Stands Scotland where it did?
Alas, poor country,--
Almost afraid to know itself.
THE period between the two World Wars, gloomy enough in the history of the United Kingdom, forms one of the darkest chapters in the story of Scotland. Bled white in the war of 1914-1918, which by the chance of fate exposed Scottish regiments to disproportionately heavy losses in disastrous battles like Loos, Scottish manhood lost much of its former vigor and accepted with apathy a rapid national decline to which economic disintegration and the centralizing policy of the British Government were the main contributory factors. It is a truism, demonstrable by a mass of statistics, that in the economic contraction after the First World War Scotland and Wales were the chief sufferers. The London area, which today houses a quarter of the population of Britain, was the first concern of every government in power. Everything was done to sustain the heart; the limbs were sacrificed. And Scotland was the remotest limb. If a war industry had to be scrapped, a Scottish industry came first on the list. The Scottish railways were absorbed by the two leading English companies. Most of the Scottish banks suffered a similar truncation of their independence. Worse still was the fate of the Scottish shopkeepers who saw their towns invaded by the multiple stores from the south of England. Today, Princes Street in Edinburgh, once the pride of Scotland, presents the spectacle of a provincial English street in which the solid Scottish shops have been largely replaced by the garish uniformity of Woolworths, Boots and the Fifty Shilling Tailors.
This transfer of the central control of industry and commerce to the south not only impoverished the Scottish population and increased unemployment; it was also an almost mortal blow to Scottish energy and to Scottish initiative. It affected every class of home Scot; it contracted the business of great institutions like the Scottish Bar. Moreover, the evils of contraction were aggravated by the gradual
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