Alex Massie Alex Massie

Whatever happened to Scotland’s timid posh folk?

Whatever happened to Scotland’s upper-middle class? That’s one of the questions asked by Hugo Rifkind in his characteristically interesting column this week. Why, more to the point, are they so reluctant to play a part in the independence stushie? When did they become so bashful?

It is time, Hugo says, for the timid posh folk to speak out. Perhaps. But the alumni of Scotland’s private schools are hugely unrepresentative of Scottish life and, in many cases, far removed from the Scottish mainstream. Privately-educated Scotland is a tiny place. Everyone knows everyone (though the saddest people in Scotland are those who know only privately-schooled people).

Even in Edinburgh. True, 25% or so of Edinburgh children are educated privately (many of them on bursaries and scholarships at the old Merchant Company schools) but we often forget, I think, how small Edinburgh is. It is not very much bigger than Leicester and no-one considers Leicester a hyperpolis, do they?

You can find certainly Yes voters who were educated at Heriot’s or Watson’s or Hutchinson’s Hutchesons’ or the academies of Glasgow and Edinburgh but they are, as Hugo suggests, a minority of a minority. More to the point and by and large, the timid posh folk opted out of politics long ago.

Not all of them, of course. Alistair Darling was educated at Loretto. But, tellingly I think, he omits (or at least used to omit) that detail from his Who’s Who entry. An education that dare not speak its name, if you like.

Then again Loretto, like Glenalmond and Gordonstoun and Fettes is a school in Scotland but not, or not quite, a Scottish school (Strathallan, obviously, is barely a school at all*). Pupils are subjected to little Scottish history; few Scottish books are read. Many, perhaps most, of the teaching staff are from England. The Scottish public schools are Tartanised outposts of the English system and, these days, increasingly look to the international market for their pupils.

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