Self-Reliance

Entrepreneurial Scots Culture Eroded by State Dependency

Massive change in attitude took just decades

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In 1926 my father, aged 19, left an Aberdeenshire farm to be a rubber planter in Malaya. Apart from a year back home after enduring a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, he didn't return to live in Scotland until he was almost 70. He was dismayed by what he found. It seemed to him that the Scots were no longer the hard-working, energetic and self-reliant people they had been in his youth. Instead they were given to self-pity and the belief that the world owed them a living and the state would provide.

There were exceptions, of course. The oil-rich north-east was not short of people starting their own businesses. But in general he believed that the Scots were sunk in a dependency culture, and this depressed and irritated him. He was out of sympathy with modern Scotland, though he was quite typical of his own era, when the Protestant work ethic ruled and the judgment "he's done well for himself" was an expression of approval