Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 12: Scots Wha Hae

The third member of our Scottish literary trio that did so much to influence world literature was Robert Louis Stevenson. He was born in 1850 son to well-known (and influential) lighthouse engineer Thomas Stevenson. His early education was designed to fit him for his father's profession of engineer; later this was changed to law, but his many travels and shipboard adventures led him into the writing career for which so many countless generations have thanked him. What child has not identified with young Jim Hawkins or not been terrified by Captain Long John Silver from "Treasure Island"? What would our lives have been without access to such thrilling tales as "The Master of Ballantrae" and "Kidnapped"? How much have we shivered at and contemplated the moral implications of that wonderful story of multiple personalities "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"?

Brilliant historian Thomas Carlisle was also a Scot. Born in Ecclefechan in the Lowlands, avid reader and schoolmaster, Carlisle had an influence on later historians that was enormous. It certainly impressed upon the literary world the need for scrupulous care and meticulous scholarship if histories were to be credible. He also made history eminently readable. Establishing his position among the top living writers with "The French Revolution: A History." Carlisle remains a giant of world literature.

However, literary men can do only so much to influence the course of events. The vicissitudes of economics and their consequent effects upon political affairs usually have a much greater effect upon the minds and hearts of men. The Scottish Reform Bill of 1832 followed a similar one that had finally been passed in England after years of social protest and bloody riots.

By the creation of eight new burghs, and an increase in the number of Scottish Members in the House of Commons to 53, the Bill gave the new population centers representation in Parliament. Overnight, the number of voting electors in Edinburgh went from 39 to over 9,000. The political complexion of M. P.'s changed too, from overwhelmingly Tory to overwhelmingly Liberal, a tradition that was to last for a century, eventually losing its place to Labour in the affections of the Scottish worker.

The strength of the Scottish Liberal Party lay mainly in the growing urban middle classes that had received the vote in the 1832 Reform Act. Liberals supported free trade and the non-conformist chapels, while the Scottish Tories, now out of power, were the landlords and farmers, rapidly decreasing in strength and numbers. The influence of the Scottish M.P.'s at Westminster can be shown by the results of the General Election that followed the death of William IV in 1837. The Tories carried England and Wales with a majority of 20 seats, but the Scottish and Irish M.P.'s were overwhelmingly Liberal and thus helped constitute the majority party in Parliament. Thus, a party was in power that was heedful of the need for further political reform.

In the meantime, in Scotland as in Wales, one industrial area of the country had come to dominate all others. The central lowland belt, with rich coal and iron ore deposits, good harbors and early established industries attracted most of Scotland's heavy industry which began to rapidly replace the older traditional cotton mills and weaving sheds. Heavy machinery dislodged such fine, creative craftsmen as the Paisley weavers who had so lovingly produced the world-famous cashmere shawl. As in Wales, in contrast to Ireland, the industrial region of Scotland provided an outlet for the disposed, landless peasants. Conditions in the mines and factories may have been grim indeed, but they at least provided a place to work, thus avoiding the need to emigrate.

The frenzied rush into industrialization reached its peak during the years 1896-1913, when the Scottish economy was booming. Scottish shipyards were turning out products in record numbers, equaling over one third of all British output and matching those of Germany in the race to furnish merchant ships, ocean liners and the huge new battleships of the Dreadnaught class. Shipbuilding created jobs in so many other areas including the mines, the factories, the iron and steel works and the engineering shops, just to name a few of its ancillaries. The trouble was, of course, that so much of the industry depended upon imported ores for the making of steel and the continued need for foreign orders to sell its products, including heavy machinery.

In India, clever entrepreneurs, with an adequate supply of Scottish models, if not manufacturing heavy machinery of their own, began to match Scottish numbers in the output of their machines. The Jute industry of Dundee found itself in serious trouble. Tremendous industrial progress in the United States (with its vast wealth of natural resources) and in Germany (with its great pool of highly talented, motivated work force and skillful, inventive leadership) soon overshadowed the conservative, hide-bound unimaginative Scottish industries. This process was exacerbated when king coal began to be replaced by oil as a source of fuel for the World's navies and factories. Severe repercussions followed in the industrial belts of central Scotland and South Wales. World War I did nothing but hasten this process.

Chapter 13: The High Road to Independence