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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.

Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1888):  Italian Nationalist and Soldier of the Risorgimento

William Wallace sheds as bright a glory upon his valorous nation as ever was shed upon their country by the greatest men of Greece or Rome.

Flora Macdonald Garry (1900-2000):  Poet, Teacher and Broadcaster

‘Foo aal’s Bennachie? As aals a man?’
Loon-like I wid spear, an leave ma bools
A boorach in the kypie at ma feet
An stan an stare oot ower the darknin laan
Ower parks an ferms, as far’s ma een could see
To the muckle hull aneth the seetin sun.
‘Aaler, laddie, aye, gin Man himself.
Naebody kens the age o Bennachie.’

(Foo Aal’s Bennachie?)

The Romans marched by Don
Herriet the laich countrie;
But heich in their fort on the Mither Tap
The Picts fan sanctuary.

(The Hill Fort)

Sir Patrick Geddes (1854-1932):  Biologist, Sociologist and Town Planner

This is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent on the leaves. By leaves we live. Some people have strange ideas that they live by money. They think energy is generated by the circulation of coins. Whereas the world is mainly a vast leaf colony, growing on and forming a leafy soil, not a mere mineral mass: and we live not by the jingling of our coins, but by the fullness of our harvests.


Education is not merely by and for the sake of thought, it is in a still higher degree by and for the sake of action. Just as the man of science must think and experiment alternately, so too must artist, author and scholar alternate creation or study with participation in the life around them. For it is only by thinking things out as one lives them, and living things out as one thinks them, that a man or society can really be said to think or even live at all.

(Lecture 1895)

How many people think twice about a leaf? Yet the leaf is the chief product and phenomenon of Life: this is a green world, with animals comparatively few and small, and all dependent upon the leaves. By leaves we live.

(Last Lecture as Professor of Botany at Dundee 1919)

We men are hypnotized by money but have lost sight of economics – the real functioning of life, in real and energetic health, creating real and material wealth. Real wealth can only be created in a life-efficient environment.

(Patrick Geddes in India, published 1947)

Town-planning… to be successful must be folk-planning.

Sir Alexander Geikie (1835-1924):  Geologist and Author

Let anyone with an ordinary share of the observing faculty sail round the west coast of Scotland and take note of the successive mountain groups which pass before him and he will acknowledge that the voyage of a couple of hundred miles has almost as instructive to him as if he had scoured over half the globe… Nowhere in Europe does colour come more notably forward in landscape than in the west of Scotland.

(Dissertation on Scottish Mountains, Scottish Mountaineering Club Dinner 1892)

Lewis Grassic Gibbon (born James Leslie Mitchell) (1901-1935): Journalist and Author

Scotland lived, she could never die, the land would outlast them all….

(Sunset Song 1932)

Dame Evelyn Glennie:  Percussionist and Composer

Scotland has never ceased to amaze the world with its forward vision, bold action and great educational institutions. Nothing makes me more proud than to promote this wonderful land with all its richness and diversity wherever I go.

(30 November 2007)

Alexander Ross (Harry) Gordon, ‘The Laird o Invernecky’ (1893-1957): Comedian

A ripple of laughter is worth an ocean of tears. To laugh is to be free of worry.

Seton Paul Gordon (1886-1997):  Naturalist, Photographer, Piper and Author

It is a fine thing for you to have a love of the hills, because on the hills you find yourself near grand and beautiful things, and as you grow older you will love them more and more.

(Letter to Dr Adam Watson [then a schoolboy] 1939)

Albert (Al) Arnold Gore:  American Politician, Vice President of the United States of America (1993-2001)

Scotland is absolutely unique in its history, and the question [whether the US government should push for an independent Scotland] demands respect. Coming from a part-Scottish background, I’m all for you.

(Edinburgh International Film Festival 28 August 2006)

James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquis of Montrose (1612-1650):  Soldier

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose them all.

(My Dear and Only Love 1642)

They fought like men with a better cause.

(Of the defeated Campbells after the Battle of Inverlochy 1645)

James Grant (1822-1887): Historian and Novelist

The world is neither Scottish, English, nor Irish, neither French, Dutch, nor Chinese, but human.

(On founding the National Association of Scottish Rights, 1852)

Alasdair Gray:  Artist and Author

Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.

Sir Alexander Gray (1882-1968):  Economist and Poet

This is my country
The land that begat me,
These windy spaces
Are surely my own.
And those who here toil
In the sweat of their faces
Are flesh of my flesh
And bone of my bone.


The starn stude ower the ale-hoose byre
   Whaur the stable gear was hingin’.
The owsen mooed, the bairnie grat,
   The kings begoud their singin’,

(The Kings From the East)

As a Poet [Robert Burns] he is, by universal consent, if not among the greatest of all time, at least not much below the highest; and his peculiar “message”, if I may use a word I detest as applied to poets, may make him the especial poet of a country where the democratic instincts have always been so strong as in Scotland. For the “message” of Burns is ultimately centred in the brotherhood of man, the glorious privilege of being independent, and the virtue of suspending judgement on our erring fellows. But he is more than a poet whose “message” has made him acceptable. He is a national hero; and that is why we are right in thinking of him along with Wallace and Bruce. For if these hammered us into a nation, he revived us when we were in danger of fainting.

(The Immortal Memory, Scottish Arts Club in Edinburgh 22 January 1944)

Andrew Mullen Gray:  Footballer, Scottish Internationalist (20 caps) and Broadcaster

It [Back, Lewis] was a massive change to Glasgow, but I loved it. In a lot of ways it was a very strict and old-fashioned world. My grandparents were very strict church-goers. On Sundays everything was religion. My grandfather, who doubled as blacksmith and school caretaker, wouldn’t tolerate any entertainment on the Sabbath and my grandmother was even stricter. On Lewis the swings in the children’s playgrounds were padlocked up on Sundays. We weren’t allowed to play, or even read books except for the Bible. You could get out of bed and go for a walk and that was about it. You certainly couldn’t listen to pop music and that was a particular passion of mine at the time.

(Gray Matters - the autobiography 2004)

Muriel Gray:  Broadcaster, Columnist and Writer

As every Scot knows, a gallus besom is a cheeky bitch.

(Giving her interpretation of ‘gallus besom’ after an English television company had translated it as a ‘lively lass’)

I don’t compromise beliefs – and I don’t suffer fools gladly.

John Richard Greene (1837-1883):  English Historian

The instinct of the Scotch people has guarded it aright in choosing Wallace for its national hero. He was the first to sweep aside the technicalities of feudal law and to assert freedom as a national birthright. Amidst the despair of nobles and priests he called the people itself to arms, and his discovery of the military value of the stout peasant footman who had till then been scorned by baronage and knighthood gave a deathblow to the system of feudalism and changed, in the end, the face of Europe.

(A Short History of the English People)

Andrew Greig: Poet and Author

‘Andy, everyone loves a winner.’
‘Not in my country they don’t.’ 

(Preferred Lies 2006)

Neil Miller Gunn (1891-1973):  Customs Officer and Author

In all things pertaining to his land that move the Scot to his marrow you will observe this note of tragedy, the singing of lost causes, of dead years, of death.

(Whisky and Scotland 1935)

Sea-fishing and crofting were the only two occupations of the people [of Dunbeath], and however the rewards of their labour varied season to season, they were never greatly dissimilar over a whole year or over ten years. Thus in the course of centuries there had developed a communal feeling so genuine that the folk themselves never thought about it. They rejoiced and quarrelled, loved and fought, on a basis of equality.

(Highland River 1937)

Where all is compulsion and enforcement, it’s the bully that rules.

(The Silver Darlings 1941)

Field Marshal The Right Honorable Sir Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, Viscount Dawick, Baron Haig of Bemersyde (1861-1928): Soldier; Commander of the British Expeditionary Force 1915-1918

Success in battle depends mainly on morale and determination.


The nation must be taught to bear losses. No amount of skill on the part of the highest commanders, no training, however good, on the part of the officers and men, no superiority of arms and ammunition, however great, will enable victories to be without the sacrifice of men’s lives. The nation must be prepared to see heavy casualty lists.

(Written, June 1916, prior to the Battle of the Somme. The first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916, saw almost 60,000 British casualties)

This cannot be considered severe in view of the numbers engaged.

(Written opinion (2 July 1916) on the adjuntant-general setting the casualty figure at 40,000 for the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). The actual British casualties on the first day were 57,470, of which 6,655 Scots were killed in action.)

Every position must be held to the last man; there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight to the end.

(Order of the Day 12 April 1918)

James Halliday:  Political Activist, Historian and Author

The Scottish church had been steadfastly nationalist all through the years since 1286. Bishops Wishart and Lamberton were proven patriots, but others too deserve to be remembered. Churchmen were after all, the literate class in medieval society, and Scottish churchmen had undertaken the task of expounding and justifying the Scottish case for independence. In 1320, meeting at Arbroath Abbey, the leaders of the  community of Scotland put their seals to a document prepared, almost certainly, by Bernard de Linton, abbot and civil servant, which yet again, but more fully now than ever before, spelled out Scotland’s claim to identity and independence.

Scotland, they reminded Pope John, to whom the Declaration was addressed, had been a kingdom when England was big enough for seven kings. They had endured attack from King Edward who had taken advantage of their misfortunes and had worked to destroy their freedom under guise of friendship. Fate had given them as a leader and deliverer, King Robert. Yet – and this is the remarkable passage – ‘if he should abandon our cause…. We should make every endeavour to expel him as our enemy and the subverter of his rights and ours, and choose another for our king’. There are those who look for the origins of monarchy dependent upon popular will, in the writing of seventeenth century English philosophers. Very clearly the Scots had stumbled upon the concept of conditional monarchy several centuries earlier.

Finally, in case Pope John or his cardinals thought the Scottish resistance to English ambitions was merely a passing fad, de Linton offered to his countrymen for their approval a pledge of determination free of all ambiguity. ‘For so long as a hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never accept subjection to the domination of the English. For we fight not for glory, or riches or honour, but for freedom alone which no good man will consent to lose but with his life.’

(Saving a Nation – Scotland - A Concise History 1990)

But we have a miraculously surviving national consciousness, which makes feasible the preservation of our aspirations;  and we have the capacity, proven in many generations, to create a leadership from within the community of Scotland.  It is these qualities which entitle us to cling to the hope that we in our generation will yet succeed in handing on to the Scotland of our sons the unique inheritance which was the Scotland of our fathers.

(Scotland the Separate 1982)

Strangers to Scotland, and many Scots themselves, often feel puzzled by the hero-worship which so many bestow upon Robert Burns. The truth is that if Burns had never lived, Scotland could hardly have avoided going the way of ancient English-speaking kingdoms whose identity is long lost. Merged within a greater whole. Scotland today would rank alongside Mercia or Northumbria or Wessex, of interest as an antiquity, a curiosity or an affectation. If Scotland is anything more in modern times, it is because Burns, speaking as and for the ordinary man, stemmed the tide of history, flowing strongly in the direction of absorption and integration. His work meant that a sense of identity was preserved at a time when the politically active classes in Scotland showed little interest in such sense. Aristocracy is by its nature international. It is ordinary people, involved with humbler local community life, who have greater national awareness. These ordinary people had no political power until more than a century had passed, but when in due course these people for whom Burns spoke did gain the right to political participation, Scotland was still there.

(British Scotland – Scotland - A Concise History 1990)

The country from which they were evicted suffered too.  Scotland lost half her heritage, and the desolation which then began has never found a remedy.

(On the Highland Clearances - Scotland - A Concise History 1990)

Then in August 1922, there appeared ‘The Scottish Chapbook’, in which the young poet Christopher Murray Grieve demanded that Scots writers should begin to ‘speak with our voice for our own times.’ They should engage in a serious examination of profound themes seen through Scottish eyes. Thanks to grieve – or ‘Hugh MacDiarmid’ as he called himself – and a generation or more of men and women inspired by his example, Scottish writing ceased to be provincial and trivial as it had become for some fifty preceding years, becoming rather the source of a new national intellectual reawakening, reminiscent of the days of the Enlightenment. What followed might be unfamiliar by English standards, but in Europe and Ireland a cultural revival followed by political action was a familiar experience.

(To Be or Not To Be – Scotland: A Concise History 1990)

For the Highlanders who had followed him [Prince Charles Edward Stewart], the suffering did not end with the deaths under the guns at Culloden, or at the hands of the punishment squads of Cumberland the Butcher. The whole Highland way of life was now to perish, as Parliament in London devised laws which would ensure that the events of 1745-46 could never happen again. A Disarming Act legally stripped the clans of their weapons, and bagpipes and Highland dress were banned for good measure. The clansmen, who had provided the chiefs with a military capacity were no longer soldiers in waiting, or at least not on behalf of their chiefs. The Tenures Abolition Act destroyed the bond of military service between chief and clansman, and the Heritable Jurisdictions Act took from the chiefs virtually sovereign powers over their tenants. The Highlands would now be subject to the same laws and procedures as all other parts of the British state.

(Changing Scotland – Scotland: A Concise History 1990)

Feeding the rising population on a traditional diet of oatmeal, cheese and meat was an increasing problem, as output of these items could not keep place with the growth of numbers. One solution had been found in the humble but remarkable potato. In 1743 the Improvers had urged their members to increase production of this plant, which could produce a far greater volume of food per acre than any other crop. One of the early converts to the idea of potato-growing was the chief of Clanranald, who returned from a visit to Ireland in 1743, enthusiastically committed to potato growing. By 1800 potatoes provided 80 per cent or so of the diet of the Highlanders.

(The Highland Tragedy – Scotland - A Concise History 1990)

Finally there is surely significance in the fact that no bad men were deported – the men who were sent to Australia proved in their later lives that rebellion and criminality are two very different things. The men who died were good men, with courage, dignity and character far superior to those who set out to deceive and betray them. And for all of us who work to a political purpose, there is the lesson that these men of 1820 worked for a political objectivce and saw in political change the potential – the necessary and exclusive potential – for social and economic justice. That is how democrats go about their task,

(The 1820 Rising; The Radical War 1993)

Ian Robertson Hamilton:  Queens Counsel, Political Activist and Author

In a further insult to his Scottish crews, Nelson had one of his ships at the Battle of the Nile named HMS Culloden. England expects us Scots to be the Uriah the Hittite of England’s wars but do not ask us to celebrate its heroes. The first memorial to this enemy of Scotland was erected by English foundry workers at my neighbouring village of Taynuilt. I intend to piss on it on Trafalgar Day.

(Letter to The Herald 28 April 2005)

Flagnote: Letter quoted in ‘Grasping the Thistle’ (2006) and described by authors Dennis MacLeod and Michael Russell as - ”an example of ‘grievance politics’ par excellence. In fact it is ‘grievance politics’ which has become ‘grievance history’. It demonstrates exactly why Scotland, needs a new approach to its past, present and future.”

The producer [Andrew Boswell] told me that anyone who sees this film [Stone of Destiny] will leave the cinema a Scottish nationalist. I am just so delighted that after all these years what we did has real relevance again.

(The Observer 25 May 2008)

What I was trying to do all those years ago was not to steal a piece of stone, however symbolic. I was trying to restore the human dignity of my own people….It is a terrible thing when a person or a nation loses its pride. They feel they are nothing.

(Big Issue 16 October 2008)

James Douglas Hamilton, 4th Duke of Hamilton, 1st Duke Brandon and 1st Baron of Dutton (1658-1712):  Statesman

What Shall we, in half an hour, yield what our forebears maintained with their lives and fortunes for many ages! Are none of the descendants here of those worthy patriots who defended the liberty of their country against all invaders – who assisted the great King Robert Bruce to restore the constitution, and avenge the falsehood of England and usurpation of Baliol? Where are the Douglases and the Campbells? Where are thre peers? Where are the barons, once the bulwarks of the nation? Shall we yield up the sovereignity and independency of Scotland, when we are commanded by those we represent to preserve the same, and assured of their assistance to support us?

(Parliamentary speech opposing Union with England 2 November 1706)

John Hamilton, 2nd Lord Belhaven (1656-1708):  Statesman

I think I see a free and independent kingdom delivering up that which all the world hath been fighting for, since the days of Nimrod; yea, that for which most of all the Empires, Kingdoms, States and Principalities and Dukedoms of Europe, are at this time engaged in the most bloody and cruel wars that ever were, to wit a power to manage their own affairs by themselves without the assistance and counsel of any other.

(Speech opposing the incorporating Union between Scotland and England 2 November 1706)

Clifford (Cliff) Leonard Clark Hanley, ‘Henry Calvin’ (1922-1999):  Journalist, Novelist, Playwright; Songwriter and Broadcaster

What distinquishes Scottish soccer, perhaps, is the permanent triumph of hope over experience. Scottish teams have certainly made their mark now and then on the international scene. But in general, they tend to set out on a wave of euphoria and sink without trace…Next time, all will be different. It is nearly always next time the Scots are looking for.

(The Scots 1982)

A born leader of men is somebody who is afraid to go anywhere by himself.

The country of the extremes
Love of life
Hatred of life
Poets and murderers
Rigid temperance and savage drinking
John Knox and Johnny walker
Prosperity and poverty 

Vast empty landscapes and the most congested slums in Europe
Warm hearts and idiot violence
A country of sturdy democracy and savage class hatred side by side 

Always the division
The gulf between opposites

The bosses and the workers
Them and us
The Bowler and the Bunnet

(The Bowler and the Bunnet 1967)

HRH Prince William Augustus of Wales, HRH Duke of Cumberland, The House of Hanover (‘Butcher’ Cumberland) (1721-1765):  English Soldier

What are these men going to do with a bundle of sticks [Bagpipes]? I can supply them with implements of war.

(Reviewing Highlanders in the Hanoverian service 1745/46)

James Keir Hardie (1856 - 1915):  Politician, Founder of Scottish Labour Party

I am strongly in favour of Home Rule for Scotland being convinced that until we have a Parliament of our own, we cannot obtain the many and great reforms on which I believe the people of Scotland have set their hearts..

(Mid-Lanark By Election 1888)

When the men elected to make laws are but a small part of a foreign parliament, that is when all healthy national feeling dies.

Professor Christopher Harvie:  Politician, Historian and Author

Poetic tradition had given a logic of its own to Scottish development during the Middle Ages. Two national epics treated the Wars of Independence, 1296-1328, not as a chivalric episode but as a popular struggle which was also libertarian. The myth was underlain by reality. On the edge of Europe, composed of a variety of races and affected by the cultural traditions of Roman and Christian Europe, Welsh, Irish and Norsemen, Scotland had evolved by the thirteenth century, in advance of England and France, the institutions of a national community. They were in the main aristocratic, derived from Anglo-Norman feudal practice but their local identity was so secure that when the male royal line of Scotland expired in 1286, the Scots nobility thought that joining England under a dual monarchy implied no major risk to it. Instead, the collapse of this scheme, and English invasion, made patriots of the mass of the population.

(Scotland & Nationalism: Scottish Society and Politics 1707 to the Present 1977)

The standard of Labour MPs in Scotland was lower than in England, as local government work was unpaid, many party activists were excluded from it and Labour councillors – small businessmen, trade union officials and housewives – had only a primitive level of political consciousness. The key to success in the Labour Party, as one weary left-winger maintained, was ‘the law of the rise of the charismatic numskull’;

Go to meetings, become minute secretary, organise jumble sales, canvas, but don’t say anything. Never express a political opinion. Then nobody will know what you stand for and they’ll sort out everyone whose line they do know. That way you become an MP, as they can’t think of anything against you.

But in 1967, the year of the Pollok and Hamilton by-elections, even the most charismatic of numskulls was in for a very rough time.

(Scotland & Nationalism: Scottish Society and Politics 1707 to the Present, 1977)

Gerry Hasson:  Writer, Researcher, Policy Analyst, Editor and Broadcaster

This all leaves Scottish Labour in a state of denial. Having been the political establishment [in Scotland] for the past 50 years, Labour has fallen for its own hype and chosen to believe it has a divine right to rule.

(The Scotsman 28 March 2008)

Scotland has become a more confident, diverse society and a place that sees itself as more of a nation than ever before, and it expects its government, national politicians and leaders in public life to reflect this sea change. Alex Salmond has, in a way, been both a product of this change and aided it, and it is difficult to imagine the office of First Minister ever going back to the dismal, minimalist politics of Jack McConnell.

(The Scotsman 19 May 2008)

Flagnote: In his article Gerry Hasson also correctly predicted that Wendy Alexander would resign as Leader of the Scottish Labour MSPs.

William (Willie) Haughey:  Businessman

If there’s not complete transparency in political giving in the future, then I certainly won’t give to any party.

(8 December 2007)

Flagnote: The Glasgow businessman had previously donated more than £1 million to the British Labour Party.

George Campbell Hay, Deòrsa Mac Iain Deòrsa (1915-1984):  Poet and Political Activist

Na tréig do thaalmh duthcais,
Air fearann no air chuinneadh,
Air onair no air siursachd,

Do not forsake your native land
For lands or for wealth
For honour or for harlotry.

(Do Not Forsake Your Native Land)

William Hazlitt (1778-1830):  English Writer, Essayist and Literary Critic

The Scotch are proverbially poor and proud, we know they can remedy their poverty when they set about it. No one is sorry for them.


Douglas Henderson (1935-2006):  Politician and Businessman

Never give up till Scotland’s freedom is won.

Dr James (Hamish) Scott Henderson (1919-2002):  Folklorist, Poet and Songwriter

Nae mair will the bonny callants
Mairch tae war, when oor braggarts crousely craw,
Nor we weans frae pit-heid an' clachan
Mourn the ships sailin' doon the Broomielaw.
Broken faimlies in lands we've herriet
Will curse Scotland the Brave nae mair, nae mair;
Black an' white, ane til ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o' their maisters bare. 

(Freedom Come-All-Ye)

A tree has many branches but travelling people are the roots.

Freedom is never, but never a gift from above; it invariably has to be won anew by its own exercises.

(Letter to ‘The Scotsman’)

Then up spoke the men of Knoydart
“You have no earthly right
For this is the land of Scotland,
And not the Isle of Wight.
When Scotland’s proud Fianna,
With ten thousand lads is manned,
We will show the world that Highlanders
Have a right to Scottish Land.” 

(The Ballad of the Men of Knoydart 1948)

Scotland has never had a Shakespeare but she has the Ballads…

Professor Arthur Herman:  American Historian and Author

For if you a monument to the Scots, look around you … Before the eighteenth century was over, Scotland would generate the basic institutions, ideas, attitudes, and habits of mind that characterise the modern age. Scotland and the Scots would go on and blaze a trail across the global landscape in both a literal and a figurative sense, and open a new era in human history… The Scots are the true inventors of what we today call the social sciences: anthropology, ethnography, sociology, psychology, history and … economics. But their interests went beyond that… The Scottish Enlightenment embarked on nothing less than a massive reordering of human knowledge. It sought to transform every branch of learning – literature and the arts; the social sciences; biology, chemistry, geology and the other physical and natural sciences – into a series of organised disciplines that could be taught and passed on to posterity…

(How the Scots Invented the Modern World – How Western Europe’s Poorest nation Created Our World & Everything in It, New York 2001)

The amazing story of the Scottish National Party’s rise and eventual triumph in the face of tremendous official hostility and bitter factional infighting closely follows the decline of traditional British politics. The SNP came to fill the void created by the demise of the Liberals and classical liberalism: as the other political parties made the class struggle and whether to extend or demolish the welfare state their principal issues, Scottish voters began to turn to a party that, if nothing else, offered a way out of Scotland’s malaise. Whether it was devolution, or autonomy, or outright independence (the SNP leadership often quarrelled bitterly over which they wanted), it was at least something different – and something that struck a chord that most Scots deeply felt but had been afraid to acknowledge: a sense of national pride.

(How the Scots Invented the Modern World – How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It, New York 2001)

Paul Heslop: English Police Detective Inspector and Author

Seems to me if the Scots want real independence, and fair enough if they do, they should have it.

(The Walking Detective 2001)

Scots will tell you that their kinsfolk may be justly regarded as being responsible for many important developments over the years: The telephone – Alexander Graham Bell; Penicillin – Alexander Fleming; TV – John Logie Baird; roads and bridges – Thomas Telford. There are many more. Here, at least, the English can notch up a breakthrough of their own, for, it is said, it wasn’t until the construction of the Forth and Clyde [Canal] that wheelbarrows first appeared north of the border. The Scots, particularly with allotments, would do well to remember this. England be praised!

(The Walking Detective 2001)

Professor Eric J Hobsbawm: Egyptian-born, English-domiciled Historian and Author

Scotland and Wales are socially, and by their history, traditions, and sometimes institutions, entirely distinct from England, and cannot therefore be simply subsumed under English history or (as is more common) neglected.

(Industry and Empire 1968)

James Hogg,’ The Ettrick Shepherd’ (1770-1835):  Poet and Novelist

Of a’ the games that e’er I saw,
   Man, callant, laddie, birkie, wean,
The dearest, far aboon them a’,
   Was aye the witching channel stane.             [curling stone]
      Oh! For the channel-stane!
      The fell good name the channel-stane!
      There’s no a game that e’er I saw,
      Can match auld Scotland’s channel-stane.

(The Channel Stane)

Having been bred amongst mountains I am always unhappy when in a flat country. Whenever the skirts of the horizon come on a level with myself I feel myself quite uneasy and generally have a headache.

(Letter to Sir Walter Scott 25 July 1802)

John Home (1722-1808):  Minister, Poet and Playwright

Firm and erect the Caledonian stood;
Old was his mutton, and his claret good.
‘Let him drink port!’ the Saxon statesman cried.
He drank the poison, and his spirit died.

Jack House, ‘Mr Glasgow’ (1906-1991):  Journalist, Author, Historian, Scriptwriter and Broadcaster

English football players have been quoted as saying that the Hampden Roar is the equivalent of two goals for Scotland. Unfortunately this has not always proved true.

The Glasgow invention of square-toed shoes was to enable the Glasgow man to get closer to the bar.

Christopher (Chris) Hoy: Cyclist

You cross the line and all the pressure evaporates. It’s like nothing else you’ve ever felt.

(On Olympic Gold cycling success 19 August 2008)

I haven’t had a single day off. Even getting a couple of hours to myself is pretty unusual.

(On life after Olympic success October 2008)

Allan Octavian Hume (1829-1912):  Civil Servant, Political Reformer and Founder of the Indian National Congress

A free and civilized government must look for its stability and permanence to the enlightenment of the people and their moral and intellectual capacity to appreciate its blessing.


David Hume (1711-1776): Philosopher

Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them.

(Essays of Tragedy)

The increase of riches and commerce in any one nation, instead of hurting, commonly promotes the riches and commerce of all its neighbours.

 No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.

(An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, published 1748)

Is it not strange that at a time when we have lost our Princes, our Parliaments, our independent government, even the Presence of our chief Nobility, are unhappy in our accent and pronunciation, speak a very corrupt Dialect of the Tongue which we make use of, is it not strange, I say, that in these Circumstances, we shou’d really be the People most distinguished for Literature in Europe?


Custom, then, is the great guide of human life.

(An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding 1758)

Sir Thomas Blane Hunter:  Businessman, Entrepeneur and Philanthropist

My own belief is that with great wealth comes great responsibility.

(Scotsman 17 July 2007)

James Hutton (1726-1797): Geologist, ‘Father of Modern Geology’

Speak to the Earth and it shall speak to thee. Time is to Nature endless and as nothing.

John Imlah (1799-1846):  Poet, songwriter and Piano Tuner

Oh! Ance mair, ance mair where Gadie rins,
Where Gadie rins, where Gadie rins,
Oh! Lat me dee where Gadie rins,
At the foot o’ Bennachie.

(O! Gin I War Whaur Gadie Rins)

Flagnote:  The Aberdeen-born poet and songwriter died far from his beloved Bennachie, while visiting one of his brothers in Jamaica in 1846. He was a forebear of the folk singer Hamish Imlach, one of the greats of the Scottish Folk Revival in the 1960s.

Washington Irvine (1783-1859): American Author, Essayist, Biographer and Historian

I saw a great part of the border country spread out before me and could trace the scenes of those poems and romances which had bewitched the world. I gazed about me for a time with mute surprise, I may almost say with disappointment. I beheld a mere succession of grey waving hills… monotonous in their aspect and destitute of trees… and yet such had been the magic web of poetry and romance thrown over the whole that it had a greater charm for me than the richest scenery I beheld in England. I told [Sir Walter] Scott that he had a great deal to answer for on that head, since it was the romantic associations he had thrown by his writings over so many out-of-the-way places in Scotland that had brought in the influx of curious travellers. Scott laughed and said I might in some measure be right and recollected a circumstance in point. He recalled an old woman who kept an inn at Glencross who recognised him as the gentleman who had written a bonnie book about Loch Katrine. She begged him to write a little book about their lake too, for she understood his book had done the inn at Loch Katrine a muckle deal of good.

(Abbotsford and Newstead Abbey 1817)

Violet Jacob (1863-1946):  Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer and Diarist

“Oh tell me fit was on your mind ye roarin Norland wind?
As ye come blawin frae the land that’s never frae ma mind.
Ma feet they traivel England but I’m deein for the North.”
“Ma man, I saw the siller tides rin up the Firth o Forth.”

(The Wild Geese)

Cathy Jamieson:  Politician, Scottish Minister for Justice

The message is clear – bigots and bullies have no place in a modern Scotland and will be shamed.

(Commenting on Scottish Executive review of new laws to tackle religious hatred 27 November 2006)

Francis Jeffray, Lord Jeffray (1773-1850):  Judge and Man of Letters; Founder and Editor of the Edinburgh Review (1802)

I could not live anywhere out of Scotland. All my recollections are Scottish, and consequently all my imaginations; and though I thank God that I have as few fixed opinions as any man of my standing, yet all the elements out of which they are made have a certain national cast also.

(letter to Lord Murray 20 August 1813)

I think it is a great good on the whole [the generalist democratic approach of Scottish education], because it enables relatively large numbers of people to get – not indeed profound learning, for that is not to be spoken of – but that knowledge which tends to liberalise and make intelligent the mass of our population, more than anything else.

John Robin Jenkins (1912-2005): Author and Teacher

Football had taken the place of religion in Scotland.

(A Would-Be Saint, 1978)

Dr Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784):  English Lexicographer

oats, n.s A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.

(A Dictionary of the English Language, 1755)

Your country [Scotland] consists of two things, stone and water.

(After being storm bound, rained on and tossed about in boats during his tour of the Western Isles 1773)

But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!

(Quoted in James Boswell The Life of Samuel Johnson 1791)

Much may be made of a Scotchman, if he be caught young.

Seeing Scotland, madam, is only seeing a worse England, It is seeing the flower fade away to the naked stalk. Seeing the Hebrides, indeed is seeing quite a different scene.

(Quoted in James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson 1791)

Their [Highland] chiefs have already lost much of their influence; and as they gradually degenerate from patriarchal rulers to rapacious landlords, they will divest themselves of the little that remains.

(Journey to the Western Islands)

To the southern inhabitants of Scotland, the state of the mountains and the islands is equally unknown with that of Borneo and Sumatra. Of both they have heard only a little and guess the rest. They are strangers to the language and the manners, to the advantages and wants of the people, whose life they would model, and whose evils they would remedy.

(Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland 1775)

The rude speech [Gaelic] of a barbarous people with few thoughts to express.

Flagnote: Wonder what the noble Doctor would have made of a TV channel dedicated to the rude speech with few thoughts to express as the recently launched digital Gaelic station BBC Alba makes for excellent and varied viewing. 

Thomas (Tom) Johnston (1882-1965):  Politician, Journalist and Author

I have become, and increasingly become, uneasy lest we should get our political power without first having, or at least simultaneously having, an adequate economy to administer. What purpose would there be in getting a Scots Parliament in Edinburgh if it has to administer an emigration system, a glorified poor law and a graveyard?


James (Jimmy ‘Jinky’) Connolly Johnstone (1944-2006): Footballer, Celtic and Scotland

You’ve got to entertain and to that you’ve got to practise at it. And that’s what’s missing.

Jackie Kay: Poet and Writer

Anniversaries afford us a big noisy opportunity to try and remember what we should not have forgotten.


William (Billy) Kay:  Author and Broadcaster

It was Hugh MacDiarmid the father of modern Scottish literature who wrote the lines:

“For we hae faith in Scotland’s hidden poo’ers
 The present’s theirs, the past and future’s oors.”

For too long we Scots were content to look to the past and perpetuate a romantic myth about the country. Attractive though the myth might be, it hinders the natural growth of the culture, for no one confronts the problems of the present in their thoughts and writing. The writers listed above are among those who tried honestly to be aware of the values of the past, but only as they touch the present and are relevant to the future. Books on tartan are fine, but books on people are better. Enjoy your reading and come to a closer understanding of Scotland at the same time.

(Guid Reading, Newsletter No 75 of the Caledonian Society of Hawaii, 18 April 1975)

Flagnote: The writers suggested by Billy Kay included Neil Guun, Lewis Grassic Gibbons, George Douglas Brown, Iain Crichton Smith, Fionn MacColla, George Mackay Brown, Archie Hind and William McIlvanney. Works by all these would still appear on a suggested reading list of Scottish novelists today.)

So the Scots have made a contribution to national and individual freedom in the world and I sure that all of this begins with the example of William Wallace.

The American Arthur Herman has written a marvellous book on the Scottish Enlightenment titled How the Scots Invented the Modern World – I wouldn’t go quite as far Professor Herman, but I would agree with his countryman the novelist John Steinbeck, who in 1964 wrote a letter to Jackie Kennedy: “You talked of Scotland as a lost cause and that is not true. Scotland is an unwon cause.”

As long as we have the inspirational memory of Wallace to guide us, the Cause of Scotland will never be lost…

(Wallace Day Address, Aberdeen 21 August 2005)

Because of his songs, Burns will live forever.

(Radio Scotland 5 January 2009)

Lorraine Kelly:  Television Presenter, Columnist and Author

I put comfort before appearance. I couldn’t bear to live in something that looked like a show house’

I’m delighted we’re scrapping that horribly cringe-making slogan that Scotland is the best small country in the world. There’s nothing small about Scotland. We’re all about big, beautiful scenery and giant intellects that invented the likes of penicillin, telephone and TV. We enjoy gigantic portions of grub and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into our football and rugby clubs. That slogan made us look like a lot of wee timorous beasties.

(On the SNP Scottish Government dropping the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat Executive slogan – Sunday Post 2 September 2007)

I’ve gone from being scunnert and angry to being weary of it. It just happens far too often, I am a Dundee United fan and we were robbed. We have to stop whinging and moaning about it and do something about our referees.

(Radio Scotland – in the wake of Dundee United once more suffering from poor refereeing against Rangers 10 May 2008)

I would never put poison into my body.

(On being asked if she would consider Botox or a facelift July 2008)

I love Burns’ lusty, earthy, honest style and the way he can be bawdy but also tender. My favourite Burns moment is hearing the Russian Red Army version of ‘A Red, Red Rose’ while it was what then the Soviet Union. I was very gratified at the esteem in which our Bard was held.

(Sunday Mail 18 January 2009)

James Kennaway (1928-1968):  Novelist and Screenwriter

“Whisky. For the gentlemen that like it and for the gentlemen who don’t like it, whisky.”

(Tunes of Glory 1956)

Words are so suspect, as we know.  Much as I've tried them before the horrid little Scot locked up inside has betrayed my best intentions.

(Letter 1 March 1964 in Susan Kennaway, The Kennaway Papers 1981)

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936): English Author and Poet

Lord, send a man like Robbie Burns to sing the Song o’ Steam!

(McAndrew’s Hymn)

David (Davie) Kirkwood, 1st Baron Kirkwood (1872-1955):  Politician and Engineer

These men are the Clyde shop stewards. I can assure you that every word you say will be carefully weighed. We regard you with suspicion because the Munitions Act with which your name is associated has the taint of slavery about it, and you will find that we, as Scotsmen, resent that. If you deserve to get the best out of us, you must treat us with justice and respect.

(Speaking to David Lloyd George, Minister for Munitions, on behalf of Clydeside Shop Stewarts 25 December 1915)

Chester Trent Lott Snr.: American Politician, US Senator

I learned over the years that I have some very strong Scottish roots of my own – my mother’s name is Iona Watson and her brother’s name was Ferguson Watson. As a kid I always thought those names were a little different and then as I got older I started asking questions and studying the history of my family and then studying the history of Scotland.

Some of the early signatories of the [American] Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent and our own Declaration of Independence was very closely related - if you look at the words – to the original Declaration of Arbroath. Because of that, when I was the majority leader of the Senate in the 1990s I decided that since we had a St Patrick’s Day in America and we had a Columbus Day in America we needed a Tartan Day in America.

(Attending Arbroath Abbey Pageant Re-enactment 6 April 2009)

Flagnote: In 1998 Trent Lott proposed US Senate resolution 155 – introducing a Tartan Day to the USA on 6 April every year. The date marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 which urged the Pope to recognise Scottish Independence.

Alison Louisa (AL) Kennedy:  Novelist, Short Story Writer and Comedian

If something good happens in my life, I tend to get quite suspicious because empirically, it will always bugger off before I get used to it.

I don’t think awards make much sense. You could just as easily not be a winner because the person with the casting vote had indigestion.

Baroness Helena Kennedy:  Queens Counsel, Broadcaster and Author

I think that the time has come for women – I see so many women changing frontiers, and doing it with good humour and with affection and with enthusiasm, and never losing touch with their nurturing qualities, as women who were successful in the past often had to do. Now, it seems, one doesn’t have to abandon these things.

Walter Kennedy of Glentig (1460-1508):  Poet

I will nae priests for me shall sing,
            Nor yet nae bell for me ring,
But ae Bag-pype to play a spring.


Marjory Kennedy-Fraser (1857-1930):  Singer, Collector and Arranger of Gaelic Songs

Folk-song has come into its own of late years. The University of Edinburgh has set its mark on the place assigned to such racial lore by conferring on me the honorary degree of Doctor of Music [1928].

(A Life of Song 1929)

John Knox (1513-1572):  Protestant Reformer

A man with God is always in the majority.

‘Quhat have ye to do’, said sche [Mary Queen of Scots], ‘with my Mariage ? Or quhat ar ye in this Common-welth?’

‘A Subject borne within the sam’, said he [John Knox}, ‘Madem.

 And albeit I be nyther Erle, Lord, nor Barron within it, yit hes God maid me (how abject that eveir I be in your Eies) a profitabill Member within the sam’.

(Historie of the Reformatioun in Scotland 1586)

I am in the place where I am demanded of conscience to speak the truth, and therefore the truth I speak, impugn it whoso list, *

(* whoever chooses to attack it)

Ronald David Laing (1927-1989):  Psychiatrist

We live in a moment of history where change is so speeded up that we begin to see the present only when it is already disappearing.

We are shattered, tattered, demented remnants of a once-glorious army. Among us are Princes, and Captains of Armies, Lords of Battles, amnesic, aphasic, ataxic, jerkily trying to recall what was the battle the sounds of which still ring in our ears – is the battle still raging?

(The Birds of Paradise 1967)

No one intended, when they told a little boy when and how to clean his teeth, and that his teeth would fall out if he was bad, together with Presbyterian Sunday School and all the rest of it, to produce forty-five years later the picture of a typical obsessive involutional depression. This syndrome is one of the specialities of Scotland.

(The Politics of the family 1971)

I think Calvinism has done more damage to Scotland than drugs ever did.

(Talk at Iona Abbey 1984)

Charles Lamb (1775-1834):  English Essayist and Poet

I have been trying all my life to like Scotchmen, and am obliged to desist from the experiment in despair. 

(Essays of Elia)


The tediousness of these people [Scots] is certainly provoking. I wonder if they ever tire of one another.

Andrew Lang (1844-1912):  Poet, Novelist and Literary Critic

Golf is a thoroughly national game; it is as Scotch as haggis, cockie-leekie, high cheek-bones or rowanberry jam.

(Lost Leaders 1889)

The thing they ca’ the stimy o’t.
    I find it ilka where!
Ye ‘maist lie deid – an unco shot –
    Anither’s ba is there!
Ye canna win into the hole
    However gleg ye be,
And aye, where’er my ba’ may row,
    Some limmer stimies me! 

(A Song of Life and Golf)

Just as Cicero said of Athens, that in every stone you tread on history, so on Tweedside by every nook and valley you find the place of a ballad, a story, or a legend.

(Lost Leaders 1889)

There was wind, there was rain, there was fire on their faces,
When the clans broke the bayonets and died on the guns,
And ‘tis Honour that watches the desolate places
Where they sleep through the change of the snows and the suns.

Where the graves of Clan Chatton are clustered together,
Where Macgillivray died by the Well of the Dead,
We stooped to the moorland and plucked the pale heather
That bloom where the hope of the Stuart was sped.

And a whisper awoke on the wilderness, sighing,
Like the voice of the heroes who battled in vain,
‘Not for Tearach alone the red claymores was plying,
But to bring back the old life that comes not again.’


The uncrowned king of Scots.

(On Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (1852-1936) who claimed indirect descent from the Stewarts)

Sir Henry (Harry) McLennan Lauder (1870-1950):  International Entertainer

I like a womanly woman. Nane o’ your walking sticks for Harry Lauder!

(Tickling Talks)

Ay, I’m tellin’ ye … happiness is one of the few things in the world that doubles every time you share it with someone else.

David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930):  English Author

So this is your Scotland. It is rather nice, but dampish and northern and one shrinks a trifle inside one’s skin. For these countries one should be amphibian. 

(letter 1926)

At the end, the Germans were all touched with admiring, delicious melancholy, they praised her in soft, reverent voices [after singing ‘Annie Laurie’]…’Wie schön, wie rührend! Ach, die schottischen Lieder, sie baben so viel Stimmung!’ [How beautiful, how moving. Oh, the Scots songs are so atmospheric.]

(Women in Love 1942)

Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie, ‘Lulu’: Singer

At school as a young child I learned Burns’ poetry and I was always put up to perform it. Burns chronicled the time – I suppose he was like Bob Dylan in that he depicted a certain period in history. I look forward to Burns Night every year and I always address the haggis.

(Sunday Mail 18 January 2009)

Annie Lennox:  Singer

My relationship with Scotland is very distant, really. But it’s odd: I say that. But then there’s not a day goes by that I’m not Scottish. I am dyed-in-the-wool Scottish and I always will be, but I’m kind of ‘reinvented Scottish’. It’s my roots, but it’s the place I left (1971). It informs me immensely but it’s more the poetic side of me that’s Scottish.

(The Scotsman 8 April 2008)

I think that [an independent] Scotland could take a stand in a wonderful way, ecologically and morally and ethically. Scotland could stand for something in the way that Norway has done historically… Scotland could have some kind of new, ethical, visionary stance and it could take on some fresh ideas. That could be amazing, really amazing.

(The Scotsman 27 June 2008)

If I had been a man, I know I would have got in fist fights all the time. I have that anger in me, I love the idea of peacefulness, but I don’t trust people.

(February 2009)

Craig Levine:  Footballer and Manager

If there’s not a level playing field and we don’t get the blatant important decisions, what’s the point in us turning up.

(After his team, Dundee United, were the victims of poor refereeing against Rangers at Ibrox 10 May 2008)

Dr Maurice Lindsay: Poet, Writer and Broadcaster

Scotland’s a sense of change, an endless
Becoming for there was never
A kind of wholeness or ultimate category.
Scotland’s an attitude of mind. 

(Speaking of Scotland)

Joan Lingard:  Author

And [Edinburgh’s] Princes Street with its split personality: on the northern side plate-glass windows offering gowns and green-grocery, settees and shortbread, books and bales of cloth; and a historic, jagged skyline flanking its southern side with smoke puffing up from the trough of the gardens against the black silhouette of the castle and rock.

(The Prevailing Wind 1964)

Eric Linklater (1899-1974):  Novelist

By reason of its association with England, Scotland became insular. Its political frontier was broken down, and its mind was walled up. Geographical or political enlargement, beyond certain limits, is nearly always accompanied by intellectual shrinkage.

(The Lion and the Unicorn 1935)

Peter Livingstone (19th Century): Songwriter

A Guid New Year to ane an’ a’
An’ mony may ye see,
An’ during a’ the years to come
O happy may ye be.

(A Guid New Year – Poet’s Box 1865)

Liz Lochhead:  Poet and Playwright

I’d personally like to see an independent Scotland within Europe. I’m not a member of the SNP. But I think that it would be good to be responsible for going our own way.

(October 2006)

It’s significant Shakespeare was only called The Bard after Burns. Burns had an agenda. He uses an iconic linguistic style which is a mix of Scots and English. I love so many of his poems that I don’t have a favourite and know many off by heart. But one wonders whether he would have been nice to know as a person. I certainly don’t think he was a saint!

(Sunday Mail 18 January 2009)

Benny Lynch (1913-1946):  Professional Boxer; World Flyweight Champion

I felt I was fighting for Scotland and my truest happiness lies in the fact that I did not let Scotland down. My countrymen were looking to me to triumph, and since the referee raised my hand in token of victory I have often thought what I would  have done had I failed.

(Comment after winning the World Flyweight boxing title on 9 September 1935)

Jim Lynch:  Accountant, Political Activist and editor

When you hold three aces (people, resources and land) and you’re not winning, then someone’s cheating you. For generations Scotland has been cheated by the “British” political parties who talk glibly of “National issues” when they mean “English issues” and who only condescend to call Scots “British” when they do something good. These parties have to go by majority rule and the majority is English. That is democracy.

(Westminster General Election leaflet, SNP candidate Dundee West 1983)

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