Wednesday, 5 February 2003

A question of confidence

There is a fascinating article in today's Glasgow Herald. Dr Carol Craig has written a book about Scotland's "damaging crisis of confidence":
There is a paradox at the heart of what it means to be Scottish. Our lives are shaped by two contradictory pressures pulling us in opposite directions. Together, they account for much of what I believe to be a national crisis of confidence. The first is the pressure to achieve; to make something of yourself and prove your worth. It's an impetus which has fuelled many fine Scottish achievements and led to the Scots' reputation as one of the most ambitious, hard-working, and innovative people in the world.

The second pressure is to know your place and not get above yourself ...... Strangers to Scotland soon learn that one of the biggest gaffes is to indulge in self-praise.

I have no doubt that Dr Craig is spot-on and also that her book will create a great deal of controversy:
It is not difficult to see where this levelling impulse springs from. The Kirk, Robert Burns, and the Labour movement have all nourished the notion that it's wrong for people to think they're better than others
The consequences of Scotland's egalitarianism are dire:
No wonder a recent health report, based on focus groups, concludes that many of Scotland's burgeoning health and social problems are due to a widespread lack of ambition throughout Scottish life and a dependency culture.
The problem is much wider than politics, but to break the dependency culture I believe that it is necessary for the Scottish parliament to have total responsibility for raising all of its own expenditure, sending an agreed amount to London for common UK services.

Dr Craig writes about the "national question":

I believe Scotland's relationship with England has undoubtedly injured Scottish self-esteem. But I do not believe it is the most important factor. Nor do I accept that constitutional change, on its own, would dramatically boost Scottish self-confidence.

We must start being honest with ourselves. We must accept that many of our own attitudes are self-defeating. Then, and only then, will it be possible to lift the dead hand of the past and unblock all that dammed - or should that be damned? - Scottish potential.

I couldn't agree more. There is more of this in tomorrow's paper. I look forward to that and to reading the book.