Scotland – a most enlightened nation


I had the great pleasure of spending yesterday morning in the Library of Innerpeffray. This libaray was build around 1680 by Henry Drummond, a landowner who had fought alongside Montrose for the covenanters and had made money from trade and the land.

He invested his money in books and in knowledge, which he shared with those who he knew by lending his books against a contract that they be returned.

This operation has been going-on for over 300 years  and shows no sign of stopping. The library has recently taken possession of a gift of 200 first editions of Scottish authors including a 1487 edition of Duns Scotus’ works .printed in Europe , bound in oak and looking pristine.

For a bibliophile, this is a treasure house, set in a field in rural Perthshire three miles outside Crieff. I am glad that this blog is not better read, for were many more visitors to pass through the library’s door, it – and its curators – would not enjoy its current serenity.

I had not understood how literate the Scots have been , relative to us cocky Sassenachs. In the 16th and 17th centuries , there was a massive expansion in primary education throughout Scotland, driven by John Knox’s fervour to engage each person with the bible by getting them to read it themselves. Literacy rates throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were consistently higher than in England.

But with the act of union, the Scottish traders became British traders and took on the world , bringing back the wealth that enabled scholarship to thrive. The great universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews rivalled any in Europe.

It was this heady mix of a highly educated population and a business savvy middle class that created the Scottish Enlightenment- giving us Hume and Blair and Kames.

I was given a first edition of a text by Kames in the foreword of which, the noble Lord stated that he had translated into English foreign quotations for the benefit of all his readers, especially those of the female sex,

Reading the register of borrowers at the time they included ordinary labourers and wonderfully “one who watched the water”.  Knowledge was not for the elite in  Innerpeffray, it was for everyone.

Drummond’s family was stripped of its title after the 1715 and 1745 rebellions , the land around Crieff was cleared and has yet to recover its population to this day. I have been today walking in the hills past homesteads that have seen no occupants these 250 years.

The shameful clearances that denuded the highlands of people, put paid to much of the learning in the local schools. Scotland swapped enlightenment for city living, the slums of Glasgow and Edinburgh for the crofts of Rannoch and Tummel

Which might explain why the Scots are a little aggrieved to this day of their self-important neighbour. They are the Tibet to our China , England is rightly seen as a cultural imperialist. Dr Johnson’s wrote his Road to the Western Isles, ignorant of the wealth of erudition within Scotland or the depth of knowledge of the Scottish people. His insulting view of the Scottish people lives on to this day in English (humour).

I am glad that the Scottish Nationalist Party has risen from its knees to play a part in British politics and suspect that Nicola Sturgeon has a lot to teach us about how to Govern. I am not a Scot, but I am a lover of the Scots and I wish them well.

I am sorry that the Scottish Labour Party that numbers among them , the best political economists in the country (Brown, Darling, Begg, McClymont to name but four) , has been so let down by the National Labour Party. I would have no difficulty were Labour to find a way of working with the Scottish National Party and Governing our country with an Edinburgh focus.

Heresy as this may sound, it is about time that we down south, learnt a thing of two from these enlightened Scots!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Scotland – a most enlightened nation

  1. George Kirrin says:

    I think you’re stretching the idea of “political economists” while in the land of Adam Smith, Henry.

    Brown and McClymont studied history, not political economy (as it’s still known at Smith’s alma mater). Brown’s prudence, for example, has arguably cost UK dearly.

    Begg studied history and politics, not political economics, while Darling studied law.

  2. Dear Henry
    Enlightening blog but to describe Gordon Brown as one of our best political economists is too much. Going from paying off the National Debt in 2003/2004 to the reduced deficit of £90bn now is quite an achievement – a classic “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” if ever there was one.
    Previously, I had this recurring nightmare of who was the UK’s worst chancellor?
    In my student days when studying “A” level economics, we were told that Winston Churchill was the worst because he put UP taxes in a depression. Since then, I have struggled between Norman Lamont who sang in the bath after putting up interest rates to, 12% then 15% (and nasty rumour has it, was going to raise them to 18%!) or Gordon (That’s why are in the mess we’re in) Brown.
    Brown has it – by a length.

  3. Kevin Lyon says:


    As a Scot – an internationalist – rather than nationalist I enjoyed reading your comments which are fair and balanced. Being state educated ( my school being 301/310 in the league tables ) did not prevent me going to Glasgow University ( receiving a grant and fee’s free ). Since then I have gone on to form several companies and have paid collectively well over a million in taxes ( EE PAYE, ER NI, Corporation etc ) over the last five years.

    I’m extremely grateful to the investment the state has made in my education and I’m only too happy to contribute to help a new generation. Scotland and Scottish people are proud of their educational system which is different to the rest of the UK. We tend to specialise later than other parts of the UK – even at University.

    Innovation and creativity is the inter- connectivity of disparate sciences and arts. Perhaps this is why inventions and progressive thoughts such as collective investments through to dolly the sheep and higgs bososn are Scottish in origin.

    So what’s my point – we need to think our way out of the current mess and curtail our basic instinct to “slash and burn” which means we will all have a poorer future.

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