Who owns the culture and people?


The play suggests that the capitalist system cannot see true value in the land. It presents a similar lack of appreciation of the culture and people.

In the song ‘High Industry’, Loch and Sellar sneer at Highland culture as barbarous customs. They cannot see any worth in a culture except in terms of money:

Loch and Sellar
What value a culture that cannot be sold
The price of a culture is counted in gold.

Phosphate and Crask (like Andy McChuckemup and Texas Jim later) have appropriated, or taken ownership of, aspects of Scottish culture. But they don’t relate to it as a living way of life. Instead they see the people as quaint and only appreciate the Highlands as expressed through paintings - objects that society has decided are of worth. The examples given such as Landseer’s Monarch of the Glen, Stay at Bay and other paintings are not part of the indigenous culture. They are views of the Highlands created by outsiders.


There is an implicit attitude expressed by characters such as Phosphate and Crask that their money gives them a hold over the people. Their ghillie, McPherson, is described sneeringly by both Crask and Phosphate as a peasant whilst McPherson’s daughter Mary is working in [Crask’s] house in Edinburgh.

Later, when bartering a price with Andy McChuckemup, Lord Vat argues that your Bantu – I mean your Highlander – is a dignified sort of chap […] From time immemorial, they have proved excellent servants. This shows a lack of distinction when it comes to colonised people – in the Highlands, or in Africa, where Bantu-speaking people come from.

Lord Selkirk thinks nothing of sending several boatloads of sturdy Highlanders out to the colonies to risk their lives.

To the wealthy, people can be treated like property.

Towards the end Phosphate and Crask's turn, they voice the clearest expression of the advantage ownership and money gives them. As they turn their guns on the audience, threatening to clear the low and servile race from the land.

We've cleared the bens
We’ve cleared the glens
And we can do it once again -
We've got the brass
We've got the class
We've got the law
We need no more -
We’ll show you we’re the ruling class.