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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Scottish Innovation Party (SIP) Devolution

Never mind Independence... what has Devolution done for Scotland is the question.

In actual fact using Google to try and find answers on this has produced very little analysis. I discounted articles by the various political parties as being skewed so I only looked for independent reports.

Since devolution, policymaking in Scotland has been profoundly conservative

Scotland has been largely self-governing in major areas such as health, education and local government since devolution in 1999. All types of policy innovation were promised with devolution and are promised by advocates of independence. In this context it is salutary to reflect that the overall record of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in these major policy areas in the decade and a half of their current existence is, with a few exceptions, conservative, argues Norman Bonney.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of policymaking in Scotland under devolution has been its profound conservatism. The establishment of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament in 1999 were supposed to lead to a form of more transparent and accountable governance that would free Scotland from the dead hand of decision making at UK level and make government more responsive to Scottish concerns. But the reality of policy outcomes has been much more modest than the rhetoric of political leaders.

Local Government

In the major fields of domestic policy responsibility assigned to the new devolved institutions, such as health, education, local government, there have been remarkably few initiatives. A system of local government, reorganised in 1996 on the basis of 32 multi-purpose local authorities and designed by the preceding Conservative UK government, has been largely left untouched. As in England a grossly inadequate system of council tax inherited from the preceding Conservative government and crying out for reform, has been left untouched by the first two Labour/Liberal Democratic administrations and the two successor SNP administrations. And under the latter the system has been shored up by Scottish government funding to facilitate a council tax freeze and containment of local government expenditure.


In primary and secondary education the basis structure of service delivery has continued from the inherited system. The Curriculum for Excellence has, however, seen a comprehensive review of the content of teaching and learning. Even despite Scottish Government concerns about sectarianism in Scottish society and legal and policy initiatives on the matter, the division of state schooling into those 14 per cent of schools with a Roman Catholic ethos and the ‘non-denominational’ but Protestant remainder has been continued in accordance with Scottish laws inherited from the Westminster UK Parliament in 1999. Laws similarly inherited concerning required religious observance (prayers) in state schools have never been debated in the Scottish Parliament although administrative guidelines for them have been twice amended by the Scottish Government in ways that has avoided debate in the Parliament and confined discussion to certain interested religious groups.

At the tertiary level, the continued generous funding of the Scottish Government by the UK Government has to be one major factor explaining how free university tuition continues to be available to Scottish and EU students but not those originating south of the border. Savings on budgets for further education student maintenance and other economies in that sector have also contributed to the priority accorded higher education. UK wide funding arrangements for research have disproportionately benefited Scottish universities such that the Scottish Government would like to continue them even if Scotland votes to be a separate country.


Health expenditure of about £11 billion constitutes about one third of all the Scottish budget and results in a ten per cent per capita higher spend north of the border compared to England. But although the Scottish NHS has been spared the scale of continual market based reorganisation experienced in the south and limited moves to hospital trusts were repealed, relative performance does not seem to have improved. For instance, the percentage of the Scottish population saying that their health was ‘not good’ in both the 2001 and 2011 censuses remained the same at 10 per cent. The percentage of the population with a long term activity-limiting health problem or disability was 20 per cent in both years. In England the comparable latter figure was 18 per cent in both years. Despite the higher per capita spending on health in Scotland there is no evidence that devolution in health policy has made any profound difference in comparative levels of well-being or substantially eroded differences in health outcomes between Scotland and England. A study for 2001-7 suggested, for instance, that Scotland still had one of the worst health records in Europe and that ‘excess mortality’, above that accounted for by deprivation, was 20 per cent higher in Scotland than England.

A 2012 Audit Scotland report has also indicated little change in health inequalities within Scotland in the last decade. Despite avoiding the major structural reorganisations experienced by the NHS in England, and being more generously endowed with public funds, the NHS in Scotland does not seem to have made, under devolution, any fundamental change to the pattern of relatively poor health outcomes. Devolution did not involve much change in the governance of health in Scotland in as much as the ministerial, civil service and medical leadership continued as before but within a new ministerial structure. What was new was the Scottish Parliament and it does not seem to have made much difference.

Policy innovations

Two innovations do, however, deserve mention. Free prescriptions were brought in by the minority SNP administration just prior to the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections at an additional annual cost of only £57 million since the elderly and groups like cancer patients already benefited from such arrangements. Free personal care, initiated by the second Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, was a much more costly innovation. In 2011 70,000 people benefited from this service. According to one study this system results in spending on social services in Scotland being 25 per cent higher per capita than elsewhere in UK. Mention also needs to be made of the recent merging of regional police and fire services into centralised national organisations – perhaps the most radical of the changes resulting from devolution.

Devolution – a shield and a clamp?

One of the major purposes of devolution was to provide a shield for Scotland from Westminster UK policies on domestic issues which were unfavourably regarded north of the border. This purpose has been achieved in matters such as the organisation of the health services and it has been accompanied by innovation in some policy areas. But what is most remarkable is the lack of institutional and policy change in the major spending areas of local government, education and health where systems inherited from the UK system of government have been continued without any substantial critical scrutiny in the new national legislature and little evidence of improved overall performance. The rhetoric of devolution has been much more radical than the reality.

Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please read our comments policy before posting.

About the Author

Norman Bonney – Edinburgh Napier University

Norman Bonney is emeritus professor at Edinburgh Napier University. His recent publications are listed at He tweets from @NormanBonney

10 Years of the Scottish Government’s International Development Programme

In the last ten years the Scottish Government (SG) has spent a total of £60-70m on its international development programme. Although cited as a success and as being unique in its approach, closer analysis reveals a different picture, and raises fundamental questions over the rationale for the programme and over its future direction.

This includes whether, in the context of unprecedented growth in UK Government aid spending, to which Scottish citizens contribute at around £450 per household, any SG international development programme is justified.

International development is a reserved power – therefore there is no statutory requirement for an SG. In this context, the origins of the SG programme lie in a spectrum of factors – developmental (contributing to reducing poverty globally), ‘formal’-political (a greater international presence for the SG) and ‘informal’-political (for politicians, the easy distraction and vanity of development projects).

The programme itself is characterised by a diversity of activity. It consists primarily of a series of small projects (fifty-seven in 2016) and core funding to three Scottish-based coordination and networking development NGOs.

Malawi is the main focus of activity, reflecting the historic close ties between the two nations, and consumes around half the programme’s £9m current annual budget. The SG reports on the programme in positive terms. However, in practice there has been little assessment of its efficacy – especially in terms of the SG’s own key criteria of ‘impact’ (has this changed poor people’s lives?) and ‘sustainability’ (will change last?). The only part of the programme which allows this level of insight is its flagship and largest initiative – the Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP). MREAP can be seen as a window into the performance of the whole programme and is frequently cited as a success, especially its headline achievement of increasing 80,000 people’s access to affordable renewable energy.

But more detailed scrutiny, from MREAP’s own analysis, shows that most of these gains will not be sustained. And the reason for this weak performance lies in basic flaws in its conception, design and approach which, ignoring wider development learning, have pushed an aid-giver’s agenda. Rather than make a significant, lasting difference, MREAP’s performance, especially its lack of sustainability, bears all the hallmarks of the wider development experience in Malawi - a country awash with, and dependent on, aid resources, most of which have been ineffective.

After ten years, what can be concluded about the performance of the SG international development programme?

- Politically, it has been a ‘success’. There exists an implicit consensus between the political parties that this is, somehow, a ‘good thing’ to do. The common manifesto positions of the main parties at the 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election confirm international development’s political acceptance. Pronouncements on the programme referring to its success and its innovative character, and to this being evidence of Scotland’s compassionate and influential role, are largely accepted.

- With regard to its support for the Scottish Malawi Partnership, there seems no doubt that the programme has helped catalyse wider interest in and funding for Malawian causes – and this, in itself, is a positive outcome.

- But overall there is little evidence of achievement of substance - meaningful change in the lives of poor people in Malawi or developing countries. From a development perspective, it has not been a success and the SG’s repeated assertions of the programme’s virtues have an empty quality that serve a political rather than any developmental purpose.

- The development rationale for an SG international development programme remains unclear. Especially now, in the light of the unprecedented growth in aid spending from the UK Government – now equal to £450 per household from £270 ten years ago – and widespread cutbacks in other public expenditure, why spend £4 more per household on aid?

For the future, answering the core question - what is it that Scottish aid can do that UK aid cannot? – is critical. If there is no credible response to it, the Scottish international development effort runs the risk of being seen as a ‘me-too’ gesture, tokenism dressed up as idealism, cosy political self-interest as development concern.

Read more at:

Some additional information and interesting reading can be found at:

An interesting review of the work of the Scottish Parliament

Review of the SNP

SNP’s 10 years in power are looking more like a lost decade

I came across this article by Alex Bell in the Dundee Courier in May 2017 and it's the first article I've found in a number of years that questions what Scotland has achieved since Devolution. The whole article can be read at the above link.

This lack of evidence has long dogged Scotland – we do things, then we do different things, often swayed by international examples but are very poor at methodically tracking our own policies, or building policies around the evidence.

Policies pursued since devolution haven’t fundamentally altered Scotland at all.

We have done different things to the rest of the UK but these have largely been in the realm of reducing charges to services (ending bridge tolls, free prescriptions, elderly care, tuition fees) and we reorganised institutions.

However, we haven’t taken any bold policy decision, such as to renationalise utilities or change the tax system and the evidence shows we haven’t closed the poverty gap, redistributed wealth, improved education or educated more poor people.

The core “Scottish” problems of chronic urban poverty and a slow economy are as they were in 2007 and pretty much as they were in 1997, when we voted for Holyrood.

Scotland is approaching, if not already in, a crisis of stagnation – at such times nations need big ideas, brave decisions and bold leadership.

The sad truth is that pretty much everything we have done to date hasn’t worked.

What are the powers of the Scottish Parliament? and
What has the Parliament done for you?

Scottish Identity in the 18th and 19th Centuries
By Chris Gibbs

This is a view of what happened when we became Great Britain...

King James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England in 1603 as James I, ‘King of Great Britain’. For the first time the fiery and independent Scotland was united with its southern neighbour via the monarchy, yet they remained independent kingdoms with their own parliaments, legal and religious systems. In 1707 the Union of Scotland and England occurred. Through the terms of the Act of Union the Scottish parliament was abolished and England and Scotland were joined as the one kingdom of Great Britain, yet as before Scotland retained its religious and legal independence. The last Jacobite uprising occurred in 1745 and with the defeat of Bonnie Prince Charlie an end was put to the movement to try to return the Stuarts – the one time kings of Scotland – to the throne. Almost all Scots were now firmly under the Hanoverian banner and they gradually became active citizens of Great Britain. This essay will study the Scottish identity in the 18th and 19th Centuries, including their culture, traditions, interpretation of history, role in society, relations with the monarchy and their taking up of a British identity alongside the Scottish one.

The Scots of the 17th and 18th Centuries can roughly be divided into two groups – the highlanders and lowlanders. The highlanders of northern Scotland were composed of the clans – powerful aristocratic landowners and their families and peasants such as the Macdonalds and Campbells, who practically ruled their respective territories from large houses and manors and who had great influence in the towns which they oversaw. They were the chief supporters of the Stuarts and had their own (although as we shall see it was later augmented) distinctive culture. The southerly lowlanders were much more like their English neighbours – living relatively freely in towns and cities and on the land with their own lords and earls and knowing little of the highland culture or politics. Prior to 1745 most of the highlanders viewed the Union with contempt, while the lowlanders had mixed feelings. Some of the bourgeoisie supported the increased opportunities for trade and advancement, while others resented the loss of some of their independence, and many who went south found their opportunities limited because of discrimination against the Scots.

After the uprising of 1745 the Highlanders, who had formed the majority of the Prince’s army, were scattered and lost much of their power and influence. The private jurisdictions of the clan chieftains were abolished and replaced by the power of the king. The wearing of tartans and kilts was banned except in the army and the Highland culture was shunned as being backwards, feudal, rough and unrefined, as indeed many Lowlanders and Sassenachs had always thought. Episcopalian clergymen were required to take new oaths of allegiance to the king. Nonetheless with the demise of Jacobitism and the advent of the Union thousands of Scots, mainly Lowlanders, poured into England and took up numerous positions in politics, civil service, the army and navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas. Neil Davidson notes that “after 1746 there was an entirely new level of participation by Scots in political life, particularly outside Scotland.” In 1762 the Scot John Stuart, the 3rd Earl of Bute was appointed as first lord of the treasury, basically the role of prime minister and the first Scotsman to be appointed to the position. Bute was only the tip of the iceberg, as Scots took up important positions all over the empire. Alexander Wedderburn was appointed Attorney-General in 1780. Then there was Henry Dundas, who held a number of important positions during the late 18th-early 19th Centuries such as home secretary, secretary at war and first lord of the admiralty and who came to dominate Scottish politics in his time. Scots MPs also served abroad – in the period 1790-1820 a staggering 130 Scots were MPs representing seats in England and Wales.

The ever increasing British Empire presented many opportunities to enterprising Scots and this people, who appeared to be on the whole more adventurous than the English, took advantage of these. The English picked up most of the best posts at home and generally were on the whole reluctant to travel abroad, meaning that many of the English in the colonies were second rate men. By contrast the Scots, who often came from poorer and less established backgrounds and who were at times as much outsiders in England as anywhere else in the empire, were far more willing to travel and take risks in amassing wealth, promotions and prosperity in the far reaches of the empire. This meant that many more talented Scots were available than their English counterparts and many of them made full use of this advantage. Scots could be found all over the empire, from India to Canada to Australia and New Zealand. A Scot from a prominent Jacobite family named James Murray became the first British governor of Quebec. John Murray was governor of New York in 1770, while in India Scots such as George Bogle had important posts and positions. Indeed British Bengal was flooded with Scots – some 60% of the free merchants were Scotsmen.

There was considerable backlash against this influx of Scots. This resistance was led by John Wilkes. Wilkes was born in London in 1725 and was a thorough rouge yet also a fervent patriot of England. He was at times involved in trade, was an author and a MP. Wilkes firmly supported whiggism and hated the Scots and was outraged as what he saw as the Scottish takeover of the English administration. Whiggism was an English political and historical ideology that saw English history as the progression of a strong ethnocentricity based on Protestantism, an ancient constitution, limited monarchy and a special and expanding place for England in the world. In contemporary politics Whigs supported policies that upheld these principles and continued their progression and improvement. There was also Scottish Whiggism, based around a Presbyterian-aristocratic ideology. Wilkes scorned the concept of ‘Great Britain’ and felt that the Scots “unchangeably alien, never ever to be confused or integrated with the English.” Wilkes and his followers, called Wilkites, sought to protect the great building blocks of England – the Protestant succession, the revolution of 1688, the Magna Carta and English freedoms – the great elements of English whiggism, all of which they felt to be under threat in the 1760’s by a rising sense of Britishness. The Wilkites argued that the Scots were politically dangerous. They had a taste for arbitrary power and rule – had not the hated Stuarts come from Scotland? Their lords were tyrants while the common people were slaves and passively obedient to their masters. The march of the highlanders in 1745 burned freshly in peoples’ minds. With such attitudes history and upbringings, how long would it be before they infected and threatened the building blocks of England? Numerous cartoons such as A View of the Origin of Scotch Ministers & Managers depicted the flocking of Scots to England with bad or evil intentions and a tendency to scratch each others’ backs. Wilkes wrote that “no Scot ever exerted himself but for a Scot.” Protests and rallies were heard across England - “more opportunities for Scots meant fewer perks for Englishmen.” Wilkes himself was furious that he had lost his attempt to become first British governor of Quebec to James Murray. However Scotophobia, while an important force in England, could not impede the course of events. With the influx of Scots, their rights and place as British citizens and the viewing of Scotland as an important ally backed by the crown and the chief ministers, the importance of Scots in England the rise of Britishness continued and flourished into the 19th Century, aside from the occasional discrimination against Scots seeking promotions in the heart of the civil establishment, as noted above.

Throughout the second half of the 18th Century only the army, a few societies and some proud Highlanders kept the Highland tradition and culture alive. Chief among these was the Highland Society of London, founded in 1777. The Disarming Act which had banned the wearing of any of the traditional Highland garb was repealed in 1782 largely through the efforts of this society. Throughout that time a slow current of revival had begun, and in the 1820’s the Highland culture exploded back onto the scene and gained unprecedented popularity. The curious thing was that the tradition that found prominence would have been almost unrecognisable to the Highlanders of 150 years before. It all began with James Macpherson. He was a poet and scholar and a member of one of the great Jacobite clans and he took a great interest in ancients Scots Celtic works. In 1760 he published Fragments of Ancient Poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language. This was followed in 1762 by Fingal and then Temora in 1763, both of which were complete epic poems. Macpherson claimed that they had all been written by a Celtic bard named Ossian in the 3rd Cen. AD. Here were Scottish epics to rival the Iliad which proved that the ancient Celtic culture had been culturally sophisticated and colourful. However their true nature and authenticity has been debated ever since.

These poems undoubtedly contain information relevant to Macpherson’s own time. Macpherson retained his Jacobite sympathies throughout his life, but he thought that Jacobitism was lost, confined to a past in which the old Celtic highland spirit lived on. The poems reflect this. They picture a Gaelic world in which the old order of the warriors and heroes, the spirit, romanticism and traditions of the people, of a pre-modern life without corruption, are all falling, never to rise again – a romantic world. Yet they depict that the spirit and tradition of those times will continue as an “assertion by the ancient civilisation of the North of the triumph of mind and spirit over the seedy world of Hanoverian commerce and imperialism.” The analogies with the current times, less than twenty years after the final fall of the Jacobite cause and the Highlands were subtle yet clear to those who knew their history and politics. Yet it was an assertion of the spirit only – the legacy of the ‘noble savage’ ancestors, and not one that impacted on the contemporary world or Britishness. Nevertheless it seems likely that Macpherson really did collect a large amount of old Gaelic poems from a wide range of places and times, and that he edited and rewrote them as he saw fit to promote his message of the nobility of the old Caledonians, their loss and the endurance of their tradition. Even though their were early claims of forgery against Macpherson, the Ossianic poems turned out to be a great success across Europe and were one of the first significant works of the Romantic movement. Mighty figures such as Goethe and Napoleon were fascinated by Ossian.

No one had a greater influence over the recreation of the Highlands that Sir Walter Scott, the famous Lowland Scottish novelist. Scott fully supported the Union. He believed that it would heal the divides between the Scottish people and offer new horizons to them, and he actively set about seeing that this was achieved. Scot had some sympathy with Jacobitism and indeed he went on to record it as representing Scottish national feeling as a whole. Yet he saw it as a romantic past, in a similar way to Macpherson – a time of primitive emotion, passion, excitement, heroics and old traditions and an allegiance gained by the seductive Stuart charisma. He described it as having been overtaken by the new rationalism and advancement of a United Britain and its government, a process through which it inevitably had to go. Scott largely ignored the radical politics of the Jacobites and the cruel suppression of them and the highlands by the Hanoverians. He confines Jacobite politics, indeed Scotland’s history as a whole, to the emotive past, with no place in the rational present or future. Scott thus stripped it of its political elements and any active role in the future, confining it to a common Scottish past which one could be proud of and yet which had no bearing on the present world. Furthermore, as stated above he advanced the Union as being able to overcome the old highland/lowland and other divides in Scotland by replacing its nationalism and its efforts in one common and rational cause. His Scotland was a “museum of history and culture, denuded of the political dynamic which must keep such culture alive and developing” and thus not relevant to the current political world.

The culmination of Scott’s beliefs and ambitions occurred in 1822. In that year King George IV visited Edinburgh, the first ever Hanoverian to set foot in Scotland. Scott made the occasion a ‘gathering of the Gael’ and the old Celtic world was everywhere to be seen. Hugh Trevor-Roper argues that Scott was “imprisoned by his fanatical Celtic friends, carried away by his own romantic Celtic fantasises…determined to forget historic Scotland, his own Lowland Scotland, altogether.” While this view may be a bit extreme, it is a good indication of what occurred during that fateful royal visit. Celtic culture, dress, tradition, music (bagpipes as opposed to the older Celtic harp) and poetry were all celebrated during the visit, as Scott amalgamated all Scots into the Highland tradition. This allowed him to further shift Scottish allegiance as one whole from a Jacobite ideology to that of the Hanoverians and the Union which he supported. The Highland Society of London, in conjunction with the cloth manufactures of Edinburgh and surrounds cashed in on the festivities by creating a range of separate clan tartans to be worn by the various clans present. This aided the restoration of the clan system that was abolished after the final Jacobite uprising, although the new form it appeared in was somewhat different to the historical reality. The work of creating clan tartans was carried on by the brothers Allen, who in the 1840’s published two books called Vestiarium Scoticum and The Costume of the Clans. These works claimed to trace and identify the different tartans of the various Scottish clans and their long history. The manufacture of clan tartan clothes and goods took off and has remained strong ever since. In fact individual tartans were only a creation of the 18th Century at the earliest. They had most likely begun in the various highland regiments in the army to distinguish them from each other and were then first introduced into the civil world as recently as the instances described above. While tartan in the Highlands does indeed stretch back to at least the 16th Century, its patterns were usually only whatever was available or which were the latest styles of the day.

The kilt too was a recent invention, as Trevor-Roper explains. It was invented by an Englishman named Thomas Rawlinson, who had business arrangements with Ian MacDonnell, chief of the MacDonnell’s of Glengarry in the 1720’s. It was also adopted by the chief himself, and soon the kilt was worn all over the Highlands, to the extent that it was banned as part of the legislation after the ’45. Nevertheless its connection with the Jacobites and this event was enough to make it the garb of choice by Scott and the others who brought the Highlands back into focus, rather than the far older plaid. Interestingly Scots Gaelic was not seen as one of the key elements of Scottishness or even of being a Highlander and its usage grew steadily less throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries. All in all the Highland past and Jacobitism was thus stripped of is political potency and retained as a memory – a past that was uniquely Scottish and applied to all Scots – Lowlanders included - and was something to be proud of yet was exactly that – the past. Current events of great concern, even to the Highlands themselves, such as the clearances of the first half of the 19th Cen., were mostly ignored by such traditionalists. The past and the nationalism on which it was built did not clash with a simultaneous allegiance to Britain.

War – especially with France, trade and conquest also helped by ‘othering’ people that were clearly not British, thus reinforcing the common bonds between Scots and English.

With Jacobitism gone, the government harnessed the significant military potential of the Highlands and Scotland in general – the Highlanders had long had a reputation as fierce and devoted warriors. Approximately one in four regimental officers in the mid-18th Cen. was a Scot, while they also took an important part in home defence – 50,000 Scottish volunteers were mobilised during the Napoleonic Wars. Abroad 25% of the Scottish male population served in a military capacity between 1792 and 1815. The highlanders in particular were dominant, with more than 48,300 of them recruited between 1756 and 1815, while during the Seven Years War one in four males were in service. Senior politicians commented on the merits of the Highland soldiers. The Secretary at War Barrington stated in 1751 that “I am for having always in our army as many Scottish soldiers as possible” and “I should choose to have and keep as many Highlanders as possible.” Some years later Pitt the Younger boasted of his achievement of drawing the highlanders into the armed services, calling them “a hardy and intrepid race of men”. English generals also commented on their prowess, James Wolfe noting during the Seven Years War that “the Highlanders are very useful serviceable soldiers, and commanded by the most manly corps of officers I ever saw.” The exploits of Scots generals and highland regiments where the traditions were maintained, with their kilts, swords, bagpipes and other ‘traditional’ highland garb and equipment, became legendary throughout the 19th Century, from the Black Watch at Waterloo to the ‘Thin Red Line’ at Balaklava and the Gordon Highlanders at Dargai.

War with the French continued on and off for over 100 years from 1689 to 1815. The English were also at war at one stage or another with all the European powers and numerous other peoples all over the world. As we have seen in most cases the Scots fought alongside the English, forming a bond with them on the battlefield. The highland soldiers began to understand their identity as being not only Scottish, which was an accomplishment in itself, but as British. The old divides between highland and lowland, Scottish and English, were being wiped away in and via the army. The Scots needed to feel that the risks they took and the blood they shed in the army and navy was for a good cause – a cause that served their interests and advanced and protected something that affected them and which they cared about. This could only be achieved by the belief that they were fighting for a united Britain whose allegiance and nationhood they upheld. They thus became firmly linked with the imperial ambitions of Britain and the glorious exploits of its army.

This connection went far beyond that as the peoples against whom they fought were clearly unlike them, thus reinforcing the common ‘Britishness’ they shared. It was a case of ‘us’ against the hostile undisciplined ‘Other’. The multitude of peoples that the British came across in their travels and empire building only served to reinforce this sense of ‘otherness’, especially those native peoples who were markedly difference to the British. Linda Colley sums it all up well when she writes that “they defined themselves against the French as they imagined them to be, superstitious, militarist, decadent and unfree. And, increasingly, as the wars went on, they defined themselves in contrast to the colonial peoples they conquered, peoples who were manifestly alien in terms of culture, religion and colour.”

The Scots shared with their neighbours a keen belief in Protestantism. Even though their main denominations were different they were both fiercely Protestant and very much anti-Catholic, or at least against the Roman and papal influence they could spread via the Catholic Church. There were great fears in the 1830s-50’s about the increasing influence of Catholicism in Britain and what some saw as the increasingly Catholic trends of the Church of England, known as Tractarianism. In 1851 Rome divided Britain into separate dioceses for its churches and this only served to heighten the fear and was seen as an unwanted outside influence. Their great enemies the French were Catholic, and were they not superstitious and unfree as a result? The growth of the empire showed God’s providential destiny for Britain as the new ‘Protestant Israel’ who’s mission was to spread the Gospel across the world. With all this occurring and the rise of the Evangelicals across Britain both Scots and English had great cause to be proud and supportive of their common Protestantism.

Scotland benefited greatly from the empire and had much influence in it – they were an active and in many ways equal partner in it. Great intellectuals such as the historian William Robertson and the philosopher David Hume were widely known and respected, while Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the nature and causes of the Wealth of Nations was the first major work on laissez-faire economics and paved the way for modern capitalism. Indeed the Scottish Enlightenment has become well known, far more so than any corresponding achievements in England. Engineers and architects such as James Watt became world famous and there were also prominent authors and poets such as Robert Burns and the aforementioned Walter Scott. Scottish universities were flourishing and produced a wealth of people trained for such professions and also a host of medical doctors. While in the 100 years from 1750-1850 England produced 500 doctors, Scotland produced 10,000. Naturally many of these went south and further abroad in the search for work.

Above all else, Scotland became an industrial and economic powerhouse. Davidson states that “far from being the ‘peripheral’ to the British economy, Scotland – or more precisely, the Lowlands – lay at its core.” After the 1750s its economy expanded at a rapid rate – overseas commerce growing by a significant 300% between 1750 and 1800. Various industries such as coal and other mining, iron, steel, textiles and linen, tobacco, engineering and cotton all flourished. Steel and iron were particularly profitable. By the 1760s over 40% of British imports of tobacco came through Scotland – more entered Glasgow than London, and other imports also grew rapidly. Glasgow was also the biggest builder and exporter of steam locomotives in the world and shipping was immense – shipbuilders along the Clyde alone produced over 70% of all British iron tonnage between 1851-70, with clients including the mighty Cunard who had many of their great ocean liners built by John Brown’s yards on the Clydebank.

Scottish towns and cities also flourished. The urban population doubled between 1750 and 1800, Glasgow became an industrial powerhouse and Edinburgh a modern, attractive city with a true blend of the Scottish past and British present. Agriculture too continued to be important, especially the keeping of sheep. As has already been noted, Scots all over the empire ran or worked for profitable businesses, farms or trades. The commercial empire thus opened up a whole new world to the Scots and invited them to become a full part of Britain, an invitation that many accepted with relish. This is not to say that the Scottish working classes and poor were well off – in most cases and times far from it, yet like their English counterparts they were proud of their nation’s achievements and on the whole seem to have supported British imperialism and culture. Were they not superior to the peasants of Europe and the natives of Africa and Asia? The rough times of the 1830s and 40s were the greatest test of this support, including the rise of the Chartist movement, but things improved somewhat from the 1850s onwards.

The Scots were also increasingly supportive of the monarchy, particularly during the reign of Queen Victoria. New technologies such as the train had greatly improved and increased the speed of travel and the Queen and her family made numerous trips to Scotland. These were popular and regal events and attracted many people. The two peoples thus had another common bond in their support for a common ruler, largely outside of the political and party sphere. Aside from the new possibilities allowed by steam transport, the other key factor in the growth in support for monarchy is what has come to be known as ‘Balmorality’. This refers to the adoption by the Hanoverians of the Highland tradition of Scotland. Alex Tyrrell describes Balmorality as “a form of Scottish identity in which the Lowlands were elided from consideration, and the monarchy took pride of place in a romantic, backward-looking vision of Scotland as a society that was characterised by clan-based hierarchical loyalties and distinctive Highland rituals.” Victoria and Albert had an increasing interest in the Highlands and they openly supported the Highland history and culture of Scotland as it was described by the likes of Scott and Macpherson. This was much loved by the populace and the monarchy became very popular in Scotland – it became in many ways ‘their’ monarchy far more than under any previous Hanoverian rulers. By playing up to the Highland tradition, the monarchy managed to largely avoid becoming involved in contemporary political problems in Scotland, they achieved the shift of the old Scottish familiarity with monarchy from the Stuarts to themselves and they helped to uphold Scottish conservatism by recalling the times when the chiefs and aristocrats had supposedly been respected and revered figures. This was aided by the restoring in a renewed form of the old clan system which had been crippled after the ’45, as noted above.

In conclusion, we have seen how the Scots were able to integrate themselves into Britain yet retain their sense of being Scots. A combination of a retained semi-independence, a tendency to stick together and a questionable yet highly popular tradition forged from a deep Highland past, gave the Scots a sense of their own national identity that went beyond being a Highlander or Lowlander. Yet this did not interfere with or prevent them from actively joining Britain. The possibilities and activities of Britain and above all the empire gave the Scots access to the world and the English allowed them this access. Their commonality with the English was reinforced through war, trade and conquest as the multitude of other peoples whom they met were othered in one way or another. This strengthened the bonds of law, religion – especially Protestantism, ideology and customs that they shared. Finally the monarchy came to be accepted in Scotland and was a unifying force for both peoples. The Scots could be both Scottish and British at the same time – it was to be one of the most successful partnerships the world has ever seen.

Famous Scots and their non Scottish connections...

Adam Smith
Philosopher, Political Scientist, Journalist, Educator, Scholar, Economist(c. 1723–1790)

Scottish social philosopher and political economist Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations and achieved the first comprehensive system of political economy.

While his exact date of birth isn’t known, Adam Smith’s baptism was recorded on June 5, 1723, in Kirkcaldy, Scotland. He attended the Burgh School, where he studied Latin, mathematics, history and writing. Smith entered the University of Glasgow when he was 14 and in 1740 went to Oxford.

In 1748, Adam Smith began giving a series of public lectures at the University of Edinburgh. Through these lectures, in 1750 he met and became lifelong friends with Scottish philosopher and economist David Hume. This relationship led to Smith's appointment to the Glasgow University faculty in 1751.

Economics of the time were dominated by the idea that a country’s wealth was best measured by its store of gold and silver. Smith proposed that a nation’s wealth should be judged not by this metric but by the total of its production and commerce—today known as gross domestic product (GDP). He also explored theories of the division of labor, an idea dating back to Plato, through which specialization would lead to a qualitative increase in productivity.

David Hume
The most important philosopher ever to write in English. He travelled extensively around Europe.

Alexander Graham Bell
On one of his trips to America, Alexander’s father discovered its healthier environment and decided to move the family there. At first, Alexander resisted, for he was establishing himself in London, but eventually relented after both his brothers had succumbed to tuberculosis. In July, 1870, the family settled in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. There, Alexander set up a workshop to continue his study of the human voice.

European politics, philosophy, science and communications were radically reoriented during the course of the “long 18th century” (1685-1815) as part of a movement referred to by its participants as the Age of Reason, or simply the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers in Britain, in France and throughout Europe questioned traditional authority and embraced the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The Enlightenment produced numerous books, essays, inventions, scientific discoveries, laws, wars and revolutions. The American and French Revolutions were directly inspired by Enlightenment ideals and respectively marked the peak of its influence and the beginning of its decline. The Enlightenment ultimately gave way to 19th-century Romanticism.

Scottish Enlightenment
The conjunction of minds, ideas, and publications in Scotland during the whole of the second half of the 18th century and extending over several decades on either side of that period. Contemporaries referred to Edinburgh as a “hotbed of genius.” Voltaire in 1762 wrote in characteristically provocative fashion that “today it is from Scotland that we get rules of taste in all the arts, from epic poetry to gardening,” and Benjamin Franklin caught the mood of the place in his Autobiography (1794): “Persons of good Sense…seldom fall into [disputation], except Lawyers, University Men, and Men of all Sorts that have been bred at Edinburgh.”

Read this article at and then wonder where the Scots of today fit in and ask yourself where are the Scots that can shape a new Scotland in the world. Ask yourself also what you are doing to help Scotland and not just yourself. Like have you tried to understand the issues around Independence have you tried to check the facts handed out by the politicians?  And if not why not? 

What have you done to suggest ways forward for Scotland given that we seem to be having issues with our economy and also our devolved powers to run education, health and our justice system.  And then why even discuss exports as it's clear we don't export nearly enough especially when the vast majority of Scots don't even think exporting to England and the rUK are considered exports at all. 

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