By PETER F. ANSON
A sign of the times was the motion by Lord Mansfield in the House of Lords a few weeks ago in favour of the appointment of an Under Secretary of State for Scotland. He " thought it important that Scotland should have a Minister of her own in the House of Lords," and he advocated the reform " as an antidote to discontent with the present treatment of Scottish problems and to the Scottish Home Rule Movement," which seems to be causing a certain nervousness at Westminster.
The Secretary of State for Scotland himself has been making a number of public speeches lately with reference to the problems which affect this nation. About a month or two ago he informed a meeting of Edinburgh business men that " Scotland is on the march again," but very wisely he qualified his optimistic remarks by admitting quite frankly that " our nation suffers from anaemia" owing to the continual drainage of her manhood, and that he is doing his best to " arrest the traffic," and to bring hack the progressive skill of our people to build a new country worthy of the skill and traditions of the old.
Mrs. Walter Elliot endorsed her husband's statements in a public speech made soon afterwards in Glasgow. She urged Scotsmen to stay in their own country and to stop criticising it. She boldly stated that she was " going to play .her part in the new revolution " just as her grandfather had done in the great industrial revolution of the last century.
This " on the march again," described by Mr. Elliot, is largely a march in one direction—towards the already congested industrial areas of the Central Lowlands and to England. The reduction in unemployment has not been equally distributed. The situation in the Highlands and Islands, and in the east coast ports dependent on the herring industry, is worse. The only alternative to being on the " dole " is for a man to "go south."
At a meeting of the Industrial Committee of the County of Lanarkshire, Sir W. M. Marshall stated recently that in the last three years Scotland had lost to England more than 30,000 workers. About 1,000 workers a month were going south. In Lanarkshire the number of miners had decreased from 52,000 to 24,000. The proportion of those out of work for more than a year in Scotland was 37 per cent., or over a third of the total. The total percentage for Great Britain was 23.7.
Dictator of the Western Isles ?
At the meeting of the Scottish Business Clubs already mentioned, it was resolved to petition the Government to appoint an " all-powerful Commissioner for the Western Isles," one of the most " depressed " of all the districts in Scotland. It would be interesting to see how the islanders, who are the most independent of men, would react to the rule of a dictator.
Mr. Compton Mackenzie also addressed this meeting. Unless the economic reconstruction of the Highlands were tackled within the next two years, he said, it would be too late. Everyone seems to agree about this although the time limit may not be correct. Revitalisation of the Highlands presents a special problem. Will it really be a good thing to set up factories and to develop hydro-electric power schemes, so as to divert the concentration of industry from the Central Lowlands? Or is the only hope for the vast areas of uninhabited or depopulated land in the north and northwest to be found in agriculture. the revival of fishing and the increase in tourist traffic?
Many think that the future of Highland agriculture lies with stock-raising rather than with arable farming for production over and above local requirements. But this would involve immediate steps for the improvement of grazing land, as well as
improved transport and marketing facilities. Counterblasting the many books recently published on the economic decay of Scot land is Mr. C. A. Oakley's Scottish Industry Today (The Moray Press, 7s. 6d.), makes interesting reading.
Mr. Oakley begins with an enthusiastic description of the " enterprise, intelligence, and high craftsmanship " of the Aberdonians, then passes on to investigate every branch of industrial development in the north-east and the Highlands. He tries not to be pessimistic about the herring fisheries, and hopes that " new uses for herring in home-consumption " may be discovered if foreign markets remain closed. He is doubtful if even the expansion of hydroelectric power schemes can do much for the Highlands, and very wisely suggests that it may be better to try to develop small industries.
The author is able to make the reader understand how few people realise or ask how the half-million inhabitants of Edin burgh earn their livings. " for they cannot be supported on the earnings of lawyers, teachers, hotel keepers, or even novelists."
As it happens Edinburgh is far more of an industrial town than most Scotsmen, includ
ing the inhabitants of the city itself, realise. Factory chimneys are largely responsible for much of the smoke of Auld Reekie.
Edinburgh has experienced far less depression than has either Glasgow or Dun dee in recent years, owing to the fact that
it has so many industries, which Mr. Oakley considers are going to develop more and more in the next few years he says, quite rightly, that Edinburgh citizens, like those of London, always seem to be rather ashamed of their industries, and do their best to keep them well out of sight!
Rationalisation of Industries
It is a startling fact to be told that onethird of the total population of Scotland is to be found within ten miles of Glasgow's Royal Exchange; Glasgow itself being the second largest town in Great Britain. One's brain reels before the detailed survey of all the multifarious activities of industry and big business in Glasgow and Lanarkshire which takes up nearly a hundred pages of this hook. All is not well with Lanarkshire, for the coalfields are being exhausted, and the iron output is now only six per cent. of the whole amount in Great Britain. The steel industry has been largely " rationalised," i.e., many big centres closed down, but it seems to be extremely prosperous all the same, if statistics and figures mean anything. " Rationalisation " has involved the closing down of several of the Clyde shipbuilding yards. Mr. Oakley regrets the " keen nationalism " of certain foreign nations who have embarked on shipbuilding for themselves instead of giving work to the Clyde as formerly. It seems curious that there should he only one firm in Scotland engaged in the production of motor-cars. It is interesting to learn that the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society is one of the largest employers of labour in the country. The co-operative movement has developed far more extensively than in England. But in spite of the author's general optimism he concludes his survey of modern industrial Scotland with these words: " Unless new industries are established in Glasgow and Lanarkshire this district will have a permanent core of unemployment of several tens of thousands." Yet he is confident that, given time, things will right themselves, and that Glasgow itself may yet be " on the eve of another era of progress—progress under the direction of her younger generations, and carried out by herself." But how much will this help Scotland as a whole?