A recently-published book by retired Walkerburn educationist Dr Colin Russell, current chair of the International Congress of Educational Leadership Societies, seeks to portray Scotland’s most distinguished era in a broader frame.
Dr Russell argues that the Scottish Enlightenment is too often seen as a narrow, elitist and Edinburgh-based phenomenon, dominated by a few great philosophers and scholars, such as David Hume and Adam Smith, and by the Edinburgh literati.
In contrast, he argues that men and women of extraordinary genius were part of a general growth of a learned nation in which there were others of great achievement and attainment.
At the same time there was a backcloth of a changing Scotland with the Union of 1707 and the demise of Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobite rebellions. Generally, this has been held to have encouraged stability and growth, which led to the acceptance of the Hanoverians and a settled will of the people. However, Dr Russell contends that even from within there came warnings that the nation of Scotland was threatened by the dissolution of the Scottish state.
The unlikely figure of Sir Walter Scott recognised that Scotland was entering an identity crisis. Scott’s solution was to shore up the nation with new images of highland dress and bagpipes, thereby creating a romantic Scotland of hill and glen that the world would want to see.
In conclusion, Dr Russell argues that this inner strength of perceived nationhood has long struggled with an equally strong feeling of political impotence. Bearing in mind the establishment of devolved government and the close result of the recent referendum, Dr Russell closes with a look at what the future may bring.
The book is available at bookshops across the Borders, major Waterstone’s outlets and on Amazon.