Century Scotland - An Introduction (II)
sub-standard housing and poor levels of health had a dramatic effect
on the national character of Scotland. Glasgow took the brunt of
the depression in the 1930s and acquired many negative stereotypes
which it is still trying desperately to lose as it maps out its
future for the 21st century. During the inter-war years Glasgow
was the corpse of an industrial city, devoid of the spirit of industry,
with slums and razor gangs becoming the enduring images of the age.
These images were perpetuated in the novel No Mean City and
countless other literary imitations over the years which focused
on Glasgow's 'hard man' character. It was a mentality which became
entrenched over the years, but which reflected the economic and
social problems which Glasgow was experiencing for much of the century.
was rife throughout Scotland for much of the century, but was again
concentrated in Glasgow. Although the country had been predominantly
Protestant since the Reformation, an influx of Irish immigrants,
drawn to the industry on Clydeside throughout the 19th and early
20th century, had established a large Catholic community. Irish
immigration actually had slowed considerably during the Depression
compared to earlier decades, however, huge levels of unemployment
and fierce competition in the labour market inflamed an already
volatile situation. Unemployed, skilled labourers from the Protestant
community complained bitterly about Irish immigrants taking 'their
jobs' and this brought ruthless discrimination in the labour market,
with Orange and Masonic Lodges often influencing the allocation
of jobs within Clydeside Industry in favour of Protestant workers.
The Church of Scotland and other Protestant institutions positively
encouraged this anti-Catholic feeling at the time, and sectarianism
was entrenched in many of Scotland's most basic institutions. Children
generally went to either Catholic or Protestant schools, they lived
in different streets and areas of the city, and the rivalry was
played out on the football field between Rangers in the west of
the city and Celtic in the east. In the early 1930s the Scottish
Protestant League became a strong political force in Glasgow, especially
amongst the skilled working classes in Govanhill, Kinning park and
other areas in the West of Glasgow. It did seem for a while that
these organisations could command a lot of political support, which
undoubtedly worried both Labour and the Tories, however, these groups
were, in general, considered to be extremist by the mainstream press
and the middle classes, and had no real political future. Sectarianism
remains a problem in 21st century Scotland, although the problem
has diminished with each new generation as the economic and social
circumstances which created such a situation becomes less relevant.
the advent of the Second World War, Scotland's economy again reverted
to its traditional base in heavy industry to
meet the demand for munitions and naval vessels- much in the same
way as it had done during the previous war. Yet again, a lack of
economic diversification was inflicted on the Scottish workforce,
which they would pay dearly for when the post-war boom had levelled
out and Clydeside's competition in Germany and Japan had recovered.
This was a time when state intervention in Scottish society became
a necessity in many people's eyes in order to halt the impending
economic crisis. This form of left wing politics was made popular
during the war by perhaps the most famous Secretary of State for
Scotland of the whole century, Tom Johnston. Wartime was well suited
to Johnston's interventionist policies and gave him the wide-ranging
powers which he required to carry them out. A former Red Clydesider
himself, Johnston knew that it was impossible to return to the bad
old days of the depression on Clydeside, especially after the scale
of the sacrifice which was required from people to win such a war.
It was, for him, the duty of the government to intervene and alleviate
problems such as poverty, poor housing and unemployment. His ideas
were aptly demonstrated when he implemented a prototype NHS on Clydeside
during the World War II. But it was when Labour swept to power after
the war, winning an incredible 37 seats in Scotland alone, that
the political trend was set which would change the face of Scotland
over the next 50 years.
state retirement pensions and unemployment benefit shortly followed
Labours victory, with the crowning achievement in the form
of the NHS coming in 1948. These state benefits and schemes were
vital to the survival of Scotland at the time and they plotted a
new course for the economy, which was closely mirrored in the industrial
north of England, in which the country became increasingly dependent
on state intervention to prop up its struggling industrial sector.
This process was intensified by the spate of post-war nationalisation
projects- coal in 1947, the railways and electricity in 1948, with
iron and steel in 1949.
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