The History of England

from Celts through 20th century


Category: Land + People

Scotland due to its physical features which influence the development of the economy is divided into 3 parts: the Scottish Highlands which occupy the vast, complicated mountain area in the northern part of the country, the Southern Uplands which cover the smaller and lower hill area in the south and the Central Lowlands occupying the wide rift valley which separates the other two areas. The first two areas are sparsely populated, while the Central Lowlands occupying about 15 per cent of Scotland’s territory contain about 80 per cent of its people. The Central Lowlands best situated for population settlement are the industrial heart of Scotland, while the Glasgow region is the dominating focus of industrial activity. Here the opening up of the Central Coalfield and the growth of Glasgow as a port provided a strong industrial base and, by the end of the nineteenth century, the area was one of the major industrial centres of Britain, with important coal, steel, shipbuilding and engineering industries. The twentieth century has seen increasing problems in these industries and there has been a movement of population from the old established areas to new centres.

Mining reached its peak at the beginning of the twentieth century when the collieries of the lowlands employed one hundred and fifty thousand men and produced forty-two million tonnes of coal. Today the labour force is twenty thousand and production is less than eight million tonnes. The effects of this decline have been most severe in the Central Coalfield. The loss of jobs has been enormous. In recent years opencast sites have contributed heavily to the Scottish output. The main complex is situated on the north side of the Forth estuary opposite Grangemouth.

The iron industry grew up on the coalfield to the south-east of Glasgow where coking coal and iron ore occurred. These iron ores were quickly exhausted and the industry came to depend on ores imported through Glasgow. At present steelmaking is concentrated at two large integrated plants situated at Motherwell to the south-east of Glasgow. However, the future of these works is no longer certain.

Scottish steel has long been used chiefly by the heavy industries of the Glasgow area, where shipbuilding has been paramount. For a time Clydeside was the most famous shipbuilding district in the world. Shipyards extended along both banks of the Clyde estuary for about 30 km.

Clydeside also benefited by having pioneered the building of ships. Foreign competition, which drove Britain from first to fourth place among shipbuilding nations, seriously affected Clydeside. In the 1970s, further beset by the economic crisis of capitalism, Clydeside lost its place as the leading shipbuilding area in Britain.

Under the pressure of the working class the shipbuilding and ship repairing industries were nationalized. Some shipyards maintained employment by transferring workers to the construction of equipment for North Sea oil production, such as oil drilling platforms.

Glasgow (715,600) is Scotland’s most populous city and third largest in the British Isles. It stands at the lowest bridging point on the river Clyde and has thus become the outstanding market centre for western Scotland, and commercially and industrially dominates Clydeside.

As a seaport it enjoyed a favourable position for trade with North America. Among its early imports were tobacco and cotton, both of which gave rise to local manufactures.

Industrial expansion brought so many people to Glasgow from the rest of Scotland and also from Ireland in search of work that it became a ‘millionaire city’. A feature of this period of expansion was the building of tall ugly tenements to house the workers and their families.

When the depression of the 1930s prevented renewal and even repair of buildings, these tenement blocks became slums.

The industrial picture in Glasgow has also changed. Engineering has not shrunk to the same extent as coal mining and shipbuilding. But nowadays practically as many workers are in the service industries as in manufacturing. Of the latter, textile and clothing production has long been important, and carpets are among the woollen goods. Food products, furniture and office equipment are also manufactured. An activity which is extremely important in Scotland’s export trade is the blending of Scotch whisky produced in Highland distilleries.

In the New Towns which emerged in the 1960s to the east of Glasgow new engineering industries developed, especially electronics.

Grangemouth in the east, situated at the top of Firth of Forth (22,000) is a fast expanding seaport, chiefly due to its oil refineries and petrochemical industry. This is due to the North Sea oil. In tonnage, the Forth estuary (including Grangemouth) in trade is the sixth largest in Britain.

Edinburgh (438,700) has long been recongized as the capital of Scotland, in spite of being second in size to Glasgow. The latter began to overtake Edinburgh in population with the Industrial Revolution. While Glasgow led the development of heavy industry, Edinburgh remained the country’s political and cultural centre.

Within recent years the two cities have shown opposite trends with regard to population. Overcrowded Glasgow has deliberately dispersed people to outer suburbs and the New Towns. Edinburgh, on the other hand, has grown in population.

Several factors have made Edinburgh the outstanding centre of tourism in Scotland. Its picturesque surface features led to its being called ‘The Athens of the North’. On the cultural side, a great number of visitors is attracted to the city by the annual Edinburgh International Festival in the late summer.

Manufacturing occupies a smaller proportion of its workers than in Glasgow, but it has a number of important industries, including textile manufacture. It is one of the chief centres of brewing in Britain, an activity which has been stimulated by supplies of locally grown barley. Grain is one of the principal imports, giving rise to flour milling and biscuit manufacture. Other imports are timber and dairy produce. Paper manufacture, printing and publishing are important because Edinburgh is a university city, closely associated with education, as well as administration, banking and insurance.

To the north of the Firth of Forth Dundee (177,000) is situated. It alternates with Aberdeen as the third most populous city in Scotland. Its commercial products used to be summarized as ‘jute and jam’, but changes have taken place in the local industries. Locally grown flax formerly provided the raw material for a linen industry. Then jute was introduced from India arid Dundee became world famous for its jute industry. Today there has been a change to man-made fibres for the production of fabrics, carpets and other goods. Besides food processing many workers are engaged in engineering, which includes the supply and servicing of North Sea oil rigs.

Standing at the mouth of the Dee Aberdeen (200,000) is by far the most important city in the Highlands. The seas around Scotland are rich in fish and Aberdeen remains an important centre of the fishing industry.

When North Sea oil was exploited from the late 1960s, Aberdeen, because of its position and size, was the obvious choice as centre of the new industry. It quickly became the administration and supply base for the offshore oilfields. Engineering employs a large number of workers, producing, for example, oilfield equipment, and textile and paper manufacturing are traditional industries.

On the basis of local water resources hydro-electric power stations were built in the Highlands.

North Sea oil has affected life on the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands. Oil terminals have been constructed on Orkney (Flotta) and Shetland (Sullom Voe), receiving petroleum by pipeline from the North Sea fields. This has involved the population into new occupations connected with oil production.

The natural conditions pf Scotland have extensively affected agriculture.

Conditions in the Highlands are among the most severe in Britain and this has had important effects on the pattern of farming. This is particularly true of the traditional type of farming — crofting — which is still practised in the remote areas of northern and western Scotland and on the surrounding islands. A croft is a small rented farm which usually covers no more than about 4 ha (hectares). The hard life and poor rewards make more and more crofters abandon their farms and migrate to the lowlands and cities in search of work. Due to this there has been a great decline in crofting and it has virtually disappeared from large areas of the Highlands.

In the eastern part of the region, where there are lowlands with richer soils than the highlands a much greater proportion of the land is tilled. Farming here is best described as mixed. On the arable land oats, turnips and potatoes are cultivated in rotation, and part of the area is improved grassland. Barley is often grown here for the production of malt whisky.

The Central Lowlands are best suited for farming. Types of farming change from west to east under the influence of climate.

The western lowlands have a great deal of land under grass, and form Scotland’s main dairy farming area. On the fertile sandy soils in the south-west the farmers grow early potatoes. Throughout the region sheep are reared on the hills.

In the eastern lowlands there is much smaller proportion of land under permanent grass than in the west, and on these pastures beef cattle are much more numerous. Soils here are extremely fertile, and arable farming dominates the agricultural scene. Barley is the main cereal crop, and oats and wheat are also grown, together with grass and a root crop.

In the Southern Uplands farming changes from west to east very much according to the climate — particularly the mean annual rainfall. However, across the region the grassy hill slopes support numerous sheep. On the lowlands in the west dairy cattle are grazed on the rich, moist pastures. Beef cattle are well in the majority on the drier pastures of the Tweed basin in the east.

Summing up economic activity in Scotland one should bear in mind that the region is beset by the decline of the traditional industries which has led to high unemployment. Despite attempts to attract new industries into the region, their development hasn’t been extensive enough to compensate the decline of coal mining, steel production and shipbuilding. This explains the slow growth of the population and as emigration has remained unchecked, there is an actual decline of the overall population of Scotland as compared with the 1960s.

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