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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.

Kenneth (Kenny) MacAskill Politician, Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Lawyer 

There is little recognition in Scotland of the histories, journeys and achievements of the Scots Diaspora.


Norman MacCaig (1910-1996):  Poet and Teacher

Anybody who writes doesn’t like to be misunderstood.


Hear my words carefully.
Some are spoken
not by me, but
by a man in my position. 

(A Man in My Position 1969)

My only country
Is six feet high
And whether I love it or not
I’ll die
For its independence.

(Patriot 1973)

It turned out
that the bombs he had thrown
raised buildings:

that the acid he had sprayed
had painfully opened
the eyes of the blind.

fishermen hauled
prizewinning fish
from the water he had polluted.

We sat with astonishment
enjoying the shads
of the vicious words he had planted.

The government decreed that
on the anniversary of his birth
the people should observe
two minutes pandemonium.

(After His Death – for Hugh MacDiarmid 1973)

There’s a Schiehallion anywhere you go.
The thing is, climb it.

(Landscape And I 1974)

Experience teaches that it doesn’t.

(Bruce And That Spider – The Truth 1983)

John Sidney McCain:  American Politician: US Senator

I am particularly honoured to do so now, [commemorate America’s longstanding relationship with Scotland] during the first official Scotland Week in the US. Marking April 6 as national Tartan Day helps raise awareness among all Americans of the great contributions made by their fellow countrymen of Scottish descent.

(April 2008)

Neil R MacCallum (1954-2002):  Poet, Political Activist and Health Administrator

Our Gods we worship wershlie
For Scots can aye scent failure
Find pleisur in the pain.

(Scotch Heroes)

Henry McClelland: Football Club Chairman

If a millionaire came in to try and invest in our club, he would be shown the roads north, south, east and west out of Annan. We would be lynched by the people of Annan if we sold the club to a millionaire.

(Vowing that his club Annan Athletic would not go down the Gretna route on being admitted to the Scottish Football League following the demise of neighbouring Gretna FC 3 July 2008)\

Elizabeth (Liz) McColgan; Athlete and Coach:  World and Commonwealth 10,000 m Gold Winner

You need ability – a combination of speed and endurance – and the right attitude. Determination and hard work got me to where I wanted to be. I wasn’t the best runner when I was growing up but I did work the hardest.

(Runner’s World October 2007)

In 1986, I went into the [Commonwealth] Games as a nobody but it catapulted me to understanding what it meant to be Scottish and a Scottish athlete.

(The Scotsman 10 November 2007)

Jack Wilson McConnell:  Politician, 3rd First Minister of Scotland and Teacher

At a recent cabinet discussion every single Minister was not only enthusiastic about our cultural development but thoughtful and helpful about how it could be applied to their own area of responsibility. And each made the commitment to use the power and creativity of culture and the arts to help them in their work. To entrench cultural development in their portfolio – because for our country’s future it can be neither peripheral nor an add-on.

(St Andrew’s Day, 30 November 2003)

Dr John MacDonald MacCormick ‘King John’ (1904-1961): Political Activist, Lord Rector of Glasgow University (1950-19530 and Lawyer

Flags as well as straws show the way the wind is blowing. Movements of the spirit, springing from the most deeply rooted sentiments of the people, can never be denied their goal.

(The Flag in the Wind 1955)

Hugh MacDiarmid (born Christopher Murray Grieve) (1892-1978): Poet

My decision to make the Scottish cause, cultural and political, my life work dates from that moment.

(Meeting with Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, early 1920s)


His mither sings to the bairnie Christ
Wi the tune o’ Baw lu la law.
The bonnie wee craturie lauchs in His crib
An’ a’ the starnies an’ he are sib.
            Baw, baw, my loonikie, baw, balloo

(O Jesu Parvule 1925)

For we ha’e faith in Scotland’s hidden poo’ers,
The present’s theirs, but a’ the past and future’s oors.

(Gairmscoile, Penny Wheep 1926)

Thought may demit
Its functions fit
While still to thee, O Burns,
The punctual stomach of thy people turns.

Most folks agree
That poetry
Is of no earthly use
Save thine – which yields at least this Annual Excuse!

(Your Immortal Memory, Burns! 1926)

A’ they’ve to say was aften said afore
A lad was born in Kyle to blaw aboot.                   [Robert Burns]
What unco fate mak’s him the dumpin’-grun’
For a’ the sloppy rubbish they jaw oot?

Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name
Than in ony’s barrin’ liberty and Christ.
If this keeps spreedin’ as the drink declines,
Syne turns to tea, wae’s me for the Zeitgeist!

Rabbie wad’st thou wert here – the warld hath need,
And Scotland mair sae, o’ the likes o’ thee! 

(A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle 1926)

A Scottish poet maun assume
The burden o' his people's doom
And dee to brak' their livin' tomb.

Mony ha'e tried, but a' ha'e failed.
Their sacrifice has nocht availed
Upon the thistle they're impailed.

(A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, 1926)

I’ll ha’e nae hauf-way hoose, but aye be whaur
Extremes meet – it’s the only way I ken
To dodge the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt
That damns the vast majority o’ men.

 (A Drunk man Looks at the Thistle 1926)

O Scotland is

THE barren fig

Up, carles, up,

And round it jig!

A miracle’s

Oor only chance.

Up. Carles, up

And let us dance!

(The Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle 1926)

If there’s a sword-like sang
That can cut Scotland clear
O’ a’ the warld beside
Rax me the hilt o’t here,

For there’s nae jewel till
Frae the rest o’ earth it’s free,
Wi’ the starry separateness
I’d fain to Scotland gie….

(Separation (To Circumjack Cencrastus) 1930)


Scots steel tempered wi’ Irish fire
Is the weapon that I desire.

(The Weapon, To Circumjack Cencrastus 1930)

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet - and breaks the heart.

(The Little White Rose:  Stony Limits and Other Poems 1934)

Scotland is not wholly surrounded by the sea - unfortunately. 

(The Sea, Scottish Scene 1934)

There are plenty of ruined buildings in the world but no ruined stones.

(On a Raised Beach)

Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?
Only as a patch of hillside may be a cliché corner
To a fool who cries ‘Nothing but heather!’…

(Scotland Small, Direadh1)

Now, I am not a misogynist by any means. I simply believe there is a time and a place for everything – yes, literally, everything. And like a high proportion of my country’s regular and purposive drinkers I greatly prefer a complete absence of women on occasions of libation. I also prefer a complete absence of music and very little illumination. I am therefore a strong supporter of the lower – or lowest – type of ‘dive’ when drinking is the principal purpose and no one wants to be distracted from that absorbing business by music, women, glaring lights, chromium fittings, too many mirrors, unless sufficiently fly-spotted and mildewed, or least of all, any fiddling trivialities of l’art noveau.

(The Dour Drinkers of Glasgow 1952)

Our principal writers have nearly all been fortunate in escaping regular education.

(Observer 1953)

And yesterday, and to-day, and forever
The bagpipes commit to the winds of Heaven
The deepest emotions of the Scotsman’s heart
In joy and sorrow, in war and peace.

(Lament for the Great Music)

                                    Only one occasion
Would I have loved to witness – after Inverurie
When Lord Louis Gordon’s pipers kept silence
Since Duncan Ban MacCrimmon was his prisoner.
No Scottish Army or English, no army in the world,
Would do that today – nor ever again –
For they do not know and there is no means of telling them
That Kings and Generals are only shadows of time
But time has no dominion over genius. 

(Lament for the Great Music)

Flagnote: Lord Lewis Gordon was appointed a member of the Prince’s Council at Edinburgh where he joined the Jacobite army in October 1745. Prince Charles sent him north to recruit in the counties of Aberdeen and Banff and collect arms and money. By drastic methods he raised a regiment of two battalions. He completely defeated Hanoverian troops under MacLeod of MacLeod and Munro of Culcairn at the Battle of Inverurie on 23 December 1745. Among the prisoners taken by the Jacobites was the greatest of all Highland Pipers - Duncan Ban MacCrimmon, Hereditory Piper to the MacLeods of Dunvegan. The silence of the Jacobite pipers ensured his release. Duncan Ban rejoined the Hanoverians and was the only casualty at the Rout of Moy on 16 February 1746. Hugh MacDiarmid further wrote that ‘the silent bagpipes on the morning after the battle of Inverurie was the greatest tribute ever paid to genius.’


It is time we in Scotland put England in its proper place and instead of leaning on England and taking inspiration from her, we should lean and turn to Europe, for it is there our future prosperity lies.

I have known all the storms that roll.
I have been a singer after the fashion
of my people – a poet of passion.
              All that is past.
Quiet has come into my soul.
      Life’s tempest is done.
              I lie at last
A bird cliff under the midnight sun.

(Skald’s Death 1934 – this poem is engraved on the caird beside the Hugh MacDiarmid Memorial, Langholm, unveiled on 11 August by his widow Valda Trevelyn Grieve)

My aim all along has been (in Ezra Pound’s term) the most drastic desuelization of Scottish life and letters, and in particular, the de-Tibetanization of the Highlands and Islands, and getting rid of the whole gang of high mucky-mucks, famous fatheads, old wives of both sexes, stuffed shirts, hollow men with headpieces stuffed with straw, bird-wits, lookers-under-beds, trained seals, creeping Jesuses, Scot Wha Ha’evers, village idiots, policemen, leaders of white-mouse factions and noted connoisseurs of bread and butter, glorified gangsters, and what ‘Billy’ Phelps calls Medlar Novelists (the medlar being a fruit that becomes rotten before it is ripe), Commercial Calvinists, makers of ‘noises like a turnip’, and all the touts and toadies and lickspittals of the English Ascendancy, and their infernal womenfolk, and all their skunkoil skulduggery, (I have said a good deal about the submersion, under inferior types of the true Scotsmen. Having mentioned womenfolk, I must say here that the race of true Scotswomen, iron women, hardy, indomitable, humorous, gay shrewd women with an amazing sense of values, seems to be facing extinction too in today’s Scotland.

(Lucky Poet 1943)

It requires great love of it deeply to read
The configuration of a land,
Gradually grow conscious of fine shadings,
Of great meanings in slight symbols. 

(Scotland – from Lucky Poet 1943)

No’ England, the United States, or the haill
British Empire even at its apogee
Has ha’en like Scotland at the yae time
A Burns and a Scott to croon its poetry.

(The Borders 1967)


I am a Scotsman and proud of it.
Never call me British. I’ll tell you why.
It’s too near brutish, having only
The difference between U and I.
Scant difference, you think? Yet
                 Hell-deep and Heavenhigh!

(The Difference 1971)

One of the aims of my ‘Contemporary Scottish Studies’ has now been realised – the recognition that anything that purports to be a contribution to Scottish literature must be judged by the standards applied to literature in all other civilised countries.

(On the Scottish Educational Journal republishing CMG’s Contemporary Scottish Studies 1976)

Lady Claire MacDonald:  English Culinary Expert and Food Writer

My life is food (lucky me) and I am passionate about Scottish food, believing with all my heart that what is grown, raised, produced here in Scotland is better than anywhere else in the world. I consider food to be the most important aspect in luring visitors to this fantastic country.

(April 2007)

Flagnote: Lady MacDonald was one of the many prominent people who backed Alex Salmond as First Minister in the 2007 Scottish Parliament Election.

The best food in the world comes from Scotland, in part at least, because Scotland is the last wilderness area in Europe; therefore the land, fresh water rivers and lochs and seawaters around the country are clean and pure.

(30 November 2007)

Donald MacDonald (1767-1840): Piper, Soldier, Bagpipe Maker and Publisher

Strangers may sneer at the pains taken to preserve this wild instrument, because their ears have only been accustomed to the gay measures of the violin and ‘lascivious pleasing of the lute’; but it has claims and recommendations that may silence even their prejudices. The Bag-pipe is, perhaps, the only national instrument in Europe. Every other is peculiar to many countries, but the Bag-pipe to Scotland alone. There in the banquet-hall and in the house of mourning it has alike prevailed. It has animated her warriors in battle, and welcomed them back after their toils, to the homes of their love, and the hills of their nativity. Its strains were the first sounded on the ears of infancy, and they are the last to be forgotten in the wanderings of age.

(A Collection of the Ancient Martial Music of Caledonia called Piobaireachd 1819)

James Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937):  Prime Minister

We have all taken risks in the making of war. Isn’t it time that we should take risks to make peace?

Sheena McDonald:  Journalist and Broadcaster

Scotland is first and foremost home in wherever in the world I am working. What I treasure is the light, the space, the rain, and above all, the unsentimental friendship of the people.

(30 November 2007)

Archibald Gordon (AG) Macdonell (1896-1941):  Writer, Journalist and Broadcaster

I am now convinced that Scotsman must decide in the near future whether they wish to be citizens of a free country or citizens of a rather stale music-hall joke. And I am quite certain that no middle course is possible. The English are so strong in their powers of assimilation that sooner or later an equal partnership, assuming that such a thing had ever existed, must become impossible. It was against these powers that the Irish fought so long and in the end so successfully. It was against them that the Lowlands of Scotland fought until 1707. Either we must resume the fight where it was left off or else we must gracefully accept assimilation. To those who agree with my arguments and conclusions I offer my hand, to those who do not, my condolences.

(My Scotland – Foreword – 1937)

Hamish Macdonell

Exactly a year ago, the SNP was heading for a narrow election victory. The one-seat margin over Labour was so tight that hardly anyone thought Mr Salmond could form a government, let alone survive for a year. That he has done both, and done so with decisiveness is a credit to the way the SNP has gone about its business in government.

(The Scotsman 29 April 2008)

If we are what we eat, then Scots are a sickly mix of sugar, salt and alcohol… But maybe it is time to ditch all the healthy eating initiatives for adults – those who are going to pay any notice to them have already done so – and instead start pouring all the resources we have into saving the next generation. That way they could inherit something a little more worthwhile from us than hardened arteries and an immunity to the all-pervading smell of chip fat.

(The Scotsman 3 June 2008)

Matt McGinn (1928-1973):  Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Writer and Teacher

I was born in dear old Glasgow, in a Gallowgate tenement,
When people spoke of my bonny land I didn’t know what they meant.
But then I took: to travel, I moved far and wide,
Now when I speak of my native land I speak with loving pride
    For I hae seen the Hieland’s, I hae seen the Low,
    And I will brag o’ my native land wherever I may go.

(I hae Seen the Highlands)

William McGonagall (1830-1902): Weaver, Actor and Poet (renowned as one of the worst poets in the English language)

Oh, thou demon Drink, thou fell destroyer;
Thou curse of society, and its greatest annoyer.
What hast thou done to society, let me think?
I answer thou has caused the most of ills, thou demon Drink.

Thou causeth the mother to neglect her child,
Also the father to act as he werer wild,
So that he neglects his loving wife and family dear,
By spending his earnings foolishly on whisky, rum, and beer.

(The Demon Drink)

Flagnote:  Some sources give the date of William McGonagall’s birth as 1825. Although born in Edinburgh of Irish parentage, he is traditionally associated with Dundee.

William McIlvanney: Novelist

Good lies need a leavening of truth to make them palatable.

Duncan Bàn Macintyre, Donnachadh Ban Màc an t-Saoir (1724-1812): Gaelic Poet

A’ phìob ùr seo thàinig do ‘n bhaile
A dh’ fhaotainn urram,
‘S i ceann inneal-ciùil an fhearainn,
‘S na dùthch’ uile. 

This new bagpipe that came to town to get honour, is the chief musical instrument of the land, and of the whole country.


Dr Robert Douglas McIntyre (1913-1998):  Chest Consultant and Politician

It is idle to blame the English for the state of affairs in Scotland; for Scotland is our responsibility.  Scotland has never been slow to cooperate with other countries in international affairs where her voice is for freedom and independence.  If you want to build a better world you must first build a better Scotland.

(Election address, Motherwell and Wishaw by-election 1945)

I come with no intention of interfering in the affairs of this country or of reforming any of the legislation or changing any of the customs of this House.  The SNP comes with the intention of returning as soon as possible to our own country where we may under democratic government achieve the long needed reconstruction of Scotland.  In the meantime it is necessary for us to do everything in our power to safeguard the position of Scotland from further deterioration.

(Maiden speech 'English' House of Commons, April 1945)

If it is good for Scotland, it is good.

Only a Scottish Government can achieve the material changes we need and make use of Scotland’s present favourable economic position. If the Scottish people want their affairs run by others, if they refuse their own proper responsibilities, they have only themselves to blame when things go wrong. I am tired of hearing on all hands of Scottish grievances and of the many and various complaints every day of petty mismanagement and gross blunders made by the Whitehall administration of Scotland. This is a very unhealthy state of affairs. The Scottish people are in a real danger of becoming a nation or sub-nation of grousers and greeting sycophants. As such Scotland would become an ulcer in the European body politic and also an economic liability.

There is a job to be done. The Scottish people must do it and take full responsibility for their actions. Pride in the past is a vain and even dangerous thing if it is not mirrored in confidence and worthy action in the present. Scotland is only half alive. Get off your knees.

(THE FREE SCOT – Magazine of the Glasgow University Nationalists October 1949)

Sir Edward Montagu Compton Mackenzie (1883-1972):  Soldier, Spy, Novelist, Playwright and Political Activist

I have seen the phenomenon of conversion among those who have wakened to a sudden comprehension of what true nationalism is. They are changed by some mystical experience, and in loving their country they love their fellow-countrymen. It is such love which alone can justify the reformer. Too many attempts at reformation have been made either in a spirit of hate and destructiveness or what is ultimately more deadly, in a spirit of constructive utility. Desire the good of your fellow men, but desire it because you love them, not because a well-fed, well-clad, well-housed creature will be an economic asset to the state. Many of you present are filled with ambition to re-create a nation; but your immediate and predominant duty is to re-create yourselves, for only in re-creating yourselves will you re-create that nation.

(Rectorial Address at Glasgow University 29 January 1932)

Flagnote: Compton Mackenzie was a founder-member of the National Party of Scotland in 1928. His election on 24 October 1931 as the first-ever Scottish nationalist Lord Rector of Glasgow University was seen as a major achievement and boost to the fledgling political party which stood for Scottish Independence.

Suilven standing up in the west like a huge grape-dark hand, miles away above the desolate moorland. What were the mountains of Switzerland compared with that shape of stone solitary as a mammoth upon the edge of the landscape?

(The East Wind of Love 1937)

Women do not find it difficult nowadays to behave like men; but they often find it extremely difficult to behave like gentlemen.

(On Moral Courage)

Women do not find it difficult nowadays to behave like men, but they often find it extremely difficult to behave like gentlemen.


Kelvin Calder MacKenzie:  English Media Executive, Broadcaster and Journalist

Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east [of England]…The reality is that the Scots enjoy spending it, they don’t enjoy creating it which is the opposite of down in the south.

(BBC TV Question Time 11 October 2007)

Scots only ever really like other Scotsmen.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928):  Architect, Designer and Artist

The artist cannot attain to mastery in his art unless he is endowed in the highest degree with the faculty of invention.

(Semliness 1902)

Dougie MacLean:  Folksinger and Songwriter

Oh, but let me tell you that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia you’re calling me and I’m going home
If I should become a stranger
You know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had.

John MacLean (1879-1923):  Political Activist, Socialist Revolutionary and Teacher

No human being on the face of the earth, no government, is going to take from me my right to speak, my right to protest against wrong, my right to do anything that is for the benefit of mankind. I am not here as the accused; I am here as the accuser of capitalism dripping with blood from head to foot.

(Speaking at his trial for sedition 9 May 1918)

Scotland must again have Independence, but not to be ruled by traitor kings and chiefs, lawyers and politicians.  The communism of the clans must be re-established on a modern basis . . .  The country must have one clan, as it were - a united people working in co-operation and co-operatively using the wealth that is created. 

(All Hail! The Scottish Communist Republic (pamphlet 1920)

Sorley MacLean (Somhairle MacGill-Eain) (1911-1996):  Poet and Teacher

Thai ad fhathast ann a Hallaig,
Clann Ghill-Eain ‘s Clann MhicLeoid,
Na bh’ ann ri linn Mhic Ghille-Chaluim;
Chunnacas na mairbh béo.

They are still in Hallaig,
MacLeans and MacLeods,
All who were there in the time of MacGille Chaluim;
The dead have been seen alive.


Thar lochan fala clan nan daoine,

thar breòiteachd blàir is stri an aonaich,

thar bochdainn, caithimh, fiabhrais, àmghair,

thar anacothrom, eucoir, ainneart, ànraidh,

thar truaige, eu-dàchas, gamhlas, cuilbheart,

thar ciont is truaillidheachd; gu furachair,

gu treunmhor chithear an Cuilithionn

‘s e’g èirigh air taobh eile duilghr.


Beyond the lochs of the blood of the children of men,

beyond the frailty of the plain and the labour of the mountain,

beyond poverty, consumption, fever, agony,

beyond hardship, wrong, tyranny, distress, beyond misery, despair hatred, treachery,

beyond guilt and defilement; watchful, heroic, the Cuillin is seen

rising on the other side of sorrow.


(An Cuilithionn, Cuillin 1936)

Henry McLeish: Politician, 2nd First Minister of Scotland (2000-2001), Town Planner and Footballer

The country is looking ahead and it’s important that all political parties do too. We need an open and inclusive conversation to discuss our future, one in which all the positive options are included – the current devolution settlement, more powers, independence and also a form of federalism. The key thing is these ideas are debated in terms of how they will deliver a better quality of life for everyone who lives in Scotland – better health, housing, economic performance and education. The constitutional debate is vitally important for every Scot and fundamental for the future of our nation. And of course, we should never forget that a confident Scotland should have a bigger role on the world stage.

(Remarks  ahead of the launch of the second phase of the Scottish Government’s ‘National Conversation’ on Scotland’s constitutional future, Sunday Post, 23 March 200*)

No sport in Scotland cuts through the emotions of the people more deeply than football.

(On being appointed Chairman of a Scottish Football Association think-tank 25 February 2009)

The Very Rev Dr George Fielden MacLeod, Baron of Fuinary MC DD (1896-1991):  Soldier, Clergyman and Founder of the Iona Community (1938)

Follow truth wherever you find it.

Joyce McMillan:  Theatre Critic and Columnist

Robert Burns is an asset of which most nations could only dream, not only a powerful and passionate lover of the Scottish people and their culture, but also a mighty lyric poet, and one of the great freedom-loving spirits of the age of enlightenment into which he was born. It’s small wonder that Burns is still celebrated across the globe, from Russia and Japan to Africa and America, and all the more baffling that here at home, Scots often seem lukewarm about their national bard, or even slightly embarrassed.

(January 2007)

Adam McNaughton:  Folksinger, songwriter, Book-Dealer and Teacher

Oh, where is the Glasgow that I used to know,
Big Willie, wee Shooey. The Steamie, the Co.,
The shilpet wee bauchle, the glaiket big dreep,
The ba’ on the slates, an’ yer gas in a peep?
If ye scrape the veneer aff, are these things still there? 

(Where is the Glasgow?)

F Marian McNeill (1885-1973):  Food Writer

Of course one doesn’t deliberately set about being a Scot, or an Englishman, or any other national. That would simply lead to eccentricity. If one is content to be oneself, one’s nationality will make itself felt unobtrusively, like the scent of a flower. Just as a flower draws its sustenance both from the soil from which it has sprung and from the sun and air in which it unfolds, so the human being in relation to the civilization and traditions of his own country and those of the wider world that gradually opens up to him.

(The Scots Cellar – Its Traditions and Lore 1956)

The proverbial Scot has been reared on porridge and the Shorter catechism, a rigorous diet, but highly beneficial to those possessed of sound digestive organs.

(The Scots Kitchen 1929)

Allan McNish: Racing Driver

This is what my racing life is all about, winning the world’s biggest races and knowing there’s always another Scot watching. It’s brilliant.

(On winning his second Le Mans 24 Hour Race and seeing a Saltire being waved in the crowd 15 June 2008)

Archie MacPherson:  Sports Broadcaster

Queen’s Park against Forfar – you can’t get more romantic than that.

Shonaig Macpherson:  Lawyer and Chairman of the Council and Board of the National Trust for Scotland

Burns’ life and his works are just as relevant today as they were when he lived and it is crucial that we make sure none of what he gave us is lost.

(January 2007)

Iain MacWhirter:  Political Journalist and Broadcaster

The SNP [Scottish National Party] is not a party that has come from the left. It doesn’t have the same memory of industrial politics. But somehow it has managed to promote a political agenda closer to the social democratic soul of Scotland than the party of the new plutocracy that calls itself Labour. Thatcherite it ain’t.

(Sunday herald 30 March 2008)

John Malkovich

Edinburgh is a cross between Copenhagen and Barcelona, except in Copenhagen they speak more understandable English.

(Quoted in The Scotsman during filming in 1994)

Andrew Marr:  Political Presenter and Commentator

For some of us, the real joy of Christmas is proving yourself such a curmudgeon that you make Scrooge seem jovial.

John Mason: Politician and Accountant

Three weeks ago the Scottish National Party predicted a political earthquake. This SNP victory is not just a political earthquake, it is off the Richter scale. It is an epic win and the tremors will be felt all the way to Downing Street.

(Following his dramatic win in the Glasgow East By-Election, overturning a 13,000 Labour majority to secure the seat for the Scottish National Party, 27 July 2008)

Allan Massie:  Author 

History is written from then to now but understood back to front.

Barmaids are like priests, confessions part of the daily round; surprise is beyond them, often even interest.

(One Night in Winter1984)

John Masters (1914-1983):  Culcutta-born English Soldier and Author

‘Join a Highland regiment, me boy. The kilt is an unrivalled garment for fornication and diarrhoea.’

(Bugle and a Tiger, a personal adventure 1956)

Sir George Mathewson

I do not share the fear of [Scottish] independence which is currently being fostered by those who have most to lose by a change in the status quo and those who see Scotland as a source of safe seats, thus guaranteeing their role over the United Kingdom.

(Letter, The Scotsman 16 March 2007)

William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965):  English Author and Playwright

Scotchmen seem to think it’s a credit to them to be taken to be Scotch.

 (A Winter’s Notebook 1949)

James Maxton (1885-1946):  Politician 

This is our land, this is our Scotland, these are our people, these are our men, our works, our women and children:  can you beat it?


All I say is, if you cannot ride two horses you have no right in the circus.

(Daily Herald 1932)

No people of high moral standing with any soul in them would submit to the domination of an English Parliament.

(Speech at meeting of the Scottish Home Rule Association reported in The Scots Independent June 1929)

The real duty (of a politician) is to analyse discontent, to find the causes of discontent, to express discontent and then to establish a world order that is more in keeping with the intelligence and the ethics of the men and women who live in the great age in which we are living.

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872):  Italian Nationalist and Soldier of the Risorgimento

Wallace stands forth from the dim twilight of the past as one of the High Prophets of Nationality to us all. Honour him; worship his memory; teach his name and deeds to your children.

Henry Louis Mencken:  American Journalist, Columnist, Editor, Critic and Author

Can the United States ever become genuinely civilized? Certainly it is possible. Even Scotland has made enormous progress since the Eighteenth Century, when, according to Macaulay, most of it was on the cultural level of Albania.

(Minority report 1956)

Gordon Menzies:  Folksinger and Songwriter

Schiehallion, Schiehallion, I hear your voice calling,
Across the Great glen to the coast of Argyll.
The Lowlands, The Highlands, The Borders, The Islands,
I’ll drink to the back of Schiehallion.


A cold wind blows and nothing grows
   The heather sways bluid red.
The Stuart Prince tae France has flown
   And a’ his lads are dead, dead
   And a’ his lads are dead.


Denise Mina: Author

Burns is a role model to me because he was a jobbing writer who worried about making a living to support his family. He didn’t sit in a dusty room, churning out dry, emotionless allegories about empires or politics. He produced. Some of it’s great, some isn’t but he wasn’t precious and he couldn’t be cowed. Fearless. A hard thing for a writer to be.

(Sunday Mail 18 January 2009)

William (Willie) Ferguson Miller:  Professional Footballer, Scottish Internationalist, Director of Football (Aberdeen FC) and broadcaster

Scotland’s a good place to be.

(Commenting after Scotland’s 3-1 victory over Ukraine (Euro 2008 Qualifying game) Radio Scotland 13 October 2007)

Naomi Margaret Mitchison, Lady Mitchison (1897-1999):  Writer and Poet

I try to write intelligibly for the ordinary men and women in Scotland, to shake them out of their bad dream of respectability.

(New Statesman 1952)

It is always a bore being ahead of one’s time.

(Diary Entry January 1942)

Alistair Moffat:  Author and Arts Director

Within a generation of Culloden the great emigration to the New World had begun to convert the Highlands from a working landscape into mere scenery, and with them the departure of memory and understanding began to convert the Highlanders' stories into riddles or pastiche, as a drowsy nostalgia was substituted for a badly understood past.

(The Sea Kingdoms - The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland 2001)

Professor Edwin Morgan:  Poet and Academic

You’ve got to write in the way that’s true to you. I leave pessimism to the others.

(The Scotsman 21 June 2008) 

Henry Vollam (HV) Morton (1892-1979):  English Journalist and Travel Writer

Scotland is the best place in which to take an appetite.

(In Search of Scotland 1929)

The queer compromise between fairyland and battleground which is the border.

(In Search of Scotland 1929)

[of Sir Harry Lauder] small, sturdy and smooth of face. He wore hexagonal glasses and smoked a six-inch briar pipe. His Glengarry was worn at a jaunty angle and, as he walked, the almost ankle length Inverness cape which he wore exposed a bit of MacLeod kilt. The superior person will perhaps sniff if I suggest that no man since Sir Walter Scott has warmed the world’s heart to Scotland more surely than Sir Harry Lauder. His genius is a thing apart.

(On meeting Sir Harry Lauder in an Aberdeen hotel 1928)

Edwin Muir (1887-1959): Poet, Writer, Critic and Translator

Scottish people drink spasmodically and intensely, for the sake of a momentary but complete release, whereas the English like to bathe and paddle about bucolically in a mild puddle of beer.

(Scottish Journey 1935

I should like to put here my main impression, and it is that Scotland is gradually being emptied of its population, its spirit, its wealth, industry, art, intellect and innate character.

(Scottish Journey 1935)

In an organic literature poetry is always influencing prose and prose poetry; and their interaction energies them both. Scottish poetry exists in a vacuum; it neither acts on the rest of literature nor reacts to it; and consequently it has shrunk to the level of anonymous folk-song.

(Scott and Scotland 1936)

Flagnote: The publication of ‘Scott and Scotland’ led to a major fall-out between Edwin Muir and the man who set the Scottish Literary Revival in motion Hugh MacDiarmid.

Crosshill was a respectable [Glasgow] suburb, but there were vacant lots scattered about it. Chance scraps of waste ground where the last blade of grass had died, so that in dry weather they were as hard as lava, and in wet weather a welter of mud. On these lots teams from the slum quarters of the south side played every Saturday afternoon with great skill and savage ferocity. Fouls were a matter of course, and each game turned into a complicated feud in which the ball itself was merely a means to an end which had no connexion with the game. Some of the teams had boxers among their supporters; these men stood bristling on the touchline and shouted intimidations at the opposing players.

(An Autobiography 1954)

John Muir (1838-1914): Pioneering Conservationist and Naturalist

The battle for conservation will go on endlessly. It is part of the universal battle between right and wrong.

On my lonely walks, I have often thought how fine it would be to have the company of Burns. And indeed he was always with me, for I had him by heart. On my first long walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico I carried a copy of Burns’ poems and sung them all the way. The whole country and the people, beasts and birds, seemed to like them…  Wherever a Scotsman goes, there goes Burns.  His grand whole, catholic soul squares with the good of all; therefore we find him in everything everywhere.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

Nature loves man, beetles and birds with the same love.

Longest is the life that contains the largest amount of time-effacing enjoyment – of work that is a steady delight. Such a life may really comprise an eternity upon earth.

Thomas Muir (1765-1799): Advocate and Campaigner for Parliamentary Reform

Gentlemen, from my infancy to this moment I have devoted myself to the cause of the people.  It is a good cause - it shall ultimately prevail - it shall finally triumph. 

(Speech at his trial 30 August 1793)

Neil Munro (Hugh Foulis) (1863-1930):  Novelist, Poet and Journalist

To the make of a piper go seven years of his own learning and seven generations before. If it is in, it will out, as the Gaelic old-word says; if not, let him take to the net or sword.

(The Lost Pibroch 1896)

Study most of all the strange cantrips of the human heart.


Andrew (Andy) Murray: Tennis Player

When you’re training and wondering why you do the work and feeling sorry for yourself, and you kind of push through and keep working, then when you have moments like that on court, you feel it’s all worth it.

(Following his third round win in five sets over Jurgen Melzer of Austria in the US Open 30 August 2008)

Flagnote: The 21-year-old Scot went on to reach his first-ever Grand Slam final only to lose to one of the worlds greatest-ever tennis players and defending US Open champion Roger Federer, Switzerland. Federer created a new record by becoming the first player to win the US Open five times in succession.

I don’t care what happens throughout the course of a match, as long as I win.

(September 2008)

I’d rather look scruffy and win matches than look good and lose. I don’t care about my image.

(October 2008)

Charles Murray (1864-1941):  Civil Engineer and Poet

Our mither’s psalms may be forgot,
                                    But never Burns.

This nicht auld Scotland, dry your tears,
An’ let nae sough o’ grief come near’s;
We’ll speak o’ Rab’s gin he could hear’s;
                                    Life’s but a fivver,
And he’s been healed this hundred years
                                    To live for ever.

(Burns’ Centenary (death) 1896)

There’s braver mountains ower the sea
   An’ fairer haughs I’ve kent, but still
The Vale o’ Alford! Bennachie!
   Yon is the Howe, an’ this the hill! 

(Bennachie 1920)

Eunice G Murray (1877-1960): Suffragette, Political Activist, Historian and Writer

Women have a two-fold calling, for not only are we as wives and mothers the guardians of the future, but we are also the custodians of the past,

(Scottish Homespun 1947)

Lord George Murray (1694-1760):  Jacobite General

My life, my fortune, my expectations, the happiness of my wife and children are all at stake (and the chances are against me), and yet my duty to king and country, outweighs everything.


Flagnote:  Was out in both the 15 and 19 Jacobite Ridings and after a few years fighting abroad he was pardoned and returned to Scotland in the late 1720s. In spite of many reservations he joined Prince Charles Edward Stewart in Perth during the 45 Rising. His relationship with the Prince was always fragile, In spite of the comment by Fitzroy Maclean that Lord George was “the military genius of the 45”, the Prince listened to others!. He proved his military skill at Prestonpans, the retreat from Derby and Clifton, and the last major Jacobite victory at Falkirk, Murray didn’t want to fight at Culloden, but the  right wing, under his command, was the only section to leave the field in reasonably good order and he proceeded to Ruthven. On receiving the order to disband he went to France and died in exile in 1760.

Yvonne Murray:  Athlete

What motivated me was that I wanted to hear the Scottish anthem, I wanted to see the Scottish flag flying and I wanted to up there on the rostrum.  When it happened, it was the most special moment of my career so far.

(After winning Gold Medal in the 10,000 metres on 24 August 1994 at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.)

I was inspired to take up athletics watching the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and watching Allan Wells winning his [100m] gold medal. Children today get that same connection and that’s what I think is absolutely fantastic. Yes, we will have regeneration of the east end [Glasgow], yes we will have new infrastructure in place. But it is getting kids into sport and letting them experience what sport is all about.

(The Scotsman 10 November 2007)

Tom Nairn: Author, Journalist, TV Researcher, and Professor of Nationalism and Cultural Diversity, Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, the Scots have at least some consciousness of their ‘Kailyard’ as a problem; the English are still largely unaware of having arrived there.

(Old Nationalism and New Nationalism in The Red Paper on Scotland 1975)

Frederic Ogden Nash (1902-1971):  American Humorist

No MacTavish
Was ever lavish

(Genealogical Reflections 1931)

Alexander Sutherland (AS) Neill (1883-1973):  Teacher, Educator, Founder of Summerhill School and Author

I taught in a system that depended on the tawse, as we called the belt in Scotland. My father used it and I followed suit, without ever thinking about the rights and wrongs of it – until the day when I myself as a headmaster, belted a boy for insolence. A new, sudden thought came to me. Why am I hitting someone not my own size? I put my tawse in the fire and never hit a child again.

(Neill! Neill! Orange Peel! 1973)

Getting ready for the kirk [in Forfar] was hateful to us. We struggled with clumsy cufflinks: we resentfully stood to have olive oil rubbed into our hair. We were all dressed up with nowhere to go – nowhere, at any rate, that we wanted to go. We knew there lay before us an hour and a half of extreme boredom, of sitting on a hard pew with upright back – only the rich had cushions – of listening to dull psalms and hymns and a seemingly interminable sermon by Dr Caie.

(Neill! Neill! Orange Peel! 1973)

Patrick (Pat) Kevin Francis Michael Nevin:  Footballer, Scottish Internationalist (28 caps) and Broadcaster

My abiding memories of the year [2007] will include watching the Scottish fans blast out the national anthem before the home game against Ukraine, It was a physical experience as well as an emotional one and it had a huge impact on the opposition.

(Scotland on Sunday 30 December 2007)

Flagnote: Scotland won the Euro 2008 qualifying game 3-1 in front of 50,589 fans at Hampden 13 October 2007.


We are regularly told that football clubs are only ‘business’, but they are in fact much more than that. They are part of our history and our culture. The clubs are often at the centre of our communities and engender a sense of belonging and shared desire. They can be beacons of national pride, as well as acute embarrassment on occasion if truth be told.

(Scotland on Sunday 6 April 2008)

Sir Harold George Nicholson (1886-1968):  English Diplomat, Author and Politician

A young man of the name of McIntyre has been elected as Scottish nationalist for Motherwell [and Wishaw]. He refused to be introduced by any sponsor, since he does not recognise the Mother of Parliaments and wishes to advertise himself. He advanced to the Bar without sponsors and the Speaker told him that he could not take his oath, as it was contrary to standing orders. At which many members rose offering to sponsor the cub and put an end to the shaming incident, but he refused. He was therefore told to go away and think it over, which he did, shrugging vain shoulders. Next day he thought better of it and accepted sponsors; but even then, as he reached the box, he said, ‘I do this under protest’, which was not liked at all. He is going to be a sad nuisance and pose as a martyr.

(Diaries and Letters 1966)

Flagnote: Nicholson was an English establishment figure – for a more balanced view of Dr Robert D McIntyre’s time in the House of Commons see quotation by Professor Richard J Finlay.

Barack Hussein Obama:  American Politician: US Senator

With millions of Americans of Scottish descent living throughout the country, it’s important to celebrate the historic relationship between the US and Scotland, and the great contributions Scottish Americans have made.

(April 2008)

Cardinal Keith O'Brien:  Third Resident Cardinal in Scotland since The Reformation

In his time William Wallace was the true leader of a family, which is our nation of Scotland.

(Speech 23 August 2005 - 700th anniversary of the judicial murder of Sir William Wallace)

While any event that commemorates St Andrew is to be welcome, a ceilidh however prominent, falls far short of the full public holiday which our patron saint deserves.

(Commenting on the Scottish Executive open-air sponsored ceilidh in the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh on 30 November 2005)

I would not get too involved in the politics of independence, but I am happy that, if it is the wish of the people, Scotland becomes an independent country. There is currently some frustration among the Scots about the say they have over what happens here, and that is what is pushing the independence movement. I can see this coming, perhaps not in the next few years, but before too long.

(Catholic Herald October 2006)

Enormous attention has been given to football, parades and marches and much progress has been made in these areas. But most instances of sectarianism do not involve any of these and I think we should now begin to look at the wider social causes of sectarian animosity.

(At meeting to tackle sectarianism 12 December 2006)

Hugh Ogilvie (18?? – 19??):  Songwriter

But give me the land of the heather and the kilt,
The mountain and the river,
For the blood leaps in my viens
When I hear the bagpipe’s strains
Scotland, dear old Scotland forever!

(Hail Caledonia! 1912)

Caroline Oliphant, Lady Nairne (Mrs Bogan of Bogan) (1766-1845):  Poet and Songwriter

Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’, an’ a’
Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’, an’ a’
We’ll up an’ them a blaw, a blaw
Wi’ a hundred pipers an’ a’, an’ a’.

(The Hundred Pipers)

Then here’s a health to Charlie’s cause,
   An’ be it complete an’ early;
His very name and heart’s blood warms
   To arms for Royal Charlie.

(Wha’ll Be King But Charlie?)

Flagnote: Caroline Oliphant, Lady Nairne, came from the fervent Jacobite family of Gask in Perthshire, Bonnie Prince Charlie visited the family during the Forty-Five.

Patrick Jake O’Rourke:  American Journalist and Writer

Sour, stingy, depressing beggars who parade around in schoolgirls’ skirts with nothing on underneath.

(On Scottish Characterists, “Foreigners Around the World”. National Lampoon 1976)

Dr John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd Orr of Brechin Mearns (1880-1971):  Doctor, Biologist, Politician, Nobel Peace Prize Winner (19490, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow (1946-1971)

If our Scottish people had the power to develop the national resources of our country for the benefit of our own people, we could put Scotland in the very forefront of the nations.

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918): English Poet and Soldier

I saw Holyrood [Palace] on Sunday afternoon being alone on Salisbury Crags, a floating mirage in gold mist.

Revd Dr Ian Kyle Paisley:  Irish  Politician, First Minister Northern Ireland Assembly and Founder and Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster

I believe that the prime minister [Gordon Brown] is afraid of Scotland, because Scotland has been the backbone of the labour movement and the bowl is broken… for the first time Labour is no longer in charge of affairs in Scotland.

(December 2007)

Janet Paisley:  Poet, Playwright, Short Story Writer and Author

I’m not a party member. I like to be free to change my mind and my mind can change quite quickly. But in my heart, Scotland is a separate nation from England.

You have the right to be an independent, grown-up person and to relate to the rest of the world as someone who stands on their own two feet and looks the world straight in the eyes. Scotland doesn’t do that and hasn’t been able to do it since the Union. It’s always had another nation to do that for it, it has chosen and keeps choosing to be this cowering wee child bride who’s afraid to speak out.

(Sunday Times 24 June 2007)

Dorothy Paul:  Comedienne, Raconteur, Singer and Author

I just had to sit down.

(On hearing that she had won the Scottish BAFTA Light Entertainment Award 1993)

I learned early to appreciate the beauties of Scotland through being part of a terrific [cycling] club. I have had a love affair with Scotland all my life and I have never seen a place yet that can match it. We may not get the weather, but one day of good weather in Scotland is worth seven on any continental beach. Whenever I’ve had enough of the city, the work, the stress, I take to the hills to restore my spirit. It is a true saying that you may be depressed but if you walk up a big hill you will come down feeling a hundred times better. Some of my favourite lines by Sir Walter Scott sum up my feelings.

‘Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
There is my own, my native land.’ 

(Dorothy – Revelations of a Rejected Soprano 1997)

Jeremy Paxman:  English Broadcaster and Author

It is tremendously good fun winding up the Scots. It is terribly easy, particularly Scottish politicians. They can take things far too seriously.

Charles Henry Pearson (1830-1894):  English Historian and Colonial Statesman

He (Wallace) was the first man who fought, not to support a dynasty, but to free Scotland, and the first general who showed that citizens could be an over-match for trained soldiers. No reproach of cruelty or self-seeking attaches to his term of Government, and the enemy of his country selected him as its first martyr.

 (History of England During Early and Middle Ages 1867)

William Pitt (the Elder), 1st Earl of Chatham (1707-1778):  English Prime Minister

I sought for merit wherever it could be found. It is my boast that I was the first minister who looked for it, and found it, in the mountains of the north. I called it forth, and drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men; men who, when left by your jealousy, became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State, in the war before last. These men, in the last war, were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every quarter of the world.

(From his famous eulogy on the Highland Regiments, delivered in Westminster 1766)

Anthony Powell (1905-2000):  English Writer

What is this Race whose Pride so rudely burgeons?
Second-rate Engineers and obscure Surgeons,
Pedant-Philosophers and Fleet Street hacks,
With evr’y Quality that Genius lacks:
Such Mediocracy was ne’er on view,
Bolster’d by tireless Scottish Ballyhoo
Nay! In two Qualities they stand supreme;
Their Self-advertisement and Self-esteem.


John Prebble (1915-2001):  English Writer and Historian

Darien is now a scar on the memory of the Scots, and the pain of the wound is still felt even where the cause is dimly understood.

(The Darien Disaster 1968)

Once the chiefs lost their powers, many of them lost also any parental interest in their clansmen. During the next hundred years they continued the work of Cumberland’s battalions. Land which they had once held on behalf of their tribe now became theirs in fact and law. They wore the tartan and kept a piper to play at their board, but profit and land-rents replaced a genuine pride in race. So that they might lease their glens and braes to sheep-farmers from the Lowlands and England they cleared the crofts of men, women and children, using police and soldiers where necessary. The descendants of those who had fought for the Prince, or against him, were sent in thousands to Canada. It was a new transportation, but this time the laird was responsible not the Government.

From the green saucer of Glenaladale, dipping down to Loch Sheil, Alexander Macdonald had taken one hundred and fifty men to serve in Clanranald’s regiment. Within a century there was nothing there but the lone shieling of the song.

(Culloden 1961)

Elvis Aaron Presley, ‘The King’ (1935-1977):  American Singer, ‘The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, and Film Actor

Ah kind of like the idea of Scotland. Ah’m going to do a European tour and it would be nice to come back here.

(Interview with Ian Nelson at Prestwick 3 March 1960)

Flagnote:  Elvis never did a European tour or returned to Scotland (land of his fore-bears) – his only non-US concert was in Vancouver, Canada.)

 Return to Scottish Quotations - Sources


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