Siol nan Gaidheal
The Englishing of Scotland

"The Englishing of Scotland"
GEORGE ROSIE
Fourth Lecture Chaired by Gordon Wilson
Annual National Conference
Dunoon, September 1989

May I begin with a short preamble? Some might call it a disclaimer.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Scottish National Party. In fact I have never been a member of any political party. Politically I am a bit of a hopeless case. So, to that extent, what I have to say comes from no particular party-political direction.

Secondly, my wife and I spent ten of the happiest years of our lives in England. In London, to be precise. Two of our kids were born there, and two of them live there now. Many of our friends are English, and I defer to no one in my admiration for English people. So what I have to say is not informed in any way and I insist on this - with animosity.

But last year Les Wilson of Scottish Television and I spent a few weeks making a television programme which went out under the title of 'The Englishing of Scotland' - a title which, incidentally, was conjured up by Controller of Programmes Gus Macdonald. When the idea of trying to get some idea of how much of Scotland was being run by non-Scots was first mooted I was a shade reluctant. It seemed a vaguely unpleasant thing to do. Not quite racist, but perhaps open to charges of cultural paranoia. Ammunition which could be used against a useful minority. That kind of misgiving.

But then when I started doing the research I moved rapidly from being reluctant, to being fascinated, then amazed, then appalled. Because it seemed that almost every institution into which I was peering universities, scientific research institutions, charities, colleges, theatre managements, art galleries, new towns, municipal bodies, health boards etc - was being run by people who were born, brought up and educated furth of Scotland. My misgivings disappeared. This was clearly a syndrome which was widespread, growing fast, and needed to be looked into. I also realised that this was an issue which went straight to the heart of Scotland's ambivalent constitutional position. The essence of what the writer Ian Jack called Scotland's role as "a nearly country'. On the one hand it seemed absurd churlish even - to complain about one's fellow Britons taking jobs and buying land and property in their own country. But on the other hand it seemed equally absurd that so many important Scottish institutions should be run by non-Scots, by people brought up in a different education and culture.

And when the programme was duly broadcast - in August 1988 - it seemed to strike chords. Judging by the reaction in the Scottish press, the gut notion that much of the Scottish establishment was now run largely by non-Scots was widely held. And not just by nationalists. For weeks the correspondence columns of the newspapers were peppered with letters commenting on the syndrome. The phrase 'Englishing' quickly slipped into the language.

Now, it is not my intention today to go back over the same ground, and to draw up the same list of organisations and institutions which are run by non-Scots. Rather I would like to explore the reasons for the truly remarkable extent to which Scots have lost their grip on their own establishment. And to pose the question whether or not it really matters?

In my view there are two dimensions or aspects to the Englishing process. One is, of course, the large and growing number of English people who are moving into Scotland, and making their careers and lives here. But the other part of the process - which has been going on for much longer - is the Anglicisation of the Scottish aristocracy and gentry. This is something which we have taken for granted, but which is still worth a look.

Ever since 1603 when James the Sixth packed his saddle bags and moved the Scottish Court - lock, stock and sycophant - down to London, the Scottish elites have taken their cue from London. The process was given a powerful twist in 1707 with the Union of the Parliaments, and continued all through the 18th and 19th centuries as Scotland's 'Noble' families joined the Anglican Church, sent their children to English public schools and universities, married their English counterparts, and used their Scottish estates to fund their social life in London.

This has had a profound anglicising effect on the influential upper reaches of Scottish society. To some extent the Scottish upper classes have become nominal Scots, Scots in name only. They are Scots who speak with English accents - or at least that variety of English accent which has become the language of power and influence. They are educated in English public schools like Eton College, Winchester and Harrow or English-style public schools like Fettes, Glenalmond and Gordonstoun which happen to be in Scotland. They prefer the universities of Oxford and Cambridge to the universities of Scotland.

They also have a distinct tendency to marry their counterparts south of the border, who, very often inherit their land and property. Which is one of the reasons so much of rural and highland Scotland is owned from addresses in the better-heeled parts of the Home Counties and the West Country. In fact the extent to which the Scottish aristocracy and gentry became an Anglo-Scottish 'ascendancy' has never really been identified. By education and upbringing they are almost totally anglicised. Anyone wanting to understand the social anthropology of upper class Scotland and the Scottish establishment needs three tools - Whitaker's Almanack, Who's Who, and Who's Who in Scotland.

Which reveals that there are, for example, nine Scottish Dukes; Abercorn, Argyll, Atholl, Buccleuch, Fife, Hamilton, Montrose, Roxburghe and Sutherland. Six of them were educated at Eton, and only two in Scotland - The Duke of Argyll at Glenalmond and the Duke of Fife at Gordonstoun. And these schools while in Scotland have nothing to do with the Scottish educational system.

Take, as another example, the sixteen 'Knights' of the Thistle, Scotland's highest order of chivalry. The pattern is the same;
Lord Mac lean - Camford School
Earl of Dalhousie - Eton and Oxford
Lord Clydesmuir - Charterhouse and Cambridge
Viscount Muirshiel - Winchester and Cambridge
Cameron of Lochiel - Harrow and Oxford
The Earl of Selkirk - Eton and Oxford
The Duke of Buccleuch - Eton and Oxford
The Earl of Elgin - Eton and Oxford
Lord Home - Eton and Oxford
Lord MacLehose - Rugby and Oxford
Earl of Wemyss and March - Eton and Oxford
The Earl of Airlie - Eton
Sir lain Tennant - Eton and Cambridge

Only three of the Thistle Knights - the industrialist Lord McFadzean, the High Court Judge Lord Cameron, and the Eurocrat Lord Thomson of Monifieth - were educated inside the Scottish system.

Or, at a less exalted level, there are the Queen's Lords Lieutenant in Scotland. There are 31 of them, who apparently represent the Queen in various parts of Scotland. I did a quick check on the first 12 listed in Whitaker's Almanack, and found that only two Lt Col W B Swan of Berwickshire and James McPherson of Banffshire - went to Scottish schools. The other ten went to English public schools.

Interestingly, seven of the Lords Lieutenant were also members of the Queen's Bodyguard in Scotland. There are 32 of those gents, almost all of whom came from the same anglicised, social milieu. Their gold stick - The Earl of Stair - is a product of Eton and Sandhurst. They have four "Captains' - Sir John Gilmour who went to Eton and Cambridge, The Duke of Buccleuch (Eton and Oxford), Lord Clydesmuir (Charterhouse and Cambridge) and Lord Home of The Hirsel (Eton and Oxford). Of the Bodyguard's five 'Lieutenants' - Lord Madcan, Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple, The Earl of Wemyss and March and the Earl of Airlie - were educated at Camford, Ampleforth, and Eton College respectively. And so on it goes, all of this may seem a statement of the obvious.

Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that any of these citizens are any the less sincere in their enthusiasm for Scotland than anybody in this room. I really am not. Nor that they have not worked hard, long and effectively for the good of Scotland as they see it. But I am suggesting that by their background and education they have taken on board a set of cultural assumptions that are essentially different to those of the huge majority of the Scottish people whose children are struggling to win Highers - not A-levels in under-funded state - not cash-flush private - schools. And who hope to get university places in the Scottish Universities - not Oxbridge - despite the fact that many of the most useful and prestigious Faculties are overflowing with youngsters from south of the border. At the Dick Vet in Edinburgh, for example, around 80% of the students have come from outside of Scotland.

So the Anglicisation of the Scottish upper classes - the social elites if you like - is a syndrome with which we have been living for almost four hundred years. It is now more or less complete. That stratum of Scottish society is now almost totally anglicised. Episcopalian in religion, southward looking, and politically Conservative. And as their politics seem to have been rejected by about 80% of the Scottish people, the Anglo-Scottish ascendancy are beginning to look increasingly at odds with the rest of the population.

But they are important. Like it or not this social elite has a way of emerging as Chairmen and Conveners, Councillors and Commissioners, and committee members and they tend, naturally enough I suppose, to appoint like-minded and like-educated chaps to the top jobs in Scotland. Thus the elites perpetuate themselves. This, I suggest, is one of the reasons why so much of the Scots establishment is run by Anglos and Anglo-Scots.

But a much more modern phenomenon is the Anglicisation of Scotland's commercial, industrial, cultural and academic elites. It was that syndrome which Les Wilson and I tried to investigate last year. What we found was that the majority of Scotland's universities, technical colleges, national art galleries and museums, arts-funding bodies, theatre companies, dance companies, scientific research institutions were being funded by non Scots.

What we did not have the time to investigate was whether the same thing was happening in Scottish finance, commerce, industry, local government and charitable establishments. My hunch - which I suspect is fairly well founded - is that it is. So what is going on? Just why are so many of the key positions in Scottish life falling to non Scots? In my view there are a number of different strands to this process - if a process can be said to have strands.

STRAND ONE

As Neal Ascherson observed in the course of our Programme, it is not the traditional Scottish institutions which are going English, but the panoply of cultural, educational and scientific bureaucracies that were set up in the post-war period; organisations like the Arts Council, The Nature Conservancy Council, The Countryside Commission, the Further Education Colleges. In this sector we must also include the Universities. There is no mystery about this. The reasons are plain enough. When a senior job in one of these British organisations falls vacant, it is advertised on a UK-wide basis, usually through the pages of the 'National' (i.e. English) and specialised press. The Scottish papers tend not to get a look in. But if the Scots make up only 10% of the UK population, and if a job is advertised on a UK basis, there is likely to be around ten times as many suitably qualified English people than there are suitably qualified Scots. The demography of the situation is stark. And that, I would suggest, rather than any Anglo-British conspiracy, is the reason so much of the academic/cultural/scientific establishment in Scotland is manned by non-Scots.

STRAND TWO

In the past thirty or so years there has been a distinct tendency for the ownership - and therefore the management - of Scottish companies to slip into English and/or foreign hands. Anderson Strathclyde, DCL and Gleneagles Hotels, are just a few recent examples of Scottish sell-outs. Now not only does that mean that the top jobs in those companies slip across the border - where they are eventually filled by English people - it usually (although not always) means that the company's legal business, accounting business, advertising business, public relations business, graphic design business, printing business etc., goes south too.

Which, in turn, weakens the Scottish-based professions and makes them - and especially the advertising agencies and the public relations firms - a prey to takeover themselves. It also reduces the amount of high value commercial business washing around Scotland. So that any young lawyer who wants some valuable commercial experience would be well advised to head south. In Edinburgh or Glasgow he or she is likely to be paid ten thousand a year, whereas in the City of London the big firms are offering over twenty thousand for starters. And having gone south, will he/she ever come back? Some do, certainly. But many don't. So we tend to lose our best and brightest people.

There is a price to be paid for everything. The very success of the Scottish Development Agency's drive for 'inward investment' over the past 15 or so years has also helped reduce a large slice of the Scottish economy to branch factory status. The management of the 'Sunrise industries' of electronics remains firmly in the hands of the Americans, Japanese or English.

The pattern is for the foreign executives to move in, set up the operation with the help of Government money, hand it over to locals to run. Which is fine, and, God knows the jobs are welcome (although the quality of most of these jobs is sometimes very poor).

But if the market goes sour, these self-same American, Japanese, and English companies have a way of pulling the plug on their branch factories north of the Border, leaving the Scottish workforce high and dry. We saw this done by Wang at Stirling only a few weeks ago.

Nor is the creation of a branch factory economy in Scotland exclusive to capitalism. When the British Government nationalised the coalmines, the railways, the steel works and the shipyards, the cream of the jobs were whisked out of Scotland. Most of them surprise, surprise - went to London, although Newcastle did get to run British Shipbuilders. In fact nationalisation, that great panacea of the British left, probably did more to strip Scotland of industrial and commercial power than anything else.

The point is - talent tends to follow power. So that when ownership and management leaves Scotland, the best people tend to follow. And the middle-ranking jobs that are left behind tend to be filled by head office in England by people from head office in England. And so the prowess of Anglicisation deepens, and reaches into the vitals of Scotland's commerce and industry.

STRAND THREE

We are assured by the big (English-based) estate agents and land pedlars whose job it is to know these things that the market for sporting estates in Scotland is "very strong indeed'. In fact for every nice little 20,000 acre estate with a handy stock of stags and some decent fishing, there are a few dozen eager purchasers brandishing their chequebooks. Most of them and here's the point - are City-of-London traders, anxious to transform themselves into Highland or Border Lairds. Or what they believe to be Highland or Border Lairds.

This aspect of Scottish life and times was well debated here at your Conference last week, and I don't want to cover the same ground. But that too is part of the Englishing of Scotland. Let me give you an example. Have a look at the Knoydart Estate north of Mallaig. It comprises 50,000 stunningly beautiful acres. A few years ago it was bought - for about 1 million, by a Surrey-based property dealer called Philip Rhodes. Rhodes then got all his money back and then some by chopping up the estate and selling it off in large lumps to English and foreign buyers - many of them operating through companies registered in tax bolt-holes like the Dutch Antilles, or the Bahamas, or the Channel Islands or Liechtenstein. These are phantom Lairds. We know who the legal owners are. But the beneficial owners - the real owners - there is absolutely no way of finding out, although the smart money says that most of them are English businessmen keeping their heads down. Rhodes also, however, sold every house cottage and croft on the Knoydart. And almost every one of those went to people from south of the Border. At the prices they were fetching - say 40,000 - 50,000 there was no way the poorly-paid local crofters, fishermen and road workers could buy them. The result is that the community of Knoydart is now almost entirely English.

Nice, able, hard-working folk for the most part, who have certainly re-invigorated the village of Inverie and the surrounding peninsula. But a far cry from the Gaelic-speaking, half Catholic, half Presbyterian community it was a generation ago.

This strand of the anglicising process is being helped along enormously by the improvement in road and air communications. Every country house which comes on the market is now advertised as being within, say, 'thirty minutes drive' from Edinburgh, Glasgow or even Inverness Airport. It is now perfectly feasible for some City of London commodity broker to leave his flat in Dockland on Friday afternoon, and within three or four hours be fishing on the Findhorn, or admiring the view of the Grampians from his Georgian house in the Mearns. And in these days of fax machines, car phones, and inter-linked computers, he need never be out of touch with the markets.

STRAND FOUR

And perhaps the most powerful strand of all in the anglicising process. We are now seeing what amounts to a steady flood of people who can only be described as refugees from the overheated, overcrowded, and overpriced South of England. There are no figures available, but it is plain that thousands of people are selling up in London and the South East, realising their quarter-of-a-million or whatever for their semi-detached in Clapham or Guildford, and heading North.

Armed with that kind of cash, they can take their pick. And any estate agent will tell you that the choicest properties, the best slices of urban Scotland, are being snapped up by well-heeled incomers from the south. Not that this is a syndrome which affects only Scotland. The people of places like Norfolk, the Cotswolds and Wales suffer even more grievously from this huge cash imbalance generated by the property boom.

Now we're talking about holiday homes here. We're not talking about people transforming a ruckle of stanes into a handy little house for use a few weeks in the year. We're talking about something much more permanent, much more dynamic, much more likely to change our communities. Maybe for the better. But they will certainly change things.

We're talking about enterprising and energetic people taking early retirement, and moving from the south of England into the more amiable parts of Scotland. Many of them are looking for businesses to buy post offices, shops, guest houses, hotels, craft workshops, restaurants, cafes, bookshops etc. Sometimes it seems that the Scottish Tourist industry would collapse if the hard-working English folk who run it packed up and went home.

My wife and I spent a week stravaiging around the north west of Scotland this summer and were quite startled by the extent of this syndrome. Every hotel we stayed in - with the exception of Ian Noble's establishment at Eilean Airman on Skye - was either owned or run by English people. And, I should say, for the most part very well run.

Now does it matter? Is this not what Scotland needs? What community does not benefit from an influx of resourceful, well-funded and enterprising people, who speak the language, are fond of the country and are determined to make the most of their new situation?

In a way their very energy and talent is the problem. Because it is a well-observed phenomenon that the incomers from the south are the very ones who tend to end up running the Community Councils, the charities, the ad hoc pressure groups, the lobbying committees and the objectors. This is partly due, I'm sure, to the fact that so many of them are well educated, energetic and have time on their hands.

But there is another reason. And that reason is the reluctance - failure is perhaps a better word - of the Scots - and especially rural Scots - to stand up for themselves and argue for what they want in a calm, sensible, patient way. There is nothing new in this. Comparing the Scots to the English in 1845, the great Cromarty-born essayist Hugh Miller came to the conclusion that -
"The Scottish character seems by no means so favourably constituted for working out the problem of civil liberty as that of the English. It possesses in a much less degree that innate spirit of Independence which, in asserting a proper position for itself sets consequences of a civil and economic cast at defiance. In the courage that meets an enemy face to face in the field...no people in the world excel the Scotch. But in the political courage manifested in the subordinate species of warfare that has to be maintained, not with enemies that assail from without, but with class interests which encroach from within, they stand by no means so high; they are calculating, cautious, timid. The man ready - in the one sort of quarrel - to lay down his life, is not at all prepared in the other to sacrifice his means of living....".

To illustrate his point. Miller sketched the ever-topical issue of access to the countryside. In the 1840s the highland and lowland grandees of Scotland were doing their level best to shut their estates off from the public. By and large they were getting away with it. This business infuriated Miller, and he ascribed it to the timidity and moral feebleness of the Scots.

"There are in Scotland few of the pleasant styles and sequestered pathways open to the public, which form in England one of the most pleasing features of the agricultural provinces. The Scotch people, in those rural districts in which land is of most value, find themselves shut out of their country....from encroachments of this character the independent spirit of the English people has preserved them. The right of old pathways has been jealously maintained. An Englishman would imperil his livelihood any day in behalf of a style that had existed in the times of his grandfather..."

Now some people may regard Miller's comparison as odious. I'm not so sure. I think he had spotted a weakness which is still with us, a kind of civil timidity. A shiftiness. An awkwardness in the face of authority, a reluctance to argue a case steadily, patiently and at all levels. A tendency to lose the place.

Which, I suspect, Is why so many of the arguments - over school boards, the new bypass, the runway extension, the unwanted housing scheme, the need for more school books, the hospital closure or whatever are hi-jacked by English incomers. They know better how to do it. It is in their culture. They are less intimidated by authority than the Scots - even middle class Scots.

The point I am making, I suppose, is this. There is virtually nothing that Scotland can do to prevent the flow of English people moving across the Border. Even if the Scottish National Party won the argument the day after tomorrow, and Scotland became Independent with Europe, the English, as members of the European Community would be entitled to settle wherever they like in Scotland.

And they would. Because over the 300 years of the Union an intricate network of friends and relations has been established between the two countries. And because England is becoming increasingly unpleasant. And because Scotland is an astonishingly beautiful and varied little country.

So even an Independent Scotland would have to live side by side with the large, powerful and beguiling culture and economy of England.

So if Scotland is to survive the 'Englishing' process, then the Scots are going to have to overcome that civic gaucheness, and stop being politically tongue-tied. Which is not an argument for an outburst of 'radical', anti-Thatcher ranting. That just won't wash.

Let me remind you of one of the great, but largely forgotten events of the 19th century Scottish history the formation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. That event was a direct challenge to the overwhelming power of the British state. Arguably it was only rebellion in 19th century Britain that actually succeeded. It removed the dead hand of the anglicised aristocracy and the Anglo-British state from the Scottish Church something the Church of England has not yet managed to achieve.

It was something of a political miracle. But the men who worked that political miracle were not wild-eyed zealots. They were no moorland ranters. They were patient, hard-headed, practical men, who knew how power worked, how to raise large sums of money, how to involve people in their cause, and how to confront authority in a polite, civilised, but utterly determined way.

If Scotland is to survive the Englishing of Scotland we need to relearn those lessons. And abandon what Hugh Miller called "..that cheap and frugal patriotism that achieves little and costs nothing..."


Return to Demographics Return to Index


On-Line Copyright © Siol nan Gaidheal 1995 - 2014, All Rights Reserved