The Library of Innerpeffray sits in rural Perthshire close to Crieff. It is one of the oldest lending libraries in the world and was established by Henry Drummond in around 1680.
I visited it on a snowy day in April and spent an hour or two with its curators discussing Duns Scots and Robert Burns, David Hume and Lord Henry Kames.
In the 18th century Scotland had much stronger literacy rates than England. This was in part due to the establishment of village schools , inspired by John Knox. Knox’s vision was that all Scots should be able to read the bible.
Inside the cover of a leather-bound tome of Kames that I was handed was a statement from the author that the quotations within it had been translated, so that all, especially those of the female sex, could both read and understand them.
Looking at the lending registers that are kept within the library, it’s amazing to see that erudite volumes were being devoured by men of the field, craftsmen even someone who described himself as “one who watches the water”.
While Johnson mocked the primitive nature of the Scottish Highlands in his road to the Western Isles, he noted that many of what he thought peasants , were highly knowledgeable. Sadly, these rural communities were mainly destroyed by the Highland Clearances that followed the Jacobite rebellions.
Scotland swapped its rural communities for the slums of Edinburgh and Glasgow. It swapped its erudition for a culture that we make fun of to this day.
But sitting in the library of Innerpeffray, with the books and the curators, and my 17 year old enrapt, I could understand why Scottish people are so proud of their past and why the Scottish Nationalist Party is becoming such a force in the United Kingdom.
I have no difficulty with the admirable Nicola Sturgeon teaching me a thing or two. I’d like to apologise for destroying her culture in the 18th and early 19th century.
I am sorry that the National Labour Party has played its cards so badly and left it’s good Scottish politicians including McClymont, Begg, Brown and Darling in danger of losing their seats.
I would have no difficulty with a Labour SNP coalition that brought some Scottish erudition and good sense to the table. Indeed I would much rather have Nicola Sturgeon as my next prime minister than Cameron, Clegg or Milliband.
It’s time we reappraised our attitude to the Scots (by we – I mean my fellow Englishmen and women). They have their own parliament and their own tax raising powers, they are becoming experienced politicians with their own ways and means.
We have pledged a union with them and they have renewed that Union within the past six months. It is time that we learned that we are not their masters, they are our equals. We may have pretended to be the China to their Tibet but in truth is is Sturgeon and not the English power-brokers who holds the cards.
Sitting in the Library of Innerpeffray was a wake up call for the Pension Plowman.