Tuesday, 26 August 2003

It's the culture, stupid

One of the most interesting talks at the Book Festival last week was given by Dr Carol Craig, author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence. Many Scottish politicians now accept that we are woefully undersupplied with entrepreneurs and that the cause needs to be found. Dr Craig believes that Scotland remains strongly influenced by the country’s Calvinist past – with both positive and negative results. Benefits include an enduring respect for education, a love of logic and principles and an individual sense of mission. But there is a downside that partly explains the book's listing of what Craig sees as “the most important barriers to the development of Scottish self-confidence" and hence entrepreneurship:
A strong tendency to criticise and focus on what is wrong with something rather than to praise, appreciate or be positive.

An overwhelming sense that people’s behaviour can be judged right or wrong, worthwhile or useless.

A prevailing notion that if anyone makes a mistake or does anything wrong, no excuses will be permitted in their defence and that they should be blamed and criticised for their misdemeanours.

An underdeveloped sense of privacy: everything you do in life could be the focus of others’ criticism and censure.

A general belief that you are not OK just as you are and that you must compete and prove your worth.

A strong sense of egalitarian values which stress that no one is more important than anyone else and a culture where people are routinely put down if they are seen to get above themselves.

A prevailing belief that it is better if people do not like themselves too much.

A strong sense that if you question Scottish values or step outside conventional behaviour or opinions your very right to call yourself “Scottish” may be under threat.

Dr Craig tells us that: "We must cease the endless quest for Scottishness and renounce our previous obsession with Scottish identity.... In place of the quest for Scottish identity we need a quest for individual identity. We need to encourage individual Scots to go forth and be themselves."

At most, only twenty percent of Scotland's problems are amenable to political solutions, we were told at the talk. The rest depends on a national culture that needs to be more individualistic. Perhaps everything is not the fault of the politicians.