Scots are the product of an age-old ethnic blend. The original
Picts mixed with successive invaders, Celts, Romans, Anglo-Saxons,
Scandinavians, Normans - and each group has left its mark on
the national culture. In later times, many Irish migrated to
the industrial areas in the Central Lowlands. Some immigration
from eastern and southern Europe also took place. The Scots
cherish the differences that set them apart from the English,
and cling tenaciously to the distinctions that also differentiate
them region by region, their customs, dialects and the Gaelic
language. I, for example, consider myself to be a " Fifer,
" having been born and bred in that Kingdom. But even more
than that, I consider myself to be a " Dyker, " having
been raised in the fishing village of Cellardyke.
is perhaps more by their differences than similarities that
the Scots can be defined, but for all that, they are immensely
proud of their nation and its institutions.
can be dour but equally they can flash with inspiration. Most
all Scots delight in self-deprecating humour and continue to
honour their tradition of hospitality. Generally speaking most
foreign tourists to Scotland make the mistake of moving their
location every day, and thus denying themselves the opportunity
to really get to know some of the locals.
have long been noted for their frugality, which they have exaggerated
and turned into jokes about themselves. But perhaps the best-known
feature of Scottish society through the ages is that of the
clans--groups of families sharing a common ancestor and the
same name. Many Scots still feel strong kinship with their clan,
and many Scottish traditions have their origins in that system.
Scots are a gregarious people and enjoy company, whether this
be in a small group in the local pub, or at a Ceilidh ( which
means literally, a " visit ".) And Scots love to visit
with people from other countries - if you'll give the time.
Gaelic, the old Celtic tongue of the Scots, is now spoken
by little more than 75,000 people, most of them in the Highlands
and the Hebrides. By their acceptance and use of the English
translation of the Bible, the Scottish reformers of the 16th
century in effect adopted English as the national language.
But as any singer of "Auld Lang Syne" knows, the Scots
have made the English they speak peculiarly their own. They
have retained a high percentage of vocabulary derived from Old
Norse and Anglo-Saxon, and they speak with a lilt. Indeed, "
Scots " is an actual " language " all on its
Scottish Presbyterians have been meeting in kirk sessions
ever since John Knox thundered his fiery sermons from the pulpit
of St. Giles in the 1560's. Today, their denomination is the
official, as well as the largest, church in the country. The
Church of Scotland, as it is called, claims the adherence of
nearly half the population. Roman Catholics, particularly strong
in the western Highlands, make up the second-largest group of
To the Scots, education is extremely important, and they
start sending their children to school at 5 years of age. At
12, Scottish youngsters generally graduate from elementary to
secondary schools, where they must continue until they are 16.
Higher education may be pursued at eight universities and dozens
of other specialized institutions. Four of the Scottish universities,
those of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, are
more than 400 years old.
The Scottish Economy
three-fourths of Scotland is used for agriculture--crop cultivation
and animal husbandry. But Scotland is still deficient in food
production and must rely on imports. Manufacturing has long
been the mainstay of its economy. With the exploitation of the
North Sea natural gas and oil deposits, the extractive industries
have entered a new phase and become of major importance.
industries, such as steelmaking and ship-building, have been
the backbone of the manufacturing sector since the Industrial
Revolution. Glasgow is still the principal marine engineering
center in the United Kingdom. But foreign competition has forced
diversification of industries and spurred a movement into high
technology and consumer goods. Electronics and computers are
among the notable new products from Scottish plants. Scotch
tweed and textiles are still in demand, and the nation's world-famous
whiskey distilleries continue to flourish.
used to be Scotland's chief mineral resource, but since the
1970's, coal has been eclipsed by oil. Most of Britain's offshore
oil fields are in Scottish waters, and Aberdeen has evolved
into head-quarters of the new oil industry. Large refineries
have been established at Grangemouth and Dundee.
half of the country's farmland, especially in the Highlands
and Southern Uplands, is used for grazing sheep and cattle.
Scotland is famous for its breeds of cattle, Aberdeen-Angus,
Galloway, and others, and the peculiar Scottish blackface sheep
produce the wool for its tweeds. The major crops raised on the
other half of the farmland, the best of which is in the Central
Lowlands, are barley, oats, wheat, hay, and potatoes.
stocks and the closing of some traditional fishing grounds in
the North Atlantic have created difficulties for many Scottish
fishermen. Fishing, however, is still a major industry. Crabs
and lobsters are taken in coastal waters, and cod, haddock,
and other white fish as far away as Greenland and the White
Sea. My own hometown of Anstruther used to be one of the largest
Herring ports in Europe. Those days are long gone now - just
as the Herring themselves disappeared one day from the fishing
banks in the North Sea.
Scottish Sports, Culture And The Arts
is renowned as the home of golf, but " soccer " is
without doubt the national passion, and England the favourite
opponent. Other popular sports include hill-walking, skiing,
rugby, shinty, lawn-bowling, fishing, darts and curling. There
are also great annual Highland Games held throughout the country
during the summer months. In addition, almost every village
in Scotland hosts an annual Fair or Fete.
offers an excellent program of the performing arts. The Edinburgh
Festival and Fringe is the largest celebration of its kind in
the world, and there are literally hundreds of smaller festivals.
The key to enjoying Scotland is to stay flexible and keep your
eyes open for local events. Many wonderful Jumble Sales, Craft
and Antique Fairs, Folk Nights, Ceilidhs and the like will only
be advertised in the most local of newspapers. Or simply by
a single billboard and a few posters.
range of Music and Song emanating from Scotland is truly amazing.
There is something for everybody, ranging from Opera, Gaelic
Song, Bagpipes, Country, Accordion, Fiddle, Contemporary Folk,
and so on. Traditional music has experienced a renaissance with
influences from all over the world. With an estimated four Scots,
such as myself, living abroad, for every one living in the homeland,
this influence is not surprising. Bands like Macumba combine
bagpipes with Brazilian percussion to wonderful effect. Groups
such as Runrig and Wolfestone are famous for their brand of
electric folk, whilst individuals such as Rod Stewart and Sheena
Easton sing to the world in a Scottish accent. Scottish Bands
and performers constantly tour the world, and may in fact be
more readily seen abroad than at home.
dance, on offer are the various delights of Scottish Country
Dancing, Highland and Ceilidh Dancing, Ballet and Contemporary
Dance. The Scottish Film industry is booming, following the
success of Local Hero and other movies. And of course Scotland
was the setting for movies such as Braveheart and Rob Roy.
only a minority of Scots speak Gaelic, the language has been
boosted by increased funding for Gaelic Radio and Television
Programmes. Scottish Literature continues to be extremely strong,
with no shortage of respected authors and poets following in
the long literate tradition of Scotland.