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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 29/04/2008 | 3 Comments

I was phoned last week by a Sunday paper and asked for my views on the SNP's first year in office. I am wary of making political comments but mulled over the topic for the next few days.

In 'The Scots Crisis of Confidence' I argued that the problem with confidence and negativity in Scotland is less about politics and more about our indigenous culture more affected by what your granny or your pals say to you than the constitution or what sports commentators say on the BBC. The advantage of this argument is that we didn't need to wait for a new political settlement to see changes: we could do it for ourselves.

But I was wrong to minimise the impact that a big political change - such as the SNP becoming the governing party - would have on the atmosphere in Scotland. Since the election I detect more optimism and sense of potential across Scottish life - at least at a collective, organisational level.

But the SNP have contributed in another fundamental way to this transformation. Traditionally their electoral strategy was to talk Scotland down. They would make heavy weather of economic figures and population decline, portraying Scotland as a broken and ineffective country whose only hope is independence. But all this changed at the last election. They took a much more positive, up-beat approach. They concentrated on what was good about Scotland and what the country could achieve rather than simply complaining about what was wrong. Labour went in the opposite direction with their scaremongering negativity about the costs of independence. If we measured the parties on some kind of optimism/positivity quotient the SNP would have won hands down.

We shouldn't be surprised that this actually affected electoral behaviour. Seligman and others have studied election speeches and discovered that in all but one presidential election contest the most optimistic candidate won.

The SNP leadership were apparently aware of this research. At a workshop a few months ago I was talking generally about Seligman and Positive Psychology and a couple of SNP councillors came up at lunch to tell me that it was all that stuff about optimism that had been at the core of their election strategy. Apparently before the last election, the SNP had workshops on optimism from an American consultant.

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Joined: 31/01/2008

Comment Posted: 29/04/2008 23:44
I was just reading Seligman's comments on the USA presidential elections. The one time the most positive candidate didn't win was when Seligman believes he was insincere.It did cross my mind as I was reading , how positive Alex Salmond had been during the Holyrood elections.
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Alan Coady
Joined: 30/04/2008

Comment Posted: 30/04/2008 07:51
It would have been slightly more heart-warming to discover that the SNP had enjoyed sessions on optimism from a Scottish consultant.
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Joined: 02/05/2008

Comment Posted: 02/05/2008 22:01
Hello, CarolI'm glad for the people of Scotland that changes in the political landscape are yielding dividends to the positive thinking landscape. Hopefully, the US elections will yield a similar result for the American people.Since 9/11 it's as if the American spirit and all it really stands for has been being held under water. I know the day is coming when the sun will come out again our nation will move on to bigger and better things.In the meantime, we definitely are in need of positive and political housecleaning as well.By the way, your articles are absolutely fantastic. I've enjoyed reading them greatly.Ray
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