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Anti-Scottish sentiment is disdain, discrimination, or hatred for Scotland, the Scots or Scottish culture. It may also include the persecution or oppression of the Scottish people as an ethnic group, or nation. It can also be referred to as Scotophobia or Albaphobia.[1][2]

Middle Ages

Much of the negative literature of the Middle Ages drew heavily on the writings from Greek and Roman antiquity. The writings of Ptolemy in particular dominated concepts of Scotland till the Late Middle Ages and drew on stereotypes perpetuating fictitious, as well as satirical accounts of the Kingdom of the Scots. The English Church and the propaganda of royal writs from 1337 to 1453 encouraged a barbarous image of the kingdom as it allied with England's enemy, the Kingdom of France, during the Hundred Years' War.[3] Medieval authors seldom visited Scotland but called on such accounts as "common knowledge", influencing the works of Boece's "Scotorum Historiae" (Paris 1527) and Camden's "Brittania" (London 1586) plagiarising and perpetuating negative attitudes. In the 16th century Scotland and particularly the Gaelic speaking Highlands were characterised as lawless, savage and filled with wild Scots. As seen in Camden's account to promote an image of the nation as a wild and barbarous people:

They drank the bloud [blood] out of wounds of the slain: they establish themselves, by drinking one anothers bloud [blood] and suppose the great number of slaughters they commit, the more honour they winne [win] and so did the Scythians in old time. To this we adde [add] that these wild Scots, like as the Scythians, had for their principall weapons, bowes and arrows. Camden (1586)[4]

Camden's accounts were modified to compare the Highland Scots to the inhabitants of Ireland.[5] Negative stereotypes flourished and by 1634, Austrian Martin Zeiller linked the origins of the Scots to the Scythians and in particular the Highlander to the Goths based on their wild and Gothic-like appearance.[6] Quoting the 4th-century Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus,[7] he describes the Scots as descendants of the tribes of the British Isles who were unruly troublemakers. With a limited amount of information, the Medieval geographer embellished such tales, including, less favourable assertions that the ancestors of Scottish people were cannibals.[5] A spurious accusation proposed by Saint Jerome's tales of Scythian atrocities was adapted to lay claims as evidence of cannibalism in Scotland. Despite the fact that there is no evidence of the ancestors of the Scots in ancient Gaul,[8] moreover St. Jerome's text was a mistranslation of Attacotti,[9] another tribe in Roman Britain, the myth of cannibalism was attributed to the people of Scotland:

What shall I [St. Jerome] say of other nations – how when I was in Gaul as a youth I saw the Scots, a British race, eating human flesh, and how, when these men came upon the forests upon herds of swine and sheep, and cattle, they would cut off the buttocks of the shepherds and paps of the woman and hold these for their greatest delicasy.

A part of the spurious De Situ Britanniae.

Accepted as fact with no evidence, such ideas were encouraged and printed as seen in De Situ Britanniae a fictitious account of the peoples and places of Roman Britain. It was published in 1757, after having been made available in London in 1749. Accepted as genuine for more than one hundred years, it was virtually the only source of information for northern Britain (i.e., modern Scotland) for the time period, and historians eagerly incorporated its spurious information into their own accounts of history. The Attacotti's homeland was specified as just north of the Firth of Clyde, near southern Loch Lomond, in the region of Dunbartonshire.[10][11] This information was combined with legitimate historical mentions of the Attacotti to produce inaccurate histories and to make baseless conjectures. For example, Edward Gibbon combined De Situ Britanniae with St. Jerome's description of the Attacotti by musing on the possibility that a 'race of cannibals' had once dwelt in the neighbourhood of Glasgow.

These views were echoed in the works of Dutch, French and German authors. Nicolaus Hieronymus Gundling proposed that the exotic appearance and cannibalism of the Scottish people made them akin to the savages of Madagascar. Even as late as the mid-18th century, German authors likened Scotland and its ancient population to the exotic tribes of the South Seas.[12] With the close political ties of the Franco-Scottish alliance in the late Medieval period, before William Shakespeare's Macbeth, English Elizabethan theatre dramatised the Scots and Scottish culture as comical, alien, dangerous and uncivilised. In comparison to the manner of Frenchmen who spoke a form of English,[13] Scots were used in material for comedies; including Robert Greene's James IV in a fictitious English invasion of Scotland satirising the long Medieval wars with Scotland. English fears and hatred were deeply rooted in the contemporary fabric of society, drawing upon stereotypes as seen in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles" and politically edged material such as George Chapman's Eastward Hoe in 1605, offended King James with its anti-Scottish satire, resulting in the imprisonment of the playwright.[14] Despite this, the play was never banned or suppressed. Authors such as Claude Jordan de Colombier in 1697 plagiarised earlier works,[15] Counter-Reformation propaganda associated the Scots and particularly Highland Gaelic-speakers as barbarians from the north[16] who wore nothing but animal skins. Confirming old stereotypes relating back to Roman and Greek philosophers in the idea that "dark forces" from northern Europe (soldiers from Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, France and Scotland) acquired a reputation as fierce warriors.[17][18][19] With Lowland soldiers along the North Sea and Baltic Sea, as well as Highland mercenaries wearing the distinctive Scottish kilt, became synonymous with that of wild, rough and fierce fighting men.[20]

However, the fact that Scots had married into every royal house in Europe who had also married into the Scottish royal house indicates that the supposed anti-Scottish sentiment there has been exaggerated as opposed to in England where the wars and raids in Northern England increased anti-Scottish sentiment. An increase in the English anti-Scottish sentiments after the Jacobite uprisings and the anti-Scottish bills of the parliament are clearly shown in comments by leaders in English such as Samuel Johnson, whose anti-Scottish remarks such as that "in those times nothing had been written in the Earse [i.e. Scots Gaelic] language" is well known.[21]

Anti-Highlander and anti-Jacobite sentiment

Sawney Beane at the Entrance of His Cave. published in the 1720s The Newgate Calendar caption: The woman in the background carries a severed leg.

Stereotypes of Highland cannibalism lasted till the mid-18th century and were embraced by Lowland Scots Presbyterian and English political and anti-Jacobite propaganda, in reaction to a series of Jacobite uprisings, rebellions, in the British Isles between 1688 and 1746. The Jacobite uprisings themselves in reaction to the Glorious Revolution of 1688, were aimed at returning James VII of Scotland and II of England, and later his descendants of the House of Stuart. Anti-Jacobite predominantly anti-Highland propaganda of the 1720s includes publications such as the London Newgate Calendar a popular monthly bulletin of executions, produced by the keeper of Newgate Prison in London. One Newgate publication created the legend of Sawney Bean, the head of a forty-eight strong clan of incestual, lawless and cannibalistic family in Galloway. Although based on fiction, the family was reported by the Calendar to have murdered and cannibalised over one thousand victims. Along with the Bible and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, the Calendar was famously in the top three works most likely to be found in the average home and the Calendar's title was appropriated by other publications, who put out biographical chapbooks. With the intent to create a work of fiction to demonstrate the superiority of the Protestant mercantile establishment in contrast to the 'savage pro-Jacobite uncivilised Highland Gaels'.[22][23]

From 1701 to 1720 a sustained Whig single party state campaign of anti-Jacobite pamphleteering across Britain and Ireland sought to halt Jacobitism as a political force and undermine the claim of James II and VII to the British throne. In 1705 Lowland Scots Protestant Whig politicians in the Scottish parliament voted to sustain a status quo and to award financial incentives of £4,800 to each writer having served the interests of the nation.[24][25] Such measures had the opposite effect and furthered the Scots towards the cause, enabling Jacobitism to flourish as a sustaining political presence in Scotland.[24] Pro-Jacobite writings and pamphleteers e.g. Walter Harries and William Sexton were liable to imprisonment of for producing in the eyes of the government seditious or scurrilous tracts and all copies or works were seized or destroyed.[26] Anti-Jacobite Pamphleteering, as an example An Address to All True Englishmen[27] routed a sustained propaganda war with Scotland's pro-Stuart supporters ensued and British Whig campaigners pushed a pro-Saxon and the anti-Highlander nature of Williamite satire[28] resulting in a backlash by pro-Jacobite pamphleteers.

From 1720 Lowland Scots Presbyterian Whiggish literature sought to remove the Highland Jacobite, being beyond the pale, or an enemy of John Bull or a unified Britain and Ireland as seen in Thomas Page's The Use of the Highland Broadsword published in 1746.[29] Propaganda of the time included the minting of anti-Jacobite or anti-Highlander medals,[30] and political cartoons to promote the Highland Scots as a barbaric and backward people,[31] similar in style to the 19th-century depiction of the Irish as being backward or barbaric, in Lowland Scottish publications such as The Economist.[31] Plays like William Shakespeare's Scottish play Macbeth, was popularised and considered a pro-British, pro-Hanoverian and anti-Jacobite play.[13] Prints such as Sawney in The Boghouse, itself a reference to the tale of Sawney Bean, depicted the Highland Scots as too stupid to use a lavatory and gave a particularly 18th-century edge to traditional depictions of cannibalism.[32] The Highland Scots people were promoted as brutish thugs, figures of ridicule and no match for the "civilised" Lowland Scots supporters of the Protestant Hanovarians. They were feminised as a parody of the female disguise used by Bonny Prince Charlie in his escape,[32] and as savage warriors that needed the guiding hand of the industrious Lowland Scots Protestants to render them civilised.[29]

William Hogarth's francophobic painting The Gate of Calais or O! The Roast Beef of Old England, in which in the foreground, a Highlander, an exile from the Jacobite rising of 1745,[33] sits slumped against the wall, his strength sapped by the poor French fare – a raw onion and a crust of bread.

Depictions included the Highland Scots Jacobites as ill-dressed and ill-fed, loutish and verminous usually in league with the French[34] as can be seen in William Hogarth's 1748 painting The Gate of Calais with a Highlander exile sits slumped against the wall, his strength sapped by the poor French fare – raw onion and a crust of bread. Political cartoons in 1762 depict the Prime Minister, Lord Bute (accused of being a Jacobite sympathiser), as a poor John Bull depicted with a bulls head with crooked horns ridden by Jacobite Scots taking bribes from a French monkey[34] Anti-Jacobite sentiment was captured in a verse appended to various songs, including in its original form as an anti-Jacobite song Ye Jacobites By Name, God save the King with a prayer for the success of Field Marshal George Wade's army which attained some short-term use debatably in the late 18th century. This song was widely adopted and was to become the national anthem of Britain now known as "God Save the Queen" (but never since sung with that verse).

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade,
May by thy mighty aid,
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush,
God save the King.

The 1837 article and other sources make it clear that this verse was not used soon after 1745, and certainly, before the song became accepted as the British national anthem in the 1780s and 1790s.[35] On the opposing side, Jacobite beliefs were demonstrated in an alternative verse used during the same period, attacking Lowland Scots Presbyterianism:[36]

God bless the prince, I pray,
God bless the prince, I pray,
Charlie I mean;
That Scotland we may see
Freed from vile Presbyt'ry,
Both George and his Feckie,
Ever so, Amen.

Modern day

In 2007 a number of Scottish MPs warned of increasing anti-Scottish sentiment in England, citing the increased tension over Devolution, the West Lothian question and the Barnett formula as causes.[37]

There have been a number of attacks on Scots in England in recent years. In 2004 a Scottish former soldier was attacked by a gang of children and teenagers with bricks and bats, allegedly for having a Scottish accent.[38] In Aspatria, Cumbria, a group of Scottish schoolgirls say they received anti-Scottish taunts and foul language from a group of teenage girls during a carnival parade.[39] An English football supporter was banned for life for shouting "Kill all the Jocks" before attacking Scottish football fans.[40] One Scottish woman says she was forced to move from her home in England because of anti-Scottish feeling,[41] while another had a haggis thrown through her front window.[42] In 2008 a student nurse from London was fined for assault and hurling anti-Scottish abuse at police while drunk during the T in the Park festival in Kinross.[43]

In the media

In June 2019, an anti-Scottish poem titled "Friendly Fire" was recirculated on the internet, leading to criticism of Boris Johnson. The poem was written by James Michie and published in The Spectator magazine in 2004 by Johnson, who was the editor of the magazine at the time.[44] The poem reads:

The Scotch – what a verminous race!

Canny, pushy, chippy, they're all over the place,

Battening off us with false bonhomie,

Polluting our stock, undermining our economy.

Down with sandy hair and knobbly knees!

Suppress the tartan dwarves and the Wee Frees!

Ban the kilt, the skean-dhu and the sporran

As provocatively, offensively foreign!

It's time Hadrian’s Wall was refortified

To pen them in a ghetto on the other side.

I would go further. The nation

Deserves not merely isolation

But comprehensive extermination.

We must not flinch from a solution.

(I await legal prosecution.)

In a 2007 obituary titled James Michie, gentle genius, Boris Johnson dubbed Michie "one of the most distinguished poets and translators of the 20th century" and referred to "Friendly Fire" as an example of how he wrote "whimsically, sometimes with bite."[45]

The term Scottish mafia is a pejorative term used to refer to a group of Scottish Labour Party politicians and broadcasters who are believed to have had undue influence over the governance of England, such as the constitutional arrangement allowing Scottish MPs to vote on English matters, but not the other way around. The termed had found usage in the UK press[46][47] and in parliamentary debates.[48][49] Members of this group include Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, Charles Falconer, Derry Irvine, Michael Martin and John Reid.

An edition of the BBC satirical show Have I Got News for You aired on 26 April 2013 prompted over 100 complaints to the BBC and Ofcom for its perceived anti-Scottish stance during a section discussing Scottish independence. Panelist Paul Merton had suggested Mars bars would become the currency of a post-independence Scotland, while guest host Ray Winstone added, "To be fair the Scottish economy has its strengths – its chief exports being oil, whisky, tartan and tramps."[50]

In July 2006, former editor of The Sun Kelvin MacKenzie ,who is of Scottish descent himself; his grandfather hailed from Stirling,[51] wrote a column referring to Scots as 'Tartan Tosspots' and mocking the fact that Scotland has a lower life expectancy than the rest of the UK MacKenzie's column provoked a storm of Scottish protest and was heavily condemned by numerous commentators including Scottish MPs and MSPs.[52] In October 2007, MacKenzie appeared on the BBC's Question Time TV programme and launched another attack on Scotland, claiming that:

Scotland believes not in entrepreneurialism like London and the south east… Scots enjoy spending [money] but they don't enjoy creating it, which is the opposite to down south.[53]


See also


  1. ^ "Scotophobia". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2008. Scotophobia, a morbid dread or dislike of the Scots or things Scottish (tartan, bagpipes, ginger hair, accents, flag)
  2. ^ Neal Ascherson (28 June 2006). "Scotophobia". OpenDemocracy. Archived from the original on 9 January 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2008.
  3. ^ The Hundred Years' War. W. R. Jones (1979). Journal of British Studies
  4. ^ W. Camden, Britannia, or, A Chorographical description of the most flourishing kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. (London 1610), p114-127
  5. ^ a b Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007. p33, p94
  6. ^ Zeiller, Martin, Itinerarium Magnae Britanniae, 2nd ed. (1674) Zeiller's account is based on the travels of an anonymous Count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1609, p. 232.
  7. ^ Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007. p34 Ibid.p123
  8. ^ Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007. p38, p39
  9. ^ Camden Britain part i, p. 127
  10. ^ Bertram & 1757E:59–60 (English)
  11. ^ Bertram & 1757L:44 (Latin)
  12. ^ Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007. p40
  13. ^ a b Macbeth by William Shakespeare. A. R. Braunmuller p9 Cambridge University Press, 1997
  14. ^ Eastward Ho! by Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Marston, Royal Shakespeare Company
  15. ^ C. Jordan de Colombier, Voyages Historique de l'Europe, 8 vols, (Paris, 1693–1697)
  16. ^ Williamson Scots, indians and Empire, pp 50–55
  17. ^ The Volois Tapestries a barbaric northerner is depicted ibid., p. 55
  18. ^ Jean Bodin's Les Six Livres de la Républic (Paris 1576)
  19. ^ "Early Modern Representations of the far North. The 1670 Voyage of la Martinére", AVR Nordic Yearbook of Folklore, vol lviii(Stockholm 2002), pp. 19–42.
  20. ^ Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007.
  21. ^ Johnson, Samuel. Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 104–105.
  22. ^ Travels to Terra Incognita: The Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Martin Rackwitz. Waxmann Verlag 2007.p39
  23. ^ "A Taste of Scotlands Historical Fictions of sawney bean and his Family", in E. Cowan and D. Gilford (eds), The Polar Twins. 200 Edinburgh
  24. ^ a b Steele. M. (1981) Anti-Jacobite Pamphleteering, 1701 – 1720
  25. ^ Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, xi, 221, 224 cited in Steele. M. (1981) Anti-Jacobite Pamphleteering, 1701 – 1720
  26. ^ Steele. M. (1981)
  27. ^[permanent dead link] – 1720
  28. ^ Poetry and Jacobite politics in eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland by Murray Pittock p33
  29. ^ a b "Contextualising Western Martial Arts The case of Thomas Page's The Use of the Highland Broadsword". 2007 By Bethan Jenkins cited in
  30. ^ Jacobite and Anti-Jacobite Medals by Michael Sharp. The Royal Stuart Society Paper LXXIV
  31. ^ a b The myth of the Jacobite clans by Murray Pittock p9
  32. ^ a b The myth of the Jacobite clans by Murray Pittock p10
  33. ^ J. B. Nichols, 1833 p.63-p.64 "I meant to display to my own countryman the striking difference of food, priests, soldiers, &c. of two nations" ... "The melancholy and miserable Highlander, browzing on his scanty fare, consisting of a bit of bread and an onion, is intended for one of the many that fled this country after the rebellion in 1745."
  34. ^ a b The myth of the Jacobite clans by Murray Pittock
  35. ^ Richards, Jeffrey (2002). Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876 to 1953. Manchester University Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-7190-4506-6.
  36. ^ Groom, Nick (2006). The Union Jack: the Story of the British Flag. Atlantic Books. Appendix. ISBN 978-1-84354-336-7.
  37. ^ Walker, Helen (3 December 2007). "Scottish MPs voice concern over increase in anti-Scottish sentiment". The Journal. Archived from the original on 15 April 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  38. ^ "News & Star – News – Beaten Up By 20 Kids for Being Scottish". Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  39. ^ "Police probe pipe band race abuse". BBC News. 15 June 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  40. ^ "'Kill the Jocks' Thug is Caged; Curse of the Casuals Day 4 – Girlfriend Assaulted". Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  41. ^ "Mum Run out of England for Being Scottish; Racist Hell: Victim Tells How Cats Were Killed and Home Burned". Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  42. ^ "Police probe haggis 'hate crime'". BBC News. 23 May 2001. Retrieved 25 April 2010.
  43. ^ "Student nurse fined hundreds for assault and anti-Scottish abuse". STV News. Retrieved 17 June 2015.
  44. ^ "Fact-check: Did Boris Johnson call Scottish people a 'verminous race'?". The National. Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  45. ^ Johnson, Boris (10 November 2007). "James Michie, gentle genius | The Spectator". Retrieved 24 November 2021.
  46. ^ Jack, Ian (15 July 2006). "Border disputes". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2 October 2006.
  47. ^ Johnson, Boris (31 August 2006). "There's nothing national about the National Health". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 9 March 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2006.
  48. ^ "Daily Hansard". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 12 February 2004. col. GC571.
  49. ^ "Daily Hansard". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). House of Lords. 7 July 1997. col. 523.
  50. ^ "Ray Winstone calls Scots 'tramps' on TV quiz show". The Scotsman. 1 May 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  51. ^ "The strange case of the ex-editor with Scottish blood who just can't resist attacking Scotland". The Scotsman. 13 October 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2021.)
  52. ^ "Sun ed and MacKenzie clash in "tartan tosspots"". Press Gazette. 10 July 2006. Archived from the original on 22 March 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2007.
  53. ^ "MacKenzie attack draws Scots fire". BBC News. 12 October 2007. Retrieved 17 December 2007.
  54. ^ T. Christopher Smout (2005). Anglo-Scottish Relations, from 1603 to 1900. Oxford University Press. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-19-726330-3.