October 24, 2017

1950. Scottish Nationalism on the Rise

Support for Home Rule in Scotland
A man displays posters advocating home rule in Scotland soon after Scottish students removed the Stone of Scone from London, January 23, 1951 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS London

February 19, 1950

It might be said that this land of Scotland is to the British Isles what New England is to the United States—plus a wee bit of whiskey on its breath.

Not that the Scots are immoral with their whiskey, for nowhere do temperance societies flourish with more vehemence. But whiskey is a major dollar-earner and a sterling product of which Scotsmen are proud. And far from being parsimonious, on the subject of Scotch whiskey any American walking into an Edinburgh pub will find the Scot generous to a fault, if you know what I mean. Anyway, it's one way of finding out what people are thinking about the election.

Next Thursday some 3 million, 370 thousand Scotsmen and women of various persuasion will go to the polls. They will send 71 members of parliament to London, and will tell you to a man that they should be sending them to a Scottish parliament in the traditional capital of Edinburgh.

In the 1945 election, the swing to Labour was felt even in this Highland country. The Unionist—or conservative—party elected 27 MPs. The Socialists put in twelve more for a total of 39 members. There were also five Liberals, one Independent, plus Parliament's most likable Communist member, Willie Gallagher.

But like Wales and Ireland, there is a theme that runs through Scottish politics that the visitor finds a little startling. It is the Scottish nationalism, which expresses itself in organizations which want complete independence from England with a Scot foreign minister to deal with her—to more mild groups who hope for a Scottish ministry in Edinburgh where Scots can handle their own affairs.

Generally most Scots resent being governed from 300 miles away in London. And during this election some feelings have run high. In Glasgow, the Minister of State for Scotland was greeted by extremists with signs calling him Scotland's Quisling.

This sense of independence is illustrated by a story that used to be told during the dark days of 1940. In Glasgow they were saying, "If England has to give in, it will be a long war."

How is the election going to go in Caledonia?

I could find no Scotsman who was sure. Both the Labour and Unionist parties are claiming victory. It is certain that Communist Willie Gallagher is going to have a fight to keep his parliamentary seat. In talking with people in their homes and in the pubs, I found many who said they were switching from Labour to Conservative.

But there is little apathy in the election temperament of the people. I walked innocently into a butcher shop in a working class neighborhood in Edinburgh the other day. My recording machine was on—I escaped with my life.

This is Bill Downs in London. I return you now to Howard Smith.