Social impact of the Reformation

The Scottish Church placed great importance on education. This helped to increase the number of schools in Scotland. Literacy rates improved.

Andrew Melville had a significant impact on education in Scotland. Having travelled and been educated in Europe, he returned to Scotland with new ideas. As principle of the University of Glasgow from 1574 to 1580, he increased the scope of the curriculum to cover languages, science, philosophy and divinity. This resulted in a significant increase in the number of students. He went on to have similar impact on the universities of St Andrews and Aberdeen.

The Reformation movement had greatly criticised the Catholic Church for hoarding riches and extorting the poor. The Protestant Church on the other hand was determined to aid those in poverty. However, poor relief was not always forthcoming.

Church finances often did not allow for effective poor relief in the second half of the 16th century. Meanwhile, there were restrictions as to who could receive help. Only the needy were eligible and could only collect relief in their own parish. Hence, it was not a great source of income for the poor.

The reformers aimed at an improvement of manners to create a godly society. Protestantism had localised the focus of religious activity to the Parish Kirk. The Kirk Session was established to act as an instrument of social control. In Scotland, 60 per cent of all cases before the session were about sex. Errant fathers had to recognise their illegitimate children, adultery was punished and promiscuity revealed. Discipline was tight, but the Kirk's surveillance of everyday life was generally accepted.