Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

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.

Allan Ramsay (1686-1758):  Poet, Playwright and Editor

The Plaid itself gives pleasure to the sight,
To see how all the sets imbide the light;
Forming some way, which even to me lies hid,
White, black, blue, yellow, purple, green, and red.
Let Newton’s royal club thro’ prisms stare,
To view celestial dyes with curious care,
I’ll please myself, nor shall my sight ask aid
Of crystal gimcracks to survey the plaid. 


Guid claret best keeps out the cauld
An drives awa the winter soon
It maks a man baith gash an bauld
An heaves his saul ayont the mune.


And shew that music may have as good fate
In Albion’s glens, as Umbria’s green retreat;
And with Corelli’s soft Italian song
Mix Cowden Knowes, and Winter nights are long:
Nor should the martial pibrough be dispis’d;
Own’d and refin’d by you, these shall the more be priz’d. 

(To the Musick Club [Edinburgh] 1721)

Ian Rankin:  Novelist and Broadcaster

The reason writers keep writing even when they don’t need the money and don’t need the acclaim is that they haven’t yet written the perfect book. Each book you produce is another small failure.

It struck me that nothing man-made defines a country – neither its artefacts nor its monuments. Golf, tartan and whisky fail to tell our story. A nation is defined by the very people who live there, whether they’re in mansions or high-rises. They animate their surroundings and lay down markers. They breathe life into the place. If Scotland and Scottishness exist, they do so in the mind.

(Rebus’s Scotland – A Personal Journal 2005)

It is certainly true that in the past, Scotland was famed for its ‘democratic intellect’, the idea that we were measured not by outward show but by inner qualities. The Scots abhor pretension and bragging. The problem with this, of course, is that it tends to stifle novelty, creativity, difference, new thinking and intellectualism. We’re all supposed to be cut from the same cloth – ‘all Jock Tamson’s bairns’, as the Scots saying goes – and not supposed to act differently from our fellows.

(Rebus’s Scotland – A personal Journey 2005)

John Ray (1627-1705):  English Naturalist, ‘Father’ of English Natural History

The Scots cannot endure to have their country or Countrymen spoken against.

Sadenia Edna (Eddi) Reader: Singer and Songwriter

Burns inspires me to look again at something that’s ordinary and see the beauty and humour in it. The complete ‘My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose’ is the perfect love story poem. Burns should be celebrated with a raised glass, some grub, a story and a song.

(Sunday Mail 18 January 2009)

Alastair Reid:  Poet, Writer and Editor

That Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom is an almost inevitable accident: at the same time, the unity of the English and the Scots should never be assumed. It was Sir Walter Scott who pointed out that the Scots and the English had fought three hundred and fourteen major battles against one another before their Union; this kind of historical animosity does not disappear overnight. The fact remains that the two countries are altogether distinct in temperament and manner, and their conjunction, although it is by now a working one, has never been resolved to the satisfaction of either.

(The New Yorker 1964)

…and there is no doubt that Scots do get spread to a quite amazing degree over the face of the earth. There has always been a drift away from the stony barrenness of the home ground out into the expansive world; yet for wandering Scots the homeland never quite disappears. The odd thing is that almost everything said about the Scots is true, but never the whole truth – their character has so many sides to it.

(The New Yorker 1964)

James (Jimmy) Reid: Political and Trade Union Activist, Shipyard Worker (Joint-Leader Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Work-In), Author, Journalist and Broadcaster

His poetry sprang from a living school of Scottish poetry. Those who put him posthumously on a pedestal, as a one-off who came from nowhere, would have outraged Burns, who knew otherwise. Read Robert Fergusson and you read the embryonic Burns. The later openly and generously acknowledged this debt, though he took Scottish poetry to new heights and international acclaim .In the times in which he lived, Robert Burns was a radical ; a revolutionary. He supported the American and French Revolutions. He was an active member of the Reform Movement in Scotland. In Ayrshire, only 1 per cent of people had the vote. The living conditions of the poor were dire. He was for liberty, equality and fraternity. It is there to be seen in his poetry and letters.

(The Scotsman 21 January 2002)

Charles Francois Marie Rémusat, Comte de (1797-1875):  French Politician and Writer

… cette nation doit prendre rang parmi les plus eclairées de l’universe. La polique, la religion, la litérature ont fait de l’Écosse quelque chose d’incomparable.

… this nation must rank among the most enlightened in the universe. Politics, religion and literature have made of Scotland something beyond compare.

David Riccio (1533-1566):  Italian Singer, Secretary to Mary Queen of Scots

Parole, parole, nothing but words. The Scots will boast but rarely perform their brags.

Lesley Riddoch:  English Broadcaster, Journalist and Columnist

Public discourse has been hijacked by people who treat language as a shield not a bridge. And as a nation of language lovers Scots should be up in arms – that’s our patch they’re cross-cutting. It’s also our civic world that their jargon has diminished – because ‘ordinary’ Scots must learn fluent West Wing to participate.

(The Scotsman 4 June 2007)

Like the youngest wean of a big family or the smallest child at school, Scots have survived centuries without a state by constantly recreating a national myth. We are a bunch of naebodies on the fringes of Europe who occasionally punch above our weight, making Tartan Army friends everywhere – only to be doomed to heroic (and almost inevitable) failure. It is our reverse Faustian pact. Faust did a deal with the devil to achieve worldly power and success at the price of spiritual values. Scots achieve moral superiority at the expense of worldly power and success.

(The Scotsman 19 November 2007)

…Burns preferred brain to brawn and bequeathed his nation the gift of words. Thanks to Burns, a nation of silent Scotsman can speak. Like a national Cyrano de Bergerac, the bard translated hopes and feelings into the most powerful forms of expression. Those words and songs still shape Scotland’s identity.

(The Scotsman 21 January 2008)

Culture, companionship and confidence are the qualities in life that sustains us – even more so now. I’d rather ‘shop around’ for people with hilarious stories, or places with a buzz of creativity than find a better deal on car insurance. The ceilidh isn’t a party, a drinking session or even a musical session – it’s a gathering. And a gathering demands that each person knows how to amuse, sustain or surprise the others. Who wouldn’t prefer possession of Delia-like cooking capabilities to the latest Finest meal from Tesco? Or green fingers, dulcet tones, or musical skills to a complete boxed set of The Wire?

(The Scotsman 5 January 2009)

Murray Ritchie:  Journalist and Author

Yet true independence in Britain remains perfectly feasible. In broad terms it would mean a return to the original United Kingdom of Great Britain and it would rectify the historic political wrong of 1707. If the treaty was changed to allow two independent parliaments, we could all be unionists together just as we are European unionists together. Some might resist EU membership and some might want a republic; but these are arguments for another time. For myself I would be delighted for Scotland to be as independent as France or Belgium or even non-EU states like Norway or Switzerland.

(Time for Honesty about Scotland/s Part of the Union 2006)

Joan Rivers (born Joan Alexandra Molinsky): American Comedian, Actress, Talk Show host and Businesswoman

Edinburgh is fabulous, are you kidding? Mary, Queen of Scots is an idiot. She should have stayed there.

(July 2008)

Robert I, ‘The Bruce’, Earl of Carrick (1274-1329):  King of Scots (1306-1329)

On them, on them, they fail, they fail.

(Battle of Bannockburn 24 June 1314)

Jeannie Robertson (1908-1975): Traveller and Ballad Singer

You’d better come in and I’ll sing it to you right.

(To folksong collector Dr Hamish Henderson 1953)

Vladimir Romanov: Lithuanian Banker and Businessman; Majority Shareholder Heart of Midlothian FC

Edinburgh is an amazing city. Its beauty was created during the times of the kings of old, and now I see how everything that people were gathering for centuries – a culture, all Walter Scott’s heritage, is being ruled and destroyed by monkeys from the safari park.

(15 February 2007)

Scottish people are part of the local structure and local footballing mafia, and it is very difficult for them to rise above that level.

(After Motherwell manager Mark McGhee turned down the Heart of Midlothian job July 2008)

Dr David Rorie (1867-1946):  Medical Practitioner. Poet and Author

Aiberdeen an’ twal’ mile roon.
Fife an’ a’ the lands aboot it.
Ta’en frae Scotland’s runkeld map
Little’s left, an’ wha will doot it?

Few at least ‘at maitters ony,
Orra folk, it’s easy seen,
Folk ‘at dinna come frae bonny
Fife or canny Aiberdeen.

(A Per Se 1935)

Christopher Rush:  Writer and Teacher

So poetry has to be the healer now. Seeing as there is no God

(To Travel Hopefully 2005)

A human being is just another seed drifting on the wind. It was an Edinburgh east wind that carried Stevenson to the mountains of southern France.

(To Travel Hopefully 2005)

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell (1872-1970):  Welsh Philosopher, Mathematician, Author and Social Critic

We drove home to St Fillans through the gloomy valley of Glencoe, as dark and dreadful as if the massacre [13 February 1692] had just taken place.

(Autobiography 1967-69)

Michael F Russell:  Politician, Writer and Commentator

Scottish nationalism is a positive force for change. It does not found itself on hostility to any other nation, it is not based on race or religious creed and it is not, most definitely not, rooted in feelings of superiority. It is, essentially. A desire for normality – for being as other nations are, neither better nor worse.

(Grasping the Thistle (Introduction) 2006)

Until we take back the right to make key decisions, choosing to do so of our own free will, then we cannot (collectively and individually) flourish. Scotland’s people need to get back many of the things which have been discarded. They need to be put back in the driving seat, so that they can then decide how they wish their country and their government to be run.

(Grasping the Thistle (Introduction) 2006)

Alexander (Alex) Elliot Anderson Salmond: Politician,  4th First Minister of Scotland and Economist

As a model democratic party for all of our 60 years, there has never been, and never will be, a place for anti-English sentiment in the ranks of the Scottish National Party.


There is no doubt that our future is a normal independent country because only independence will give us all freedoms we need to make Scotland flourish.

(St Andrew Day, 30 November 2005)

Burns personifies the Scottish democratic intellect, and the true radical spirit of Scotland. The values championed by Burns are timeless and universal.

(January 2007)

I have never said that Scots are better than anyone else and I never will. But I shall not let anyone from Westminster, from Holyrood or anywhere else, from any party, or from any newspaper, tell us that we are less capable than any other nation.

(Speech 18 March 2007)

There may be some doom-mongers who think that England is too lacking in resources – too poor without Scottish oil – to be a successful independent country. But I disagree.

(March 2007)

After [Scottish] independence, England will still be our biggest pal, our biggest friend, our biggest trading partner and people both north and south of the border find that a very attractive proposition.

(BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme 9 April 2007)

There is a wind of change blowing through Scottish politics.

(Victory speech after overturning a 4,000 Liberal Democrat majority to win the Gordon seat in the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish national Party with a 2,000 winning margin 4 May 2007)

In this century, there are limits to what government can achieve. But one thing any government I lead will never lack is ambition for Scotland.

(Acceptance speech on being elected First Minister of Scotland 16 May 2007)

Scotland is in transition. Our nation faces some pivotal choices in the years ahead. I believe in the restoration of an independent Scotland. Others in this chamber take a different view. I welcome that debate and the national conversation to follow. The challenge for all of us is to have that conversation with dignity, with respect and with substance.

(Address, Royal Opening of Third Term of the Scottish Parliament 30 June 2007)

I believe that it is time to transform the nature of Scotland’s representation and impact in Europe, tonight my message is clear and unambiguous – this is time for Scotland to assume our obligations and responsibilities and to help mould the world around us to rediscover the sense of internationalism which once defined our nation.

(Speech at Reception in Scotland House, Brussels 9 July 2007)

This statue is not only a reminder of the Highland Clearances, but a great example of the skill and vision of those who remain. This is an impressive work of art that will strike a chord with every Scottish family. This statue is a reminder of the men, women and children who left Scotland and took their skills, their strength and their stories across the seas and shared them around the world. While we deplore the Clearances we can be proud of the contributions that those cleared have made to humanity.

(Unveiling of memorial statue ‘Exiles’ at the mouth of the Strath of Kildonan in memory of those who were evicted during the Highland Clearances 23 July 2007)

Today is the moment when, as First Minister, I ask every Scot to pause and reflect not on the kind of country we are, but on the kind of country we could be, we should be. And today is the start of the most wide-ranging, inclusive, imaginative and direct effort from any Scottish government to engage with every person in this country and furth of Scotland, who has a view on the future of our nation.

( Launch of Scottish Government White Paper on Scottish Independence 14 August 2007)

We have a history and present reality of innovation, examples of educational excellence and individuals and companies succeeding in a competitive global market… We have everything it takes for a Celtic Lion economy to take off in Scotland.

(Address to Council on Foreign Relations in New York 11 October 2007)

We are not simply trying to build a proud nation, but rather a nation of which we can be proud.

(Address to the 73rd Annual National Conference of the Scottish National Party, Aviemore 28 October 2007)

With stunning scenery, history, architecture and a wealth of culture to enjoy the Highlands and Islands are Scotland’s crown and now we need to find the smartest way to wear it. By making every effort to promote our assets we can attract the wealth, opportunities and reputation that will allow business to thrive.

(Address to Autumn Convention of the Highlands and Islands 29 October 2007)

A fresh wind has blown through Scottish political and cultural life, lifting our spirits and helping our hearts beat prouder and faster.

(Yule message 2007) 

We need to make our own initiatives now, solve our own problems, take our own opportunities. There is a growing realisation that this country has the talent and ability to stand on its own two feet – and we have got to find the democratic structure that will allow us to do that,

(New Year Message 30 December 2007)

Scotland’s renewable potential is immense – enough to meet our energy requirements many times over.

(Opening new £90 million biomass power station near Lockerbie 19 March 2008)

I am happy to test support for enhanced devolution, along with support for independence for Scotland.

(26 March 2008)

Almost one year ago we said that it was time for Scotland to move forward. The people of Scotland agreed and they entrusted us with government. We are repaying the trust of the people of Scotland by breathing new life into Scottish democracy, and delivering for our great public services.

(2 May 2008)

We are repaying the trust of the people of Scotland by breathing new life into Scottish democracy.

(3 May 2008)

There are two things Scotland has no shortage of – water and heroes.

(Great Scot Awards September 2008)

Homecoming [2009] is a chance for Scotland’s international family, and all who feel an affinity for our nation, to come back and reconnect with our heritage while also learning what being a citizen in Scotland in the 21st century actually means. I believe there is a spirit of optimism abroad that will pull us through the hard times, that will see Scotland take her rightful place in the world, and right now will encourage people to return to Scotland for our Year of Homecoming.

(29 December 2008)

One of the founding principles of my Government is the resolute belief in a One Scotland of many cultures, faiths and beliefs – a belief that all of us, regardless of background, have our pride in being Scottish woven into the complex make up of our individual identities. ‘Scotland’s Jews’ will undoubtedly help to reinforce this important message. It will also help us to understand the need to achieve a Scotland where the diversity is celebrated and seen as a strength not a weakness.

Scotland’s Jews – A Guide to the History and Community of the Jews in Scotland - Foreword 2008)

When the party was founded [1934] few could have imagined the distance we have travelled in the years since, with an SNP government now in place and an independence referendum planned for next year. Now it is time for the SNP and the people of Scotland to move into a new era, to look to the future, and to build the smarter, wealthier, and healthier Scotland.

(E-mail message to Scottish National Party members marking the party’s 75th anniversary 7 April 2009)

Dougray Scott:  Film Actor

Kilts aren’t the most comfortable thing to wear if the wind’s blowing.

(February 2008)

Francis George Scott (1880-1958): Composer; Lecturer in Music at Jordanhill Training College for Teachers

Pibroch is not ‘Ceol Beag’ [light music]. It would, on the contrary, be better to think of it as the only musical form Scotland has given to the world; as an aristocratic art in classical shape and as keeping its distance away from the common and popular. I doubt if it ever was popular, even in the Highlands.

(‘Pibroch’ Lecture 1946)

John Alexander (Jocky) Scott:  Football Manager; Scottish Internationalist

It’s a great job apart from Saturday afternoons.

(Reflecting on football management at Dunfermline FC 1991-1993)

Paul Henderson Scott:  Diplomat, Author and Editor

But in Scotland we are fortunate because we have an alternative. As Government ministers have frequently acknowledged, we have an undeniable right to decide for ourselves that we want to be independence, and that would follow a majority vote for the SNP in a general Election. With independence we can build a rational and prosperous state like one of our Scandinavian neighbours. This might well be an inspiration to the English. As many of them know too well the British system is now so antiquated, perverse and corrupt that it cannot be saved by minor readjustments. England, like Scotland, needs radical constitutional reform. We are in a good position to give a lead.

(The End of Britishness – ‘Cencrastus’ Autumn 1993)

Most people prefer self-government to external control and prefer to follow their own inclinations than accept conformity imposed from the outside.

(The Power of Books, PEN Lecture at the Edinburgh Book Festival August 1999)

…because English influence has been so overwhelming, our education has reflected this, and generations of Scottish children have left school knowing almost nothing about the past of their own country and of the remarkable contribution which Scots have made in thought and invention and to the development of many other countries.

(The Scotsman 10 September 2007)

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832):  Novelist and Poet

For God’s sake, sir, let us remain as Nature made us, Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen, with something like the impress of our several countries upon each!

(Letters of Malachi Malagrowther)

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

(The Lay of the Last Minstrel, Canto VI)

O Caledonia! Stern and wild
Meet nurse for a poetic child!
Land of brown heath and shaggy wood
Land of the mountain and the flood …. 

(Lay of the Last Minstrel, canto vi, stanza 2)

The damsel donned her kirtle sheen,
The hall was dressed with holly green,
Forth to the wood did merry-men go
To gather in the mistletoe.

(Marmion 1808)

If I were to choose a spot from which the rising or setting sun could be seen to the greatest possible advantage, it would be that wild path winding around the foot of the high belt of semi-circular rocks, called Salisbury Crags, and marking the verge of the steep descent which slopes down into the glen on the south-eastern side of the city of Edinburgh.

(The Heart of Midlothian 1818)

I feel as if there will be less sunshine for me from this day forth.

(At the Canongate grave of his life-long friend Johnny Ballantyne 1821)

Please return this book; I find that though many friends are poor arithmeticians, they are nearly all good bookkeepers.


And, my lords and lieges, let us all to dinner, for the cockie-leekie is a-cooling!

(The Fortunes of Nigel 1822)

The Highlanders are what he [King George IV] will like most to see. Each clan chief to bring half-a-dozen, no, half-a-score of clansmen to Edinburgh. Mind, Highlandmen of decided respectability, dress and accoutrements to be in order. Make sure the Plaids and Tartans are sorted out, and allocated appropriately with some semblance to historical significance.

(Notes for the Royal Visit 1822)

They are gradually destroying what remains of nationality, and making the country tabula rasa for doctrines of bold innovation. Their loosening and grinding down all those peculiarities which distinguished us as Scotsmen will throw the country into a state in which it will be universally turned to democracy, and instead of canny Saunders, they will have a very dangerous North British neighbourhood.

(Journal 12 March 1826)

National diversity between different countries is but an instance of that general variety which nature seems to have adopted through all her works.

(Letters of Malachi Malagrowther 1826)

But till Ben Nevis be level with Norfolkshire, though the natural wants of the two nations [Scotland and England] may be the same, the extent of these wants, natural or commercial, and the mode of supplying them, must be widely different, let the rule of uniformity be as absolute as it will.

(Letters of Malachi Malagrowther, First Letter, 1826)

Then strip, lads, and to it, though sharp be the weather,
And if by mischance, you should happen to fall,
There are worse things in life than a tumble on the heather,
And life is itself but a game of football.

(Lines on the Lifting of the Banner of the House of Buccleuch)

Oh What a dangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive.

(Marmion Canto VI Stanza 17, 1808)

Twelve clansmen and one bagpipe make a rebellion.

The jury gave that bastard verdict, Not proven. I hate that Caledonian medium quid. One who is not proven guilty is innocent in the eye of the law.


[of Robert Burns] The eye alone, I think, indicated the poetic character and temperament. It was large and of a dark cast, which glowed (I say literally glowed) when he spoke with feeling and interest. I never saw such another eye in a human head, though I have seen the most distinguished men in my time.

(Recollecting his only meeting, as an Edinburgh schoolboy, with Robert Burns)

Something of the black dog still hanging about me; but I will shake him off. I generally affect good spirits in company of my family, whether I am enjoying them or not. It is too severe to sadden the harmless mirth of other by suffering your own causeless melancholy to be seen; and this species of exertion is, like virtue, its own reward; for the good spirits, which are at first simulated, become at length real.


In order to enjoy leisure, it is absolutely necessary it should be preceded by occupation.

William (Willie) Scott (1897-1990): Shepherd, Crook maker and Traditional Singer

If there wes a young shepherd at the hoose, he cam (along) and that’s how the kindae sing-songs [hill pairties] got agoing. That’s whaur ye got the sangs. If the young shepherd cam frae a distance an he had a different sang, if ye liket it, ee’d memorise it at great length and ee got roon aboot askin him tae gie ye the words. There wes hardly a hoose in the hillglens but had a fiddle ot twae hingin in the hoose, an auld melodeon and yon Jewish harps. There wes hardly a body but could play something or sing a sang.


Flagnote:  Willie Scott was born in Canobie, Dumfriesshire in 1897 and spent most of his working life as a shepherd. He came from a family of seven, most of whom were singers, storytellers and musicians. During the 1960s Scottish Folk Revival Willie Scott was in great demand and appeared at many folk clubs and festivals including a concert tour in America.

Robert Sempill (Semple) of Beltrees (c1595-1665): Poet

Kilbarchan now may say alas
For she hath lost the game and grace,
Both Trixie and the Maiden Trace;
But what remead?
For no man can supply his place –
Hab Simson’s dead. 

Now who shall play ‘The day it daws’
Or ‘Hunt’s Up’ when the cock he craw’?
Or who can, for our kirktown cause,
Stand us in stead?
On bagpipes now nobody blaws,
Sin Habbie’s dead 

(The Life and Death of the Piper of Kilbarchan)

William Shakespeare (1564-1616):  English Poet and Playwright

MACDUFF.  Stands Scotland where it did?

ROSS.           Alas, poor country,
Almost afraid to know itself! It cannot
Be call’d our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
Where sighs, and groans, and shrieks, that rent the air,
Are made, not mark’d; where violent sorrow seems
A modern ecstasy; the dead man’s knell
Is there scarce ask’d for who; and good men’s lives
Expire before the flowers in their caps,
Dying or ere they sicken.

(Macbeth 1606)

William (Bill) Shankley (1913-1981):  Footballer, Scottish Internationalist (5 caps) and Manager

Someone said “Football is more important than life and death to you” and I said “Listen it’s more important than that.

(Granada Television Chat-Show 1981)

Alan Sharp:  Author and Scriptwriter

I always experience a profound identity crisis about Scotland’s [international football] games. Profound is maybe too profound a word. Extreme is nearer the mark. For a time before, throughout and after I have the feeling that my personal worth is bound up with Scotland’s success or failure.

(We’ll Support You Evermore 1976)

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950):  Irish Playwright and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature 1925

God help England if she had no Scots to think for her.

Anna (Nan) Shepherd (1893-1981):  Novelist, Poet and Lecturer

Scotland is bounded on the south by England, on the east by the rising sun, on the north by the Arory-bory-Alice, and on the west by Eternity.

(The Quarry Wood 1928)

James (Jim) Sillars:  Politician, Columnist and Author

Scots are so used to being in a provincial backwater that we shy clear of making claims about our potential impact on the wider human scene. But it is time to set aside this self-effacement.

(Scotland – A Case for Optimism 1985)

Opinion polls are about as scientific as looking at the entrails of a chicken.


Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster (1754-1835): Politician, Agriculturalist and Statistician

It tends to preserve that martial spirit for which the Scottish nation has so long been celebrated; for there is no real Scotsman who would not march to battle with more alacrity to the animating sound of the bagpipes, than any other warlike instrument.

(Presenting prizes at a Piobaireachd Competition, Edinburgh August 1822)

Mary Slessor ‘The Mother of All the People’ (1848-1915):  Missionary

If they have only a loving heart, willing hands and common sense, they will not need fine English, for there is none to admire…

(On the qualifications needed for helpers in her missionary work in Africa)

Give up your whole being to create music everywhere, in the light places and in the dark places, and your life will make melody.


John Smeaton:  Glasgow Airport Baggage Handler

You’ve just to get on with life and you cannot let it affect you. If you let it affect you then they win.

(Reflecting on his part on averting the alleged terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport [30 June 2007] on returning to work 20 July 2007)

Adam Smith (1723-1790):  Economist and Philosopher

In some counties, as in Scotland, where the government was weak, unpopular, and not very firmly established, the Reformatiom was strong enough to overturn, not only the church, but the state likewise for attempting to support the church.

(The Wealth of Nations, 1784 edition Bk. V, ch. I)

Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice.


There are four distinct states which mankind passes through. 1st, the age of Hunters; 2nd, the age of Shepherds; 3rd,  the age of Agriculture; 4th, the age of Commerce.

(Lecture Notes for 24 December 1762)

Science is the greatest antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.

(The Wealth of Nations 1776)

The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.

(The Wealth of Nations 1776)

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their labour as to be themselves well fed, clothed and lodged.

(The Wealth of Nations 1776) 

Our merchants and master-manufactures complain much of the effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.

(The Wealth of Nations 1776)

Professor Alexander McCall Smith:  Author and Professor of Medical Law

One can love a country until it hurts.

(The Careful Use of Compliments 2007)

We think the world is ours for ever, but we are little more than squatters.

(The Careful Use of Compliments 2007)

Elaine C Smith:  Actress and Columnist

My long-term goal for Scotland is independence, and I think one day it will be achieved. We’re afraid of taking the leap, but I think independence would be a great thing for us.

(October 2006)

Too often the contribution of Scots women to their country has been written out of the history books. Those who died or were imprisoned in Scotland to win women the vote barely get a mention – all that seems to matter was the history of men and what they did. As a young girl I had to constantly ask “Where were the women when all the heroic stuff was going on? Were they even alive?” I never got an answer.

(December 2006)

I don’t know how Jack McConnell felt about [Westminster] Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt calling him Jack McDonald but I was furious. What an ignorant thing to do. You can guarantee that she wouldn’t have got the name of the Irish or the French PM wrong but it shows the low regard the office of First Minister has in the Westminster village. Regardless of your political persuasion or feelings about Jack, this was an insult to our country.

(April 2007)

It’s taken until 2007 but I am glad to see that the Government have finally decided Scottish history is a good thing for our kids to learn about. We will now have questions on it in the compulsory section of the Higher History exam. Scottish history questions used to be optional, meaning like me you could obtain a higher without ever studying any events in your own country’s past – and still end up with an A. I think that it is essential that our children know at least a wee but about the history of this great nation. It’s ridiculous that educating new generations about our proud heritage was neglected for so long.

(25 November 2007)

I think there’s a common cause within Scots, regardless of whether you’re wealthy or poor – a sense of justice. You can see the people who have made it big and they have a great sense of where they are from and what they want to put back into life. 

(30 November 2007)

Some English MPs want rid of the so-called Scottish mafia in the cabinet because English people will respond better to English MPs running things. How racist is that? We Jocks are just too much to take, eh? These Mps wouldn’t dare say stuff like this about blacks and Asians so why is it OK to say it about Scots.

(Sunday Mail June 2008)

Music has healing powers, not only for players but also for those who listen. Members of our orchestra [Edinburgh-based Really Terrible Orchestra] have been astonished at how even our bad and sometimes discordant playing can give pleasure to our audiences. Perhaps even badly played music soothes and inspires – and may even do so more powerfully than well-executed performances. This may be because the listener knows that the music is being made by somebody just like him or her and perhaps this allows foe a special sort of identification. Perhaps. Or it may be that the audience of an amateur orchestra merely sympathies and the giving of sympathy can be as healing as the receiving.

(Readers Digest November 2008)

Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead (1872-1930):  English Lawyer and Politician

Scotland is renowned as the home of the most ambitious race in the world.

(Rectorial Address at Aberdeen University)

Gordon Smith:  Professional Footballer, Agent, Broadcaster and Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association

It’s a big position; I’m a patriotic Scot and I want to see Scottish football flourish.

(On being appointed Scottish Football Association Chief Executive 1 June 2007)

Sarah Smith:  Journalist and Television News and Current Affairs Presenter

I hope that the country finds a model of government that satisfies all the country’s ambitions and lets Scotland become a more confident nation that is comfortable with its place in the world.

(The Scotsman 10 May 2007)

Sydney Goodsir Smith (1915-1975):  Poet, Playwright and Artist

Scotland is like a bonnie woman pent
Ahint castle waas. The castle maun be
Forced and she deliverit frae her bands.

(The Wallace 1960)

O it’s dowf tae be drinkan alane, my luve,
   When I wud drink wi my dear,
Nor Crabbie nor Bell’s can fire me, luve,
   As they wud an you were here.

(The Steeple Bar, Perth)

Canon Sydney Smith (1771-1845): English Clergyman and Essayist

It requires a surgical operation to get a joke well into a Scotch understanding.

(Lady Holland’s Memoirs 1855)

Tobias George Smollett (1721-1771):  Novelist

I do not think I could enjoy Life with greater Relish in any part of the world than in Scotland among you and your Friends, and I often amuse my Imagination with schemes for attaining that Degree of Happiness, which, however, is altogether out of my Reach. I am heartily tired of this Land of Indifference [England] and Phlegm where the finer Sensations of the Soul are not felt, and Felicity is held to consist in stupefying Port and overgrown Buttocks of Beef, where Genius is lost, Learning undervalued, and Taste altogether extinguished, and Ignorance prevails to such a degree that one of our Chelsea Club asked me if the weather was good when I crossed the Sea from Scotland…

(Letter to Alexander Carlyle 1 March 1754)

The Scots have a slight tincture of letters, with which they make a parade among people who are more illiterate than themselves; but they may be said to float on the surface of science, and they have made every small advances in the useful arts.

(Humphrey Clinker 1771)

Some folks are wise and some are otherwise.

I think for my part one half of the nation is mad – and the other not very sound.

(Sir Launcelot Greaves 1762)

Edinburgh is a hot-bed of genius.

William Soutar (1898-1943):  Poet

If the Doric is to come back alive, it will come first on a cock-horse.

(Letter to Hugh MacDiarmid, 1931)

A general meanness of national spirit [has been] accumulative since our loss of nationhood. By the severance of our continental ties, our linguistic roots, our traditional heritage, it was inevitable that parochialism should spread like a national blight, so that ultimately our national traits have withered into indiosyncrasies and our types degenerated into “characters”.

(The Diaries of a Dying Man 1937 – edited by Alexander Scott (1955)

Brian Souter:  Businessman, co-funder Stagecoach Group

The fears and smears about independence are insulting to both the intelligence and self-respect of Scots.

We are a distinct society, an ancient European nation, who have a right to self-determination and I believe we can become a great nation again.

(17 March 2007)

Robert Southey (1774-1843):  English Poet, Literary Scholar, Historian and Biographer

Well may Edinburgh be called Auld Reekie! And the houses stand so one above another, that none of the smoke wastes itself upon the desert air before the inhabitants have derived all the advantages of its odour and its smuts, You might smoke bacon by hanging it out of the window.

(Journal of a Tour in Scotland in 1819)

Dame Muriel Sarah Spark ((1918-2006):  Novelist, Short Story Writer, Playwright and Editor

It is possible for parents to be corrupted or improved by their children.

(The Comforters 1957)

Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.

(The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1961)

To me, education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul.

(The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie 1961)

How can you deal with the problem of suffering if everybody conspires to estrange you from suffering?

(The Only Problem 1984)

It is impossible to persuade a man who does not disagree, but smiles.

Writers loiter with intent.


I have a great desire to make people smile, not laugh. Laughter is too aggressive. People bare their teeth.

(The Times 1983)

Sir Henry Morton Stanley (born John Rowlands) (1841-1904):  Welsh Journalist and Explorer

Dr Livingstone, I presume?

(How I Found Livingstone 1872)

John (Jock) Stein (1922-1985):  Football Player and Manager

We do have the greatest fans in the world but I’ve never seen a fan score a goal.

(Discussing the World Cup in Spain 1982)


Without the fans football is nothing.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968):  American Novelist and Nobel Prize Winner

You talked of Scotland as a lost cause and that is not true. Scotland is an unwon cause.

(Letter of 28 February 1964 to Mrs John F Kennedy)

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (1850-1894):  Author

Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others.

For that is the mark of the Scot of all classes; that he stands in an attitude towards the past unthinkable to Englishmen, and remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears; good or bad; and their burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation.

(Weir of Hermiston)

I saw rain falling and the rainbow drawn
On Lammermuir. Hearkening I heard again
In my precipitous city beaten bells                  [Edinburgh]
Winnow the keen sea wind.

(To My Wife, dedication of Weir of Hermiston)

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will. 

This be the verse you grave for me –
‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.’


All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer.

So long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend.

Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.

(El Dorado)

Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail, in good spirits.

It is the mark of a good action that it appears inevitable in restrospect.

The cruellest lies are often told in silence.

I have been a Scotchman all my life and denied my native land.


A Scotchman is vain, interested in himself and others, eager for sympathy, setting forth his thoughts and experience in the best light. The egoism of the Englishman is self-contained. He does not seek to proselytise. He takes no interest in Scotland or the Scotch, and, what is the unkindest cut of all, he does not care to justify his indifference.


A voyage is a piece of autobiography at best.

(Travels with a Donkey 1879)

For my part I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly, to come down off their featherbed of civilisation and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.

I feel that when I shall come to die out here among these beautiful islands, I shall have lost something that has been my due – my native, pre-destinate and forfeited grave among honest Scots sods.

(Address to the Scottish Thistle Club of Honolulu 27 September 1893)

If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it they are wrong.


The Scots dialect is singularly rich in terms of reproach against the winter wind Snell, blae, nirly and scowthering are four of these significant vocables; they are all words that carry a shiver with them.

No man is useless while he has a friend.

Belle Stewart B.E.M. (1906-1997): Traveller, Traditional Singer and Songwriter

Before I put my pen away
It’s this I would like to say
You’ll travel far afore you’ll meet
A kinder lot than they;
For I’ve mixed wi them in field in pub
And while I’ve breath to spare
I’ll bless the hand that led me tae
The berry fields o Blair.

(The Berry Fields o Blair 1947)

Prince Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Silvester Maria Stewart (1720-1788):  Italian-born exiled Claimant to Thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland

I am come home, sir, and will entertain no notion of returning to that place from whence I came, for that I am persuaded my faithful Highlanders will stand by me.

(Response to Alexander MacDonald of Boisdale who had stated that without sufficient French backing he should return home 24 July 1745)


James Stewart, James VI and I, ‘The Wisest Fool in Christendom’ (1566-1625): King of Scots (1567-1625) and English King (1603-1625)

A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.

(A Counterblast to Tobacco)

The State of monarchy is the supremest thing on earth. For kings are not only God’s Lieutenants upon earth and sit upon God’s throne, but even by God himself they are called gods.

(English Parliament 1604)

Gordon David Strachan: Football Manager, Celtic FC

It does annoy me, though, to hear people in our game say “I’m a winner”. We can’t all be winners, because each tournament has only one and all you can say is “I’m a competitor”. That is as much as anyone can expect.

John Roy Stuart, Iain Ruadh Stiubhart (1700-1752):  Gaelic Poet and Jacobite Colonel

Mo chreach, armailt nam breacan
Bhith air sgaoileadh ‘s air sgapadh ‘s gach àit,
Aig fìor-bhalgairean Shasuinn
Nach do ghnathaich bonn ceartais ‘nan dàil;
Ged a bhuannaich iad baiteal
Cha b’ ann d’an cruadal no ‘n tapadh a bhà,
Ach gaoth aniar agus frasan
Thighinn a nios oirnn bhàrr machair nan Gall.

(Woe is me for the plaided troops scattered and routed everywhere at the hands of these foxes of England who observed no fairness at all in the conflict; though they won the battle, it was not from courage or the skill of them but the westward wind and the rain coming down on us from the flat lands of the lowlanders.)

(Latha Chul-Lodair. Culloden Day)

Flagnote: A celebrated Gaelic poet Colonel John Roy Stuart was born at Knock of Kincardine in Badenoch in 1700 and served in both the British and French armies before offering his service to Charles Edward Stewart. After the Battle of Prestonpans he was ordered to raise a regiment in Edinburgh. Recruitment was not easy and to make up the numbers Lord George Murray transferred 50 Strathban  men from the Atholl Brigade to the Edinburgh Regiment. The 200 strong regiment fought in the front line at Culloden and afterwards marched with their Colonel to the rendezvous at Ruthven He was sent to France with news of the Jacobite defeat by Prince Charles.

The Lord’s my targe, I will be stout,
With dirk and trusty blade,
Though Cambells come in flocks about
I will not be afraid. 

The Lord’s the same as heretofore,
He’s always good to me;
Though red-coats come a thousand more,
Afraid I will not be.

(The Lord’s My Targe – parody of David’s Twenty-Third Psalm )

Nicola Sturgeon:  Politician, Depute First Minister of Scotland  and Lawyer

Where there are issues when Scotland’s voice needs to be heard, an SNP government will make sure that it is heard.

(4 April 2007)

I think, as a nation, we do have unique attributes and values, not least a belief in fairness and equality. As women, this belief has helped us, because although there are barriers and hurdles like anywhere else in the world, we live in a culture that’s conducive to letting us get on and succeed.

(April 2007)

Gary Sutherland:  Journalist and Author

What we, the Scots, do is stoicism with an air of disgruntlement. That is our failsafe coping mechanism. We’re good at it.

(Hunting Grounds: A Scottish Football Safari 2007)

Robert Garioch Sutherland, “Robert Garioch” (1909-1981):  Poet and Teacher

Oor Scottish claes are fine for deevil’s tricks;
the feck o folk wha daur ti wear the kilt
maun be the kind wi shanks like parritch-sticks
while wycelike wichts gang breekt, the Deil’s intillt.  

(The Masque of Edinburgh)

In simmer when aa sorts foregather
in Embro tae the ploy,
folk seek oot freens tae hae a blether
or foes they’d fain annoy.
Smorit wi British Railways’ reek
frae Glesca or Glen Roy
or Wick, they come tae a week
o cultivated joy
                                       or three
at Embro tae the ploy.

(Embro tae the Ploy)

Flagnote:  According to the poet Douglas Young this byous poem on the Edinburgh Festival by one of Edinburgh’s favourite poets was first printed in his publication ‘Scottish Verse 1851-1951 selected by Douglas Young’ in 1952.

Shote! Here’s the poliss,
The Gayfield poliss,
      An thull pi’iz in the nick fir
      Pleyan fi’baw in the street. 

(Fi’baw in the Street)

You may find more intellectual honesty at Murrayfield than at a Burns Supper. But in neither of these places do you find any genuine Scottish feeling.


It [Edinburgh] is a city with nearly everything you want.


Dean Jonathan Swift (1667-1745): Irish Cleric, Author, Satirist, Essayist and Political Pamphleteer

There are some people who think they sufficiently acquit themselves, and entertain their company, with relating facts of no consequence, but all out of the road of such common incidents as happen every day; and this I have observed more frequently among the Scots than any other nation, who are very careful not to omit the minutest circumstance of time or place; which kind of discourse, if it were not a little relieved by the uncouth terms and phrases, as well as accent and gesture peculiar to that country, would be hardly tolerable.

Return to Scottish Quotations - Sources


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus