Poverty

Highlands and Islands

People living in the Highlands were often in abject poverty:

  • The land lacked fertility and was difficult to grow crops on.
  • The population was increasing causing competition for land, jobs and housing.
  • There was no alternative to working on the land.
  • The failure of fishing, linen and kelp industries led to high unemployment in the Highlands, especially after World War One.
  • The potato blight of 1847 spread to Scotland and left thousands of Highlanders close to starvation.
  • Many people wanted to leave the country to improve the quality of their life.

There was also the great distress in the Highlands caused by the Clearances. The crofters were forced off their land to make way for sheep and later on, deer. These new sources of income for landowners required few employees.

The crofters couldn’t turn to working on kelp or fishing due to their decline. For many Highlanders emigration was the only solution.

Southern Uplands

Demand for agricultural produce fell due to competition from abroad. New farming methods and increased technology meant less people were needed for farm work and no alternative work in industry existed for those living there.

Central Belt

Living conditions were poor in the slums of the industrial towns and cities. Working conditions were also far from ideal - people worked long hours and often in dangerous environments. Wages were also low. Industries such as coal-mining and ship-building were hit by a lack of demand for long periods between 1830 and 1930.