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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.

Robert Tannahill (1774-1810):  Poet and Weaver

Whyles dullness stands for modest merit,
And impudence for manly spirit;
To ken what worth each does inherit,
            Just to try the bottle;
Send round the glass, and dinna spare it,
            Ye’ll see their mettle.

Oh, would the gods but grant my wish,
My constant prayer would be for this:
That love sincere, with health and peace,
            My lot they’d clink in,
With now and then the social joys
            O’ friendly drinkin’.

(On Invocation)

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher:  English Politician, Prime Minister (1979-1990)

The pride of the Scottish office – whose very structure added a layer of bureaucracy, standing in the way of the very reforms which were paying such dividends in England – was that public expenditure per head in Scotland was far higher than in England… If it [the Conservative Party] sometimes seems English to some Scots that is because the Union is dominated by England by reason of its greater population.

(The Downing Street Years 1993)

In practice the left, not the right, had held on to the levers of power. It had its arguments voiced by both Catholic and Protestant churches and parroted in the media – hardly any Scottish newspapers supported us and the electronic media were largely hostile.

(The Downing Street Years 1996)

Alexandria (Sandi) Thom:  Singer and Songwriter

There are a lot of parts of Scotland still largely untouched and not ruined by industrialism. Parts of the country retain their beauty but, at the same time, the cities are brimming with culture. Edinburgh’s a fantastic city, as are Glasgow and Aberdeen.

(30 November 2007)

James Thomson (BV) (1834 - 1882):  Poet

Give a man a pipe he can smoke
Give a man a book he can read;
And his home is bright with a calm delight,
Though the rooms be poor indeed.

(Sunday Up The River)

For life is but a dream whose shapes return,
Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
The while all change and many vanish quite,
In their recurrence with recurrent changes
A certain seeming order; where this ranges
We count things real; such is memory’s night.

(The City of Dreadful Night, Canto 1)

Nick Thorpe:  English Award Winning Writer and Journalist

The extraordinary ramifications [of the Declaration of Scottish Independence, Arbroath 6 April 1320] had been felt down the centuries, inspiring other great political milestones such as the American Declaration of Independence. For in asserting the right to remove their monarch if he sold them out, the Scots were effectively the first in European history formally to question the divine right of kings – and, by implication, the ‘divine right’ of anyone else to use God as an excuse to violate their freedom. It was a blow against fundamentalism centuries before the Enlightenment.

(Adrift in Caledonia – Boat-hitching for the Unenlightened 2006)

Sam Torrance:  Professional Golfer

This is not a dress rehearsal. Enjoy it [life].

Nigel Tranter (1909-2000):  Author and Historian

There is a great danger of people taking their history from the media.

(Radio Scotland 1987)

James (Jim) Traynor:  Journalist and Broadcaster

It’s great to be Scottish.

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

This is a terrific little country, it really is. But you know something, it would be 100 times better if there weren’t so many depressing Holy Willies in the place. Scotland is overrun by people who live to revel in the demise and misery of others.

(Daily Record 10 March 2008)

Donald John Trump: American Businessman, Television Personality and Author

I think this land is special. I think that Scotland is special.

(Visiting his mother’s former home at Tung on Lewis 9 June 2008)

Kate (KT) Tunstall 

Scotland has an in-built sound system that never stops thumping. Music runs deep and I like to think of all the great songs and voices that have come out of the country, and all the music that is yet to come.

(30 November 2007)

John Hoyer Updike (1932 - 2009):  American Novelist, Short Story Writer and Poet

Scotland seemed at a glance ancient, raw, grimy, lush, mysterious and mannerly…Lost causes abounded.

(Bech is Back 1983)

James (Midge) Ure:  Rock Musician and Songwriter

I hated school. I got distracted too easily.

Sir Peter Alexander Ustinov (1921-2004): English Actor, Writer and Dramatist

Edinburgh to me always seems like a Scandinavian Capital. It’s very different from England and very refreshing.


Jack Vettriano (born Jack Hogan):  Artist

I paint myself because I am available and I am the cheapest model I know.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901):  English Queen (1837-1901)

The solitude, the romance and wild loveliness of everything here [The Trossachs], the absence of hotels and beggars, the independent simple people, who all speak Gaelic here, all make beloved Scotland the proudest, finest country in the world. Then there is that beautiful heather, which you do not see elsewhere. I prefer it greatly to Switzerland, magnificent and glorious as the scenery of that country is.

(Highland Journal 2 September 1869)

We were always in the habit of conversing with the Highlanders… The Prince highly appreciated the good-breeding, simplicity, and intelligence which make it so pleasant, and even instructive to talk to them.


The view of Edinburgh from the road before you enter Leith is quite enchanting; it is, as Albert said, “Fairy-like”.

Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet) (1694-1778):  French Writer and Philosopher

We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.

Sir William Wallace (c1270 - 1305):  Guardian of Scotland

When I was a lad in charge of my uncle the Priest of Dunipace one proverb more precious than all the riches of the world he taught me which has ever lived in my memory :-

                        Dico tibi verum; Libertas optima rerum
                        Nunquam servili sub nesu, vivito fili!
                                    My son, I tell thee soothfastlie
                                    No gift is like to liberty.
                                    Then never live in slaverie.

(Words attributed to Sir William Wallace – John of Fordun)

I have brought you to the ring and now you must dance. 

(To the Scottish army after the Battle of Falkirk 22 July 1298)


To Edward, King of England, I cannot be a traitor.  I owe him no allegiance; he is not my sovereign; he never received my homage; and, whilst life is in his persecuted body, he never shall receive it.

(speech at his Mock Trial in London, 1305)

Horatio (Horace) Walpole, 4th Earl of Oxford (1717-1797):  English Politician, Writer and Architectural Innovator

The duke [HRH William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland], who had conquered the Scotch like an able general, who had punished them like an offended prince, and whose resentments were not softened by the implacability of their hatred to him, was not a little disgusted at seeing measures of favour to them adopted.

(Opposition to the Annexing Bill 1752)

Flagnote: Walpole, like the ‘Butcher’ was opposed to the Annexing Bill which aimed to effect ‘promoting amongst [Highlanders] the protestant religion, good government, industry and manufacturers, and principles of duty and loyalty to his majesty [King George II], his heirs and successors’. The Duke of Cumberland thought the measures smacked of molly coddling rebels.  

Sylvia Nora Townsend Warner (1893-1978):  English Novelist and Poet

However often I did it (I have not done it often enough) I could never lose the excitement of seeing SCOTLAND declaimed on the road-sign, and the little white line, no wider than a hair-ribbon, painted across the road. It is an astonishing frontier, for, as Valentine [Ackland] said, it is not only the frontier between England and Scotland but the frontier between England and a province of France.

(Letter to Marchette Clune 9 October 1953)

General George Washington (1732-1799):  American Farmer, Soldier, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Politician and 1st President of the United states of America

…and if all else fails, I will retreat up the Valley of the Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scots and Irish of that region, and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger.

(Valley Forge, Pennsylvania 1777)

Dr Fiona Watson:  Historian, Author and Broadcaster

I’m glad Scottish history won’t be a separate Higher. It’s important that it’s seen as part of the rest of history and that other important aspects are given their due place. But making sure that every Scottish school pupil gets some Scottish History will help us develop a sense of realism about our past and ourselves without developing a “little Scotlander” mentality. Scottish history has perhaps suffered from being the preserve of nationalists – but if everyone is taught some at school, then it will belong to us all.

(Sunday Post 25 November 2007)

Christian (Kirstie) Watt, ‘Piper’s Kitta’ (1833-1923):  Fishwife and Servant

As a subjugated Scot I could sympathise, for a handful of greedy blockhead peers should never have had the power to vote to sell an independent minded nation for English gold.

(The Christian Watt Papers – David Fraser 1988)

John Watt:  Folksinger and Songwriter

She’s just a Kelty clippie, she’ll no tak’ nae advice
It’s, Ach drap deid or Ah’ll bile yer heid or Ah’ll punch yer ticket twice
Her faither’s jist a waster, her mither’s oan the game
She’s just a Kelty clippie but I love her just the same. 

(The Kelty Clippie)

Maureen Watt:  Politician, Teacher, Oil Industry Personnel Manager, Scottish Parliament Minister for Schools and Skills

If we don’t teach all our young people properly about the history and current context of their country and society, the vacuum will be filled instead with the often misguided imagery of Hollywood.

(30 January 2008)

Mary (Molly) Weir (1910-2004):  Actress and Author

When I was a wee girl [in Glasgow] if you said that something looked ‘hand-made’ it was the greatest insult you could hurl at the disparaged article. To be exactly the same as everyone else was the look that was coveted, and great was the anguish suffered by children whose mothers had to make do and mend from anything which came to hand.

(Shoes Were For Sunday 1970)

The mere whisper of ‘fever’, that infant scourge, sent our mothers sick with dread. With twelve families to a close, infection could spread like wildfire, and the sight of the fever van struck a chill into our hearts. But curiosity among us children was always stronger than fear and we would gather on the pavement to catch a glimpse of a swathed figure on its way through the close to the ambulance, and shudder with relief that it wasn’t one of us on the stretcher.

(Shoes Were for Sunday 1970)

Thomas (Tom) Weir (1914-2006):  Climber, Explorer, Naturalist, Author and Broadcaster


Having had the good fortune to have spent decades travelling the Borders, Highlands and Islands at all heights and seasons, I am in the position, I think, to make comparisons with other countries. The only thing I am disappointed in is that we don’t run our own affairs as does Norway. We have the resources, and history shows we have the people. England has its own problems for its fifty million or so to contend with. With only five million Scots we can manage ours, and I think the same goes for Wales. I hope I shall live long enough to see it happen, and another age of enlightenment dawn.

(Weir’s World – An Autobiography of Sorts 1994)


Climbing can never be a safe activity, for the more proficient you are, the harder you climb, trying to find your limit. Without the danger element that brings out your best, there is not the same exhilaration, and that is the drug factor in what is too dangerous a sport to exercise alone.

(Weir’s World – An Autobiography of Sorts 1994)

The secret of long life is always be doing something you enjoy.

(Scots Independent February 2005)

Irvine Welsh:  Novelist, Playwright and Screenwriter

I am not a person that is party political. And as somebody who lives outside Scotland I don’t think it is appropriate to suggest to people who they should vote for. But I am passionate about my country and am tired of listening to politicians talking us down. I personally believe that Alex Salmond is the best person to take Scotland forward.

In particular, the arts policies he has put forward are an overdue and welcome investment in Scotland’s wealth of artistic talent and will make a real difference to grassroots artists.

(14 April 2007)

Louise Welsh: Author

Never expect anything.

(The Cutting Room 2002)

Arsens Wenger:  French Football Manager

You really feel sorry for Scotland because they had been a credit to their country…You need one exceptional player because they have a good generation already.

(Commenting on Scotland’s narrow failure to qualify for Euro 2008 following defeat to World Champions Italy 19 November 2007)           

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900): Irish Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Short Story Writer

I wish you were in Edinboro’ with me – it is quite lovely – bits of it. 

(Letter to E W Godwin 17 December 1884)

Gordon M Williams:  Novelist and Journalist

That was the greatest thing he [Dunky] could imagine in the whole world, being picked against England – he’d die for Scotland.

(From Scenes Like These 1968)

Roy Williamson (1937-1990):  Folksinger and Songwriter

O flower of Scotland, when will we see your like again,
That ought and died for, your wee bit hill and glen.
And stood against him, proud Edward’s army
And sent him homewards tae think again 

Those days are past now, and in the past they must remain.
But we can still rise now and be the nation again
That stood against him, proud Edward’s army
And sent him homeward tae think again.

(Flower of Scotland)

James ‘Purlie’ Wilson (1760-1820):  Weaver and Radical Activist; Executed for his part in The 1820 Rising

I am glad to hear that my countrymen are resolved to act like men. We are seeking nothing but the rights of our forefathers – liberty is not worth having, if it is not worth fighting for.

(April 1820)

HRH Prince Andrew Albert Christian Edward Windsor, Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killyleagh:  English Royal Navy helicopter Pilot; UK’s Special Representative for International Trade and Investment

This very month has seen the 300th anniversary of the union of the parliaments while at the same time the [Scottish] election [3 May 2007] has rattled the timbers of the concept of union.

(Address to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 19 May 2007)

Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924):  American, Twenty-Eighth President of the USA

Every line of strength in American history is a line coloured with Scottish blood.

Dennis Frank Wise: English Footballer, Internationalist (21 caps), Manager and Director of Football (Newcastle)

Hughsie [Mark Hughes] is Welsh and there is nothing the Welsh, Irish and Scots like better than to see England beaten at anything.

(Dennis Wise - the autobiography 1999)

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1979):  English Humorous Writer

It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

(Blandings Castle and Elsewhere 1935)

Robert Wodrow (1679-1734):  Historian

I have a great many melancholy thoughts of living to see this ancient kingdom made a province, and not only our religious and civil liberties lost, but lost irrevocably, and this is the most dismal aspect ane incorporating union has to me, that it puts matters past help.

(Letter to George Serle 30 May 1706)

General James Wolfe (1727-1759):  English Soldier

I should imagine that two or three independent Highland companies might be of use; they are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall. How better can you employ a secret enemy than by making his end conducive to the common good?

William (Billy) C Wolfe:  Political Activist and Accountant

I was moved to indignation and frustration not because of the loss of old and hard ways of life, but because I realised anew that the essence of Scotland was being so diluted and near destroyed without the people, the real folk of Scotland, being able to do anything about it. It was a kindly English imperialism that was destroying them, and their own vulnerability was making it so easy.

(Scotland Lives 1973)

Field-Marshal Joseph Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley (1833-1913):  English Soldier

If there is any fighting to be done, I know that I only have to call on the Black Watch, and you will behave as you have always done.

(Egypt 1884 as unrest simmered in Sudan)

Wendy Wood (born Gwendoline Meacham) (1892-1981):  Political Activist, Artist and Writer

Political nationalism is not going to be enough to express the nation of Scotland and retain an identity which alone is the raison d’etre of independence… if we launch… into a form of government that echoes the English party outlook, we shall only be regional minded even under our own government.

(Your’s Sincerely for Scotland 1970)

Faith, hope, love and lettuce: faith in God, hope of independence, love of fellow men – and a green salad every day.

(When asked her creed)

The time of Scotland’s freedom is coming.

Adeline Virginia Woolf (1882-1941):  English Author

Skye is often raining, but also fine: hardly embodied; semi-transparent; like living in a jelly fish lit up with green light. Remote as Samoa; deserted: prehistoric. No room for more.

(Postcard to Duncan Grant 27 June 1938)

We are now in Oban, which is, as far as I have seen it, the Ramsgate of the Highlands. Only the Scots having melancholy in their bones… being entirely without frivolity build even bathing sheds of granite let alone hotels. The result is grim; and on every lamp post is a notice, Please do not spit on the pavement.

(Letter to Vanessa Bell 28 June 1938)

Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855):  English Poet, Writer and Diarist

Scotland is the country above all others that I have seen, in which a man of imagination may carve out his own pleasures; there are so many inhabited solitudes.

(Journal 1803)

Breakfasted [at Cairndow, near Glen Kinglas], before our departure, and ate a herring fresh from the water, at our landlord’s earnest recommendation – much superior to the herrings we get in the north of England.

(Journal 30 August 1803)

William Wordsworth (1770-1850):  English Poet

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! For the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

Will no one tell me what she sings?-
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago.

(The Solitary Reaper)

Flagnote:  Wordsworth and his sister visited the Highlands in 1803 and Dorothy reported seeing solitary reapers, According to the poet in 1807, the poem was inspired by a sentence from Thomas Wilkinson’s manuscript ‘Tours to the British Mountains’ –

‘Passed a Female who was reaping alone: she sang in Erse as she bended over her sickle; the sweetest human voice I ever heard: her strains were tenderly melancholy; and felt delicious, long after they were heard no more.’

Professor Douglas Young (1913-1973):  Poet, Translator, Essayist, Author, Scholar and Political Activist.

The Lord’s my herd, I sall nocht want.
            Whaur green the gresses grow
Sall be my fauld. He caas me aye
            whaur fresh sweet burnies rowe.

He gars my saul be blyth aince mair
            That wandert was frae hame,
And leads me on the straucht smaa gait
            For sake o His ain name.

(from The Twenty-Third Psalm o King Dauvit, 1942)

Flagnote:  Douglas Young translated Scotland’s favourite psalm into Scots on St Andrew’s Day, 30 November 1942, whilst serving a sentence in Saughton Jail, Edinburgh, for opposing the authorities over conscription. Prior to his imprisonment he was elected as National Chairman of the Scottish National Party, and following his release he represented the party in the Kirkcaldy Burghs By-Election, polling over 40% of the vote. See Complete Poems for a poem written by Sydney Goodsir Smith, A Ballad for Douglas Young at the time of his imprisonment.

They libbit William Wallace.

    He gar’d them bleed.

They dinna libb MacFoozle.

    They dinna need.

(On a North British Devolutionist, Scots Independent 1944)

Sir Jimmy Young:  English Broadcaster and Disc Jockey

The English have never warmed to the big clunking fist of Gordon Brown [Glasgow-born Chancellor of the Exchequer].

(January 2007)

Flagnote: The English aren’t alone in not warming to Gordon Brown as was evidenced at Central Park, Cowdenbeath, on 29 April 2006, the day Cowdenbeath FC won the Scottish Third Division Championship. After the game, local Labour MP Gordon Brown was introduced to the crowd which resulted in sustained booing by the 2500 attending the crunch game.

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