Modern Problems Of An Ancient Nation
BY PETER F. ANSON
IT is quite comer-ton to discover that one's English friends, even those who have been to Scotland for a holiday, visualise it exclusively as a wild mountain land of purple heather, romantic lochs and glens, Edinburgh rock, shortbread, and tartans—altogether something rather quaint and pretty, mentally classified with Ye Olde Tea Roome, and sham an tkiut eiss.
It always the sentimental side of Scotland which they dwell on, for few of them know any other.
Certain Scottish novelists in recent years have tried to dispel this illusion—Grassic Gibbon in Grey Granite; the authors of that grim chronicle of Glasgow gangster life, entitled No Mean City; Neil Gunn in his stories of the brutal hardness of the daily lives of Caithness fishermen.
But the average Englishman still prefers to think of Scotland as a Land of Romance, and knows little of the problems which confront its inhabitants in their daily struggle with life today. Miss Ceeily Hamilton's new book Modern Scotland (Dent. 7s. 6d.) should do much good since it gives a remarkably true and faithful account of the problems of the nation at the present lime.
The Nationalist Movement; the depopulation of the Highlands; the slum problem; the Irish colony; the fishing industry; the effort to preserve the Gaelic language; the theatre; the passing of the strict sabbatical tradition — these are some of the many subjects dealt with by this exceptionally acute and discerning observer.
Contrasts and Extremes
In the first instance Miss Hamilton seems to put her finger on what is the main difference between Scotland and England— that the former is essentially a land of contrasts and extremes in every department of life. Not only in the formation of the country itself, but in the temper and outlook of its people, " who are more vehement when roused, more logical, and therefore less given to compromise than their neighbours south of the Border."
Very significant is her statement that modern Scotland is a "country of Nationalism inspired by a Scottish past, and of Internationalism inspired by a Russian present." Few people in England seem to realise how deeply Communism has become rooted in the industrial districts of Scotland, and where " red is often redder than elsewhere."
Social Gulfs Then again there is the violent contrast of the social conditions, far greater than exists in England, for Scotland is both more feudal and yet more democratic than its southern neighbour.
Think of the nightmare horror of the Scottish slums, with their grim barracks of overcrowded tenements. and the vast uninhabited deserts of the Highlands.
In England there are many industrial areas scattered all over the country: in Scotland there is really only one such area of a comparatively small size, with Clyde valley as its centre.
In this small densely inhabited area is "developing a new species of Scot," for into the "racial melting pot " of those mines, factories, and shipyards have been thrown "all sorts and conditions of human raw material; not only the Saxon from the Border. and the Gael from the North, but the continental immigrant in search of a Wage. and the Irishman — above all the Irishman! "
The Problem of the Irishman
It is always dangerous to start talking about the Irish problem in Scotland, for it is a problem. Miss Hamilton's attitude towards the Scot-Irish is influenced to a certain extent by her views on birth control. It is obvious that she can but regard the large families of the Scoto-Irish as mere economic wastefulness, and a more than doubtful blessing to the country.
Still she makes it more than clear that, in the first instance, the Scots were entirely lesponsible for encouraging Irish immigration, since it provided them with cheap labour, when the necessary demand was not to be met with in Scotland itself.
Likewise she reminds her readers that during the seventeenth century Scotsmen dispossessed the native Irish in Ulster to a far greater degree than the Irish have since dispossessed Scotsmen in their own country—if such can really be proved? And when one recalls how the Scottish industrial magnates treated their poor Irish employees in the last century, it would seem that Time is merely having its revenge!
Through Irish Eyes
Miss Hamilton could have stressed the point, often forgotten, that those Irish labourers who migrated to Scotland during the nineteenth century found themselves in a country, which in their eyes, was merely an extension of England.
They were too proud of their own nationality and of their own religioq to abandon either. So they clung on to both with fierce tenacity — very much like the average Scot does when he migrates to England!
But there is not such a vast difference between Irish Catholicism as there is between Scottish and English Protestantism— for after all it is not considered illogical for the British sovereign to be an Anglican south of the Tweed and a Presbyterian north of it! And it was mainly due to their Catholicism that the Irish immigrants did not become absorbed into the ordinary life of the nation. They have remained apart, like Jews in a ghetto, and even today when the majority of the so-called " Irish" are of Scottish birth and speech, they are still regarded by Scotsmen as even more alien than the Jews.
Only within recent years have they been able to enjoy the same educational advantages as the rest of Scotsmen; a large proportion of whom bitterly resent it.
Miss Hamilton is confident that sooner or later Mr. de Valera will put a stop to any further emigration from Ireland, but at the moment such a policy would be impracticable.
It will be interesting to see what is the result in Scotland, and if it will lead to a more speedy absorption of the exisiting Scoto-Irish element into the corporate life of the nation.
Meanwhile, since she believes that " all varieties of the animal creation are a nuisance when they breed too rapidly" Miss Hamilton cannot help viewing with alarm the prolific breeding among the ScotIrish, since it merely involves so much extra burden to an already overburdened municipality and state, by demanding an increased housing accommodation and financial support for these swarms of largely unemployed humanity, who are no more use in the world than a plague of rabbits or other " vermin "l What is even more exasperating, this particular species of " vermin " demand separate schools for their offspring, whose religion forbids them to be brought up with the rest of juvenile Scotland!
Scotland of the Catholic
Nevertheless Miss Hamilton can write most sympathetically about other manifes tations of Catholic life in Scotland, to which She devotes a whole chapter, including four pages to Carfin and its famous grotto. It is rather surprising to find among the excellent illustrations, photographs of a High Mass on a Dunfermline football ground, and an Arab-looking White Father shepherding his flock of sheep on a Roxburghshire hillside. It cer tainly proves what startling contrasts of life can be found in modern Scotland!
Miss Hamilton comes to the conclusion that the whole problem of antagontsm be tween Catholics and Protestants in Scotland is " largely a matter of race," and that the Protestant Scot "has no such distrust of the native Catholic community " which has always existed in certain parts of the Highlands and in North-eastern counties. But she qualifies this statement, quite rightly, by reminding us that " although the Knox tradition may have lost its first vigour, it is by no means dead, and an integral part of the Knox tradition is a fear and suspicion of Rome." And those of us who live in Scotland can vouch for the truth of this opinion.
Highland Depopulation Miss Hamilton distinguishes between " voluntary " and " involuntary " depopulation in the Highlands. She feels that the modern Gael, unlike his ancestors, is inevitably drawn to the life of the city owing to a change in his whole outlook, habits, and the surrounding conditions.
It is only by leaving his native glen that he can rise in the world, obtain a regular wage, and satisfy his natural ambition. Hence the constant drift to the cities, and even further to England or abroad.
On the other hand she describes with full detail the "involuntary " depopulations which have been going on ever since the first Highland Clearances in the seventeenth cenrury, and which have left such a mark on the country. She wisely offers no solution to this problem of Highland depopulation, and bids Englishmen remember what happened to the late Lord LeverhuIme when he tried to assist the crofters in Harris.
[Those who listened to the interesting discussion on " Power in the Highlands," which was broadcast on April 22. will have gathered how desperately urgent it is to stop the depopulation before it is too late. But meanwhile there exists an extreme diversity of opinion as to what are the best means to adopt to check the evil.] The Nationalist Movement One of the best chapters in this book is devoted to the Scottish Nationalist Movement about which most Englishmen have only the haziest ideas.
Miss Hamilton insists that this movement must mot be regarded as an isolated phenomena. purely local in its origins, but merely another manifestation of that same impulse which is stirring other races today. One might say that Miss Hamilton does riot draw sufficient attention to the "International movement in Scotland, i.e., the alarming growth of Communism in the industrial areas,
Only a few days ago the Organising Secretary of the Scottish National Party informed me that owing to the DOW strongly entrenched " International " propaganda in the mining districts of the Clyde valley and central Lowlands and Fife, " Nationalism " failed to rouse any great enthusiasm, and that here the S.N.P. had so far been unable to gather many supporters.
Miss Hamilton explains the Nationalist programme in detail. and points out that although its tone is definitely pro-Scottish" it is not "anti-English "—the object of its authors' dislike is the connection with England — the partnership, and not the partner." But as she shrewdly remarks, there must be a " villain in the piece," and in this instance it must be England, for " resentment—sense of injury—adds force to any agitation "; hence promoters of any movement must discover some "convenient evildoer whose misdeeds will rouse the indignant enthusiasm of their followers."
We learn that there are varying degrees and shades of Scottish Nationalism, and none of the leaders in the movement seem to have come to any definite agreement so far what form of government they would adopt in Scotland if it became a completely independent nation. They range from a Soviet Republic to a Monarchy! And there are some who would favour a union with Ireland.
Left Wing Leaders
So far as one can make out the greater number of the leaders of the Nationalist Movement. like most of the younger "intellectuals" in Scotland are more or less Left Wing in their views, ranging from bright scarlet to pale rose pink.
Evidence of this can be had from the views expressed on the troubles in Spain. The majority of Nationalists, like most other Scotsmen, seem almost unanimous in their violent abuse of Franco and in their strong support of the Valencia Government.
Miss Hamilton wonders if even a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh would be able to cope with the still existent problems of a population, half of which would still cluster on Clydesidc and the regions around, with the Highland glens still silent and empty. And there would still be the " problem of that swarming Irish population"! She closes this chapter with a happily chosen quotation from Eric Linklater on the evils of " bigness " and the unmanageable size of the "modem brontosaurian state of nearly fifty million inhabitants" into which Scotland has become absorbed.
Despite the erection of new Government buildings in Edinburgh. the foundationstone of which was laid recently by the Duke of Gloucester, and the returning of ancient Scottish historical documents from London, there seems little likelihood of the Nationalists obtaining the immediate fulfilment of their ideals. As Mr. Ivor Brown has remarked in the Observer: "The Scottish Nationalists are far from being the Scottish nation, which, though scolded by its patriots, continues to look at life with one eye on the rich South—and possibly with two."
The influence of Presbyterianism is discussed in another chapter. The author feels that in rural and small town districts the Kirk still wields a greater influence than does the Established Church in England. She also notes how modern Presbyterianism has become far more " liturgical " in its worship, and how the chief Christian seasons are now observed, when until quite recently the followers of Knox regarded them as superstitious survivals of Roman error.
Many other aspects of Scottish life are discussed by Miss Hamilton, shrewdly, critically, and nearly always sympathetically. She ends her book with these words: " With all due deference to the literary moderns of Scotland (who know their country far better than I do), 1 find it hard to believe that a people which is so eagerly interested in itself and its country that it will read about them from year's end to year's end -I find it hard to believe that a people so conscious of its own life is in any danger of losing its racial identity. And since uniformity has always been a deadening influence, and humanity has been best served by a diversity of gifts, that is a conclusion which affords me almost as much satisfaction as if I had been born a Scot! "