The Scots are not English. Nor are the Scots British. No self-respecting Englishman calls himself a Briton, neither does any self-respecting Scot. The words Britain, Briton and British were uneasily disinterred after a long burial as a kind of palliative to Scottish feeling when our Parliament was merged with the English one at Westminster. But the attempt was not successful. The best things on either of the Border remain obstinately English or Scottish. Are Shakespeare and Burns British poets? When the Australians meet the United Kingdom at that most civilised of all games that was born on the fields of England, do they meet the all British eleven? And is there anyone in the whole world who has ever asked for a British whisky and soda?
The two nations of the United Kingdom have each derived from mixed sources, racially and, as it were, historically. Each has developed strong national characteristics which separate them in custom, habit, religion, law and even in language.
The English are amongst the most amiable people in the world; they can also be very ruthless. They have a genius for compromise, but can enforce their idea of compromise on others with surprising efficiency. They are generous in small matters but more cautious in big ones. The Scots are proverbially kindly, but at first glance are not so amiable. They abhor compromise, lean much upon logic and run much to extremes. They are penny-wise but can be prodigally pound-foolish. They can be dour and grey, or highly coloured and extravagant in gesture and manner.
In general the nation of modern Scotland derives from three main racial sources. The Celts, the Scandinavians or Teutons and the mysterious and shadowy Picts. These Picts, historically speaking, were the first inhabitants of what we now call Scotland. They were a small tough people. They have left their strain in the blood and occasional marks in the land and language. They were conquered by the invading Celts from Ireland who, incidentally, were called Scots and from whom the name of the modern nation comes.
Two and three centuries later, however, the Celts retreated into the north-western hills and islands, their place in the east and south lowlands being taken by the Scandinavians, Teutons and Angles. Hence the celebrated division of the Scottish people into Highlanders and Lowlanders.
It was a division which marked the distinction between people of different culture, temperament and language.
It is from the Celts that there comes the more colourful exciting and extravagant strain in the Scots. The Gaelic language and song, the tartan, the bagpipes, the Highland panache, and so on. It is in the contemplation of the debasement of this lively, attractive and touching tradition in Scotland and the Scottish temperament for commercial purposes that we natives have to endure the greatest embarrassments and discomforts.
It is from the Lowland strain that there comes the equally celebrated Scottish tradition of dourness, pawkiness, implacability and splendid courage in defence, providing a complementary virtue to the splendid Highland courage in attack. The cautious, dry, humourless, mean, red-nosed Scot is, of course, a stock figure for stage, fiction and comic picture postcard use. The legend of this alcoholic miser, the hero of all Scotch stories, has of course, little more than the most remote origin in fact (no more indeed than has the stock, garrulous, insensitive, over-eating Englishman of some North-of-the-Border stories about our neighbours).