Scotland before the war

Emigrants from the Hebrides boarding the 'Matagama' at Glasgow docks on their way to Canada
Emigrants on their way to Canada

Before Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, life in Scotland was changing greatly. Many Scots had emigrated from the Central Belt to the New World in search of new opportunities. The population of the Highlands had been much reduced.

For those who remained, education was now provided for all until the age of 13 and medical knowledge was greatly improving. Transport opportunities were increasing with the coming of the railways. Housing was improving in some areas of towns and cities.

During and after the Industrial Revolution, Scotland’s population altered dramatically. The population increased but also there was a movement of people from rural areas to towns and cities, especially to those of the Lowlands and the west. People went in search of employment in the key Scottish industries of coal mining, shipbuilding and engineering. Their output competed with the best in the world.

Highland troops in kilts pack their kits in World War One
Highland troops pack their kits

With urbanisation came issues such as living and working conditions. These became major concerns in Scottish politics. The Labour movement was growing steadily, although the Liberal Party held the most influence at the outbreak of war. There was a great desire for land reform in Scotland.

The British Army was limited in size before the war. Scottish soldiers had been integral part of the army in previous centuries and were distinct, in terms of dress and tradition (they wore kilts and carried bagpipes into war).