shaping the special legislation which affects them and only them. Certainly I am of opinion that if such a scheme can be brought into existence it will mean a great enrichment not only of the national life of Scotland, but of the politics and public life of the United Kingdom.

(Speech given in Dundee 3 October 1911)

I have never before been made a freeman of any city, and though since the war I have been complimented by a number of invitations which I greatly value, your freedom is the only one I have felt so far able to receive in the hard press of events.

It seemed to me that Edinburgh, the ancient capital of Scotland, enshrined in the affection of the Scottish race all over the world, rich in memories and tradition, immortal in its collective personality, stands by itself and therefore I am here today to be refreshed by your great kindness and inspiration.

(Speech on receiving the Freedom of Edinburgh 12 October 1942)

Hilary Rodham Clinton:  American Politician: US Senator

On this day, we recognise the outstanding achievements and contributions made by Americans of Scottish descent who have played a prominent role in the founding of this country, and throughout our history, and who have helped foster a strong relationship between the US and Scotland.

(April 2008)

Anthony Robert (Robbie) Coltrane:  Actor

I am not sure how helpful nationalism is. I think it’s like religion. It’s a double-edged sword. It causes as much misery as pleasure.

Saint Columba, Colum Cille (521-597): Irish Prince of the northern Ui-Neill:  Missionary

Small and mean though this place is, great and special honour will be conferred upon it.

(of Iona)

Dear Lord

Be Thou a bright flame before me
Be Thou a guiding star above me
Be Thou a smooth path beneath me
Be Thou a kindly shepherd behind me
Today and for evermore.

(A Prayer of St Columba)

John Cleveland (1613-1658):  English Poet, College Tutor and Royalist

Had Cain been Scot, God would have chang’d his doom,
Not forced him wander but confined him home.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834):  English Poet, Critic and Philosopher

… of the overseers of the slave plantations in the West Indies, three of four are Scotsmen, and the fourth is generally observed to have suspicious cheek bones: and on the American Continent the … Whippers-in or Neger-Bishops are either Scotchmen or the Americanised Descendants of Scotchmen.

Sir Sean Connery:  International Film Star

The lyres of time sang softly,
I cared not how I fared,
For free with the strength of ignorance,
How could I have been impaired?
My armour bright and virile
Entombed a passionate heart,
That nurtured dreams of fire,
But to where, to where to start. 


Over the centuries the Scots have accepted the fact of English domination. You’ve only got to look at the figures to realise Scotland is a perpetually depressed area. Why else do the Scots have to leave Scotland to make a good living?

With so many Scots in the Cabinet I would have thought that the government would have understood what “It’s no’ fair” means. Obviously not! In the political parties bill rushed through the Commons, someone in my position is to be treated as a foreigner. Well I am not a foreigner but a proud Scot. I cannot see that I have been doing anything wrong in donating some funds to the National Party. All I have ever wanted is to see my country of Scotland treated equally with all of the other nations of the world. There is nothing mysterious about my support for the SNP. I have always been totally open about my donations. No one could seriously argue that I have ever secured any advantage from it. Quite the contrary, I know that my support for the National Party has upset powerful people. The fact that legislation designed to clean up Tory and Labour politics has ended up as a bill to clear out Sean Connery strikes me as more than a little suspicious.

(December 2000)

What you are doing is a marvellous thing and just to let you know I am backing you all the way.

(text-message of support to David R Ross on his successful Walk for Wallace, August 2005)

We don’t have a bridge between America and Scotland that Ireland has with America, and that’s a real drawback.


Like a lot of Scots abroad I look forward to coming home to an independent Scotland. Emotionally, of course, I have never left.

(April 2007)

I’ve always been hopeful about Scotland’s prospects. And I now believe more than ever that Scotland is within touching distance of independence and equality. The first step towards this was winning Scotland the right to a separate parliament in 1997 and the second was electing an SNP Government last year. I believe we have what it takes to take the third step, and I am convinced it will happen in my lifetime.

(Scottish Sunday Express 24 February 2008)

Scotland should always be a stand-alone nation at whatever, I believe.

(Launch of his autobiography Being a Scot at Edinburgh International Festival on his 78th birthday 25 August 2008)

My three great passions in life, apart of course from Micheline, my wife since 1970, are acting, sport (especially golf) and Scotland. Of the three I would put Scotland and Scottish politics first.

(Being A Scot 2008)

My first big break came when I was five years old. It’s taken me more than seventy years to realise that. You see, at five I first learnt to read. It’s that simple and it’s that profound. I left school at thirteen. I didn’t have a formal education. And yet there I was, accepting the thirty-fourth American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award in the summer of 2006. I told the glittering Hollywood audience that without the lust for reading instilled in me all those years ago by my teachers at the Bruntsfield Primary School in Edinburgh, I would not have been there with them that night. It had been a long journey to that star-studded event, from my two-room Fountainbridge home in the smoky industrial end of Edinburgh near McCowans’ toffee factory.

(Being A Scot 2008)

How can we explain the enigma of the Highland bagpipe? How is it that such a simple instrument, one that is so primitive that it can be varied neither in pitch nor in volume, can express so many emotions? It can convey rapture at weddings, inspire soldiers to feats of courage in the height of battle, or help assuage inconsolable grief around the graves of loved ones. When New York marked the anniversary of the 9/11 catastrophe, five pipe bands of firemen expressed the rage and grief of the many relatives and friends at Ground Zero, lamenting the senseless deaths of near three thousand who perished there. And to think it took the primitive Highland bagpipe to console the citizens of one of the world’s most sophisticated cities.

(Being A Scot 2008)

William (Billy) Connolly:  Comedian, Musician, Presenter and Actor

Now I don’t know if you remember the first time you ever tasted whisky and the tremendous shock to the nervous system that is. In Scotland this usually happens around the age of four – not because your parents give it to you but because there are these parties at New Year.

(Gullible’s Travels 1982)

The rituals of drink have always fascinated me. The way curry has become a sort of traditional Scottish food after a night of drinking.

(Gullible’s Travels 1982)

There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

Growing old is great. It’s like getting drunk. Everyone around you gets better-looking.

(July 2008)

Alistair Cooke (1908-2004): English-born American Broadcaster, Author and Journalist

Only the Scots would have thought of celebrating a national game [golf] with the figure of a tortured saint.

(Commenting on the Royal & Ancient emblem depicting St Andrew bearing the Saltire cross on which he was crucified)

Joseph (Joe) Corrie (1894-1968):  Playwright, Poet, Journalist and Short Story Writer

Crawlin’ aboot like a snail in the mud,
            Covered wi’ clammie blae,
Me, made after the image o’ God –
            Jings! But it’s laughable tae.

(The Image O’ God 1927)

We have borne good sons to broken men,
Nurtured them on our hungry breat,
And given them to our masters when
Their day of life was at its best. 

We have dried their clammy clothes by the fire,
Solaced them, cheered them, tended them well,
Watched the wheels raising them from the mire,
Watched the wheels lowering them to hell.

(Miners’ Wives)

There’s nae power on earth can crush the men that can sing…

David Coulthard: Racing Driver

As far as I'm concerned, it’s a question of genetics. You buy little boys a tractor to play with and little girls a doll. Try it the other way and it just doesn’t work.

Professor Edward (Ted) J Cowan:  Historian, Professor of Scottish History at Glasgow University and Author

This [The Declaration of Scottish Independence 6 April 1320] is the first articulation of the idea that a king is elected by his subjects and if he steps out of line he can be deposed by them. It appeals to universal values. It appeals to the freedom and dignity of the individual but it also appeals to the freedom and dignity of the nation.  

(Backing moves to gain Arbroath Abbey World Heritage Status 9 February 2008)

Professor Robert Crawford: Poet, Critic, Author and Professor of Modern Scottish Literature, University of St Andrews

No writer is more charismatic than Robert Burns. Passionate, intelligent, and a consummate wordsmith, he is the world’s most popular love bard. Though it was dangerous to be so in his age and place, he also made himself through tone and temperament the master poet of democracy. All this makes Burns one of the most important authors of modernity, but also one of the hardest to write about. He will not be pigeon holed. His life and work resist the imposition of grandeur.

(The Bard, Introduction 2009)

People often pat Burns on the head as a ‘heaven-taught ploughman’, assuming he was an unlearned character. But if I was to say to my students, ‘Hands up which of you have read a major work of philosophy published in the year of your birth’ I wonder how many would be able to do so. Yet Burns read Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’, published in 1759, and he knows it well because he refers to it several times. “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us” – that’s just a straight versification of something in Adam Smith.

(The Scotsman 17 January 2009)

Samuel Rutherford Crockett (1859-1914):  Novelist

Here he [Andra] scurried and scuttled for all the world like a dipper, with his breast showing white like that of the bird, as he walked along the bottom of the pool. Most of the time his head was beneath the water, as well as the rest of his body. His arms bored their way round the intricacies of the boulders at the bottom. His brown and freckled hands pursued the trouts beneath the banks. Sometimes he would have one in either hand at the same time.

When he caught them he had a careless and reckless way of tossing them up on the bank without looking where he was throwing.

(The Lilac Sunbonnet, ‘Legitimate Sport’ 1894

Where about the graves of the martyrs
the whaups are crying

My heart remembers how.

(Dedication of ‘The Stickit Minister’ to Robert Louis Stevenson)

Helen Burness Cruikshank (1886-1975): Poet, Political Activist and Civil Servant

To bring back colour, mirth to
Dreary streets;
To set the folk advancing in the glens
With light foot-beats…
We will not rest, till Scotland rings again
With her children’s songs. 

(Lines for Wendy Wood’s Scottish Watch)

I mind o’ the Ponnage Pule,
The reid brae risin’,
Morphie Lade,
An’ the saumon that louped the dam,
A tree i’ Martin’s Den
Wi’ names carved on it;
But I ken na wha I am. 

(The Ponnage Pool)

Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, ‘Don Roberto’ (1852-1936):  Scholar, Politician and Writer

I regret, as a Scotsman, because we have always had a good name for business, that those Judases who sold our country [in 1707], got so little for themselves. £26,000! Why, their patron saint, Judas, got almost as much, taking into consideration the greater purchasing power of money when he did his deal.

(Speech at Bannockburn Rally, Stirling, 18 June 1927)

The problem for Scotland is not the English who are a great and wise people.  The problem for Scotland are those Scots born without imagination.

(Speech at Bannockburn 21 June 1930)

I cannot bear to see Scottish writers take their inspiration from English themes. I cannot bear to see our painters paint entirely English subjects. Have they no themes in Scotland; are there no tragedies in the slums of Glasgow, in the mining districts of Lanarkshire and in the Western Islands for men to write about; have our hills and straths lost their enchancement for painters? I say ‘No’; but I do say that we want an increase of national sentiment in order to direct the attention of our artists and painters and poets more exclusively to the consideration of national subjects.

( Speech at Bannockburn 21 June 1930)

I never withdraw.

(Frequent comment during his time in the English House of Commons 1886-1892)

David Daiches (1912-2005):  Academic and Writer

The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man’s determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which he has been endowed.

(Scotch Whisky 1969)

George Elder Davie (1912-2007):  Philosopher, Lecturer and Author 

It may be argued, moreover, that under post-Union conditions, it was the secular component rather than the sacred which was chiefly responsible for the continuing foreignness of the Scottish ethos. After all, the egalitarianism of the Presbyterians always made a certain appeal over the border, although to be sure it was un-English in an official sense. On the other hand, the ratiocinative approach of Parliament House, looking as it did to Roman and Continental law, was out of line with the inherited English practice; and still more alien and uncongenial was an educational system which, combining the democracy of the Kirk elders with the intellectualism of the advocates, made expertise in metaphysics the condition of the open door of social advancement. Thus the barrier between north and south was proverbially located in the contrast between rationality and rule of thumb, between principle and precedent, and the English with their tolerant good humour could refer to the complex sister nation as ‘metaphysical Scotland’.

(The Democratic Intellect 1961)

In the beginning, there were these ambitious plans for promoting a spectacular educational programmes for Scotland, for building up a new learned class of specialists around the Universities, and for consolidating Edinburgh’s historic role as the cultural capital of an education-minded country; but, in the end, after it was made clear that there was to be no financial aid for these schemes, the proposed advance became a deliberate retreat; the thistle motif gave way to that of the mountain daisy, and the rampant lion turned into a wee, sleekit, cowering, timorous beastie.

(The Democratic Intellect 1961)

Daniel Defoe (born Daniel Foe) (1660-1731):  English Writer, journalist and Spy

The Scots hate the Union, but they hate each other more.

The Scots are as diligent, as industrious, as apt for Labour and Business, and as capable of it, when they are abroad, as any People in the World; and why should they not be so at Home? and, if they had Encouragement no doubt they would.

Scotland has had many an ill picture drawn for her in the world; and as she has been represented in False Draughts, no wonder the Injurys she has suffered are intolerable. All the Spies sent hither have carry’d back an ill Report of the Land, and fill’d the World with weak Banters and Clamour as they know not what.

Professor Richard Demarco:  Artist and Arts Impresario

I thank God for the Edinburgh Festival. It gives Edinburgh a sense of its true destiny as a city worthy of comparison with all those Italian cities that first gave meaning to the word ‘civilised’.


The Scots think of it as their capital; they’re too possessive, Edinburgh belongs to the world.

Donald Dewar (1937-2000):  Politician, Inaugural First Minister of Scotland and Lawyer

For me, for any Scot, today is a proud moment: a new stage on a journey begun long ago and which has no end.

(Opening of Scottish Parliament 1999)

There shall be a Scottish Parliament. I like that.

(Quoting the first words of the Scotland Act, in his speech at the Official Opening of the Scottish Parliament July 1999)

This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.  

(Opening of Scottish Parliament 1 July 1999)

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881): English Politician, Conservative Prime Minister and Novelist

I never perceived a better place than Edinburgh. It is exactly what I fancied it, and certainly is the most beautiful town in the world.

Thomas (Tommy) Henderson Docherty:  Football Manager (including Scotland); Scottish Internationalist

It was a great victory, a fantastic result. But if you’re asking what was Scotland’s greatest-ever victory, it has to be the 3-2 win at Wembley in 1967 when Jim Baxter absolutely dominated the game. England were the world champions then and were playing at home, whereas France were playing away and are World Cup runners-up. Our biggest problem now is getting carried away.

(Commenting on Scotland’s unexpected 1-0 victory against World Cup runners-up France on 7 October 2006)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930):  Doctor and Author

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.

John Dryden (1631-1700):  English Poet, Literary Critic and Playwright

Treacherous Scotland, to no interest true.

William Dunbar (c1460-c1520):  Poet

All love is lost but upon God alone.

(The Merle and the Nightingale c1508)

Douglas Eaglesham Dunn:  Poet, Academic, Author and Critic

In a country like this
Our ghosts outnumber us.

(from At Falkland Palace 1988)

Kenneth Dunn: Senior Curator of Manuscripts, National Library of Scotland

Burns’ tour of the country awakened his sense of national identity. Touring those parts of the country that had been involved in the 1745 rebellion excited his interest in the Jacobites. Through this interest we can see that his tour unquestionably evoked in him an interest in Scotland’s past.

(Discover – the magazine of the National Library of Scotland – Winter Issue 2008)

General Dwight David ‘Ike’ Eisenhower (1890-1969): American Politician, Soldier, 34th President of the United States of America

Cities like Edinburgh, far from being mere structures of brick and stone, are living symbols of mankind’s fundamental need of faith in co-operative action.


Jean Elliot (1727-1805):  Poet

At e’en, in the gloaming, nae swankies are roaming
  ‘Bout stacks wi’ the lasses at bogle to play,
But ilk ane sits drearie, lamenting her dearie:
  The Flowers of the Forest are a’ wede away.

Dule and wae for the order sent our lads to the Border;
  The English, for ance, by guile wan the day:
The Flowers of the Forest, that foucht aye the foremost,
  The prime o’ our land are cauld in the clay.

(The Flowers of the Forest)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1892): American Essayist, Poet and Philosopher

His (Robert Burns) muse and teaching was common sense, joyful, aggressive, irrisistable. Not Latimer nor Luther struck more telling blows against false theology than did this brave singer. The Confession of Augsburg, the Declaration of Independence, the French Rights of Man, and the Marseillaise, are not more weighty documents in the history of freedom than the songs of Robert Burns. His satire has lost none of its edge. His musical arrows yet sing through the air. He is so substantially a reformer that I find his grand plain sense in close chain with the greatest masters, - Rabelais, Shakespeare in comedy, Cervantes, Butler and Burns, If I could add another name, I find it only in a living country-man of Burns.

(Speech delivered at the celebration of the Burns centenary, Boston, 25 January 1859)

Dr Gwynfor Evans (1912-2005):  Welsh Politician, Lawyer and Market Gardener

Compared with Wales, moreover, Scotland has some obvious advantages. There was a Scottish state until 1707. The country has its own legal system, ancient Universities which are thoroughly Scottish in character, its own Established Church and five morning papers with wide circulations. The country hasn’t suffered as much as Wales from immigration. It is further away from London and it isn’t divided as Wales sometimes is, by language issues. On the other hand there is no Scottish language strong enough to link the people with their past and therefore no great national literature in it, nor is its history as inspiring as that of Wales – except, of course, to the Scots.

(For The Sake Of Wales; The Memoirs of Gwynfor Evans – translated from Welsh by Meic Stephens 1996)

Dr Winifred (Winnie) M Ewing:  Politician and Lawyer

Stop the World - we want to get on.

Hamilton By-election 1967) 

The Scottish Parliament adjourned on 25th March 1707, is hereby reconvened.

(On the opening of the Scottish Parliament 12 May 1999 - as Mother of the House Dr Winifred M Ewing chaired the first session)

We must push the Parliament to campaign for more powers and we must campaign for those powers out in the country. The concept of fiscal autonomy is one that is easy to understand and one which attracts widespread support already. The control of our own resources is essential for we are the only country to have discovered oil and still to have become no better off. We also have vast supplies of the key resource of the twenty-first century – water – whilst there is a scarcity of it elsewhere, including England, and we have a huge ability to generate power by wind and other methods. Far from coming to the end of our riches, we are just coming into them.

(StopThe World – The Autobiography of Winnie Ewing 2004)

Please, make sure you look outside Scotland. Be open to ideas from elsewhere. Look at the smaller countries around you. Travel to them, look and learn. Go to Ireland or Norway, or Sweden or Denmark. See how small countries can manage their own affairs with success and dignity. Experience the confidence, the optimism. Soak in the self-belief. And, of course, get to know your own country as well. Get to know it and its past. And work hard for what you believe in politically.

(Advice to young Scots – The Scotsman 22 February 2007)

The very name Culloden stands for sadness beyond words. It ended lives, hopes, ambitions and a way of life,


Sir Nicholas Hardwick Fairbairn (1933-1995):  Politician and Lawyer

My two worst dreads were dancing-class and parties. Both caused me acute embarrassment. Dancing was cissy, and I had to wear my kilt, which was cissy too, although I have worn it with pleasure ever since.

Before the Reformation, colour and music and splendid robes were part of the law of Scotland and Scottish court and church … until recent times, the ministers of the Church of Scotland wore black and colour was not to be seen in the kirks. Music was absent, except for the stilted chant of the metrical psalms, and drink was, of course, a demon of the Devil.

(The Scotsman 24 May 1984)

Sir Thomas (Tom) Farmer:  Businessman, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

I am not a member of the Scottish National Party, but I listened to the presentation made to me by Alex Salmond and his SNP team and concluded there should be a real open debate for the future of Scotland. This is important as we come nearer to the May [2007] elections. I would consider it would be an unhealthy situation if the SNP were not able to actively campaign and participate in these debates. They should be on a level financial playing field with other political parties.

(Announcing £100,000 donation to the Scottish National Party – Sunday Times 8 October 2006)

Nobody in the CBI or any other organisation is in a position to say independence would be bad for Scotland. At the end of the day these comments are an insult to Scots and Scotland as a nation.

(April 2007)

Alison Fell:  Poet and Novelist

Life is as short as a shoelace, but who knows it.

(Significant Fevers 1984)

Sir Alexander (Alex) Ferguson:  Football Manager (East Stirlingshire, St Mirren, Aberdeen and Manchester United) 

Preparing youngsters for failure is easy; it’s preparing them for success that’s really difficult.

Craig Ferguson:  Comedian and Broadcaster

I’m more comfortable here in America than I was in England. America is a natural place for a person from Scotland. Culturally, it didn’t feel like that much of a leap for me. It just kind of works for me. But for better or worse I’ll always be Scottish. Perhaps I would never have exceeded my expectations if I had been born somewhere else.

(Scotland on Sunday 3 February 2008)

Professor Niall Ferguson:  Historian and Author

Devolution gives Scots the illusion of self-government but not the reality of it. The parliament cannot flourish while it acts as a mere channel for aid from England. Independence would be preferable to this half-way house.

(The Scotsman 29 May 2006)

Alexander (Alex) Fergusson:  Politician and Farmer

Let us all remember that our electorate, the people of Scotland, want this new politics to work for them and we have a duty to deliver what the electorate expects.

(Acceptance speech on being elected Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament 14 May 2007)

John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961): Painter

No-one has a right to decide for others what is art and what isn’t. The public has a right to decide for itself, and to like what is considered to be bad art if they choose.

Robert Fergusson (1750-1774):  Poet

Black be the day that e're to England's ground
Scotland was eikit by the UNION's bond... 

(The Ghaists; A Kirk-yard Eclogue)

For nought can cheer the heart so weel.
As can a canty Highland reel.

At glomin’, now, the bagpipe’s dumb,
When weary owsen homeward come;
Sae sweetly as it wont to bum,
                        An’ pibrachs screed;
We never hear its weirlike hum;
                        For Music’s dead. 

Macgibbon’s gane: Ah! Waes my heart!
The man in music maist expert,
Wha’ cou’d sweet melody impart,
                        An’ tune the reed,
Wi’ sic a slee and pawky art;
                        But now he’s dead.

(Elegy on the Death of Scots Music)

When merry Yule-day comes, I trow,
You’ll scantlins find a hungry mou;
Sma are pour cares, our stamacks fou
                        O gusty gear,
And kickshaws, strangers to our view
                        Sin fairn-year. 

(The Daft Days)

Flagnote: The Daft Days, the Twelve Days of Yule run from 24 December (Yule Een) to 6 January (Uphaliday).

Susan Edmonstoune Ferrier (1782-1854):  Novelist

I….intend to immortalise myself by giving to the world a work which shall be read when reading is no more! A work whose fame shall extend from the Taboozamanoo Islands to the last stone of the Mull of Kintyre.

(Letter to Charlotte Clavering 1810)

Professor Richard J Finlay:  Historian and Author

The Scottish National Party won its first parliamentary seat at Motherwell [and Wishaw], in April 1945. The candidate, Robert McIntyre, managed to push labour into second place, no doubt benefiting from Tory and Liberal voters. McIntyre used his short spell in parliament to good effect, with a number of interventions regarding social and health policy – he was a well-known public-health specialist – and was offered a safe Labour seat if he was prepared to switch sides. He refused. McIntyre also had the distinction of raising the ire of Winston Churchill after his refusal to accept sponsorship to take his seat in the Commons.

(Modern Scotland 1914-2000, 2004)

Archie Fisher:  Folksinger, Songwriter and Broadcaster

For I’ve sat and listened to my father tell
Of the days that he once knew
When you either sweated for a measly wage
Or you joined the parish queue.
And as times grew harder day by day
Along the riverside
I oftimes heard my mother say
‘It was tears that made the Clyde.’ 

(The Shipyard Apprentice)

Julie Fleeting:  Teacher and Footballer

I’m very proud. I love pulling on the national jersey, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to do that 100 times.

(On gaining her 100th cap for Scotland 31 October 2007)

Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653-1716): The Patriot; Leading Opponent of 1707 Union

I knew a very wise man who believed that if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of the nation.

The Scots deserve no pity, if they voluntarily surrender their united and separate interests to the mercy of a united parliament, where the English shall have so vast a majority.

(23 October 1706) 

An army is reckoned to belong to who pays it, so an army paid from England would be called an English army.

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955):  Biologist, Pharmacologist, Discoverer of Penicillin, Nobel Prize of Medicine 1945

A good gulp of whisky at bedtime – it’s not scientific but it helps.

(Cure for the cold)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790): American Philosopher, Politician and Scientist

Did not strong connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I should choose to end my days.

James A Froude (1818-1895): English Historian

No nation in Europe can look with more just pride on their past than the Scots, and no young Scotchman aught to grow up in ignorance of what that past has been.

Michael Fry:  Historian, Author, Broadcaster, Journalist and Political Activist

Scots can only solve their problems once they rule themselves and take responsibility for their actions as an independent nation.

(Sunday Post 31 December 2006)

Robert Kerr (Ricki) Fulton (1924-2004):  Comedian and Actor

The day I’m no longer funny is when I’ll give up.

Will Fyffe (1885-1947):  Comedian and Music Hall Entertainer

When a man takes a drink, he’s a man. When ye’re teetotal – Ach! When ye’re teetotal ye’ve got a rotten feeling that everybody’s your boss.

Return to Scottish Quotations - Sources


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