Explores the culture of Scotland, one of Europe's oldest nations. Bringing together recent writings on Scotland, the book offers a rich mix of social history, cultural observation and a sharp sense of politics. It begins by looking at Scotland in the 18th century. Without resident king or parliament, the nation was effectively a republic and made a unique contribution to European culture. David Hume, Adam Smith and their contemporaries dominated the intellectual scene, while "Ossian", Burns, Scott and Byron launched literary Romanticism. Yet from about 1830, the "republic" began to wither. The railways took Scottish writers to London, brought English MPs to Scottish constituencies and Queen Victoria to Balmoral. Scottish identity became submerged in "British" identity and many began to serve a colonial empire they now regarded as their own. By the 1920s, however, Scotland experienced renewed stirrings of political nationalism. By the 1960s the work of MacDiarmid and Grassic Gibbon had become models for younger Scottish writers seeking "identity" as the British empire clattered to extinction.
In 1979, the Labour government offered Scots the chance to vote for an assembly with "devolved" powers, but decreed that a simple majority was insufficient. This traumatic failure to achieve even limited Home Rule led many writers, musicians, artists and historians to declare cultural independence. A second Scottish "republic" came into existence. From his vantage point in the "second republic", the author examines the historical processes and moments that have shaped modern Scotland.
Introduction - culture, republic and carnival. Part 1 The Scottish republic: Scotland in the 18th century; Scotch myths - the patriot, the manager and the rebel; rewriting Scottish history - the Arnold history of Scotland; Burns, Scott and the French Revolution; Scott and Goethe - romanticism and classicism; Tartanry. Part 2 Unionized Scotland: social centuries; Thomas Campbell's liberalism; Samuel Smiles - the unexpurgated version; "a mania for self-reliance" - Grassic Gibbon's "Scots Quair"; Miss Jean Brodie and the Kaledonian klan; labour and Scotland. Part 3 Modern literati: Edwin Muir; Naomi Mitchison; Morganmania; Paul Edwards; Karl Miller; Kenneth White's orient; Alasdair Gray's "Lanark"; devolving English literature; Jackie Kay's "adoption papers". Part 4 Revolving culture: losing the traverse?; workers' culture - popular culture - defining our terms; art for a new Scotland?.