Scottish Culture, The People Of Scotland
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.
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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.
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 own.
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 worshippers.
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
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
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.