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Postcards from Scotland

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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 21/09/2005

Having plenty time to think when I´m on holiday I’ve kept going back over in my head a line from the lecture Professor Tom Devine gave at the Vanguard Programme. When he was laying out the reasons for the Scottish Enlightenment he said that it was a period not just of political stability in Scotland but boring politics. In other words, there was lots of agreement on the big political questions of the day and this meant that intellectual energy was freed up to pursue other philosophical and scientific questions.

Before I left Scotland I was at a reception at the Parliament and had a brief conversation with Susan Deacon -one of the most interesting MSPs. Susan had been one of the participants at day one of the Vanguard and she too had been struck by Tom Devine´s reference to boring politics and its importance in the rise of new intellectual thought in Scotland. I went on at length to her about the potential advantages of settled politics to our own time. In the last hundred years many Scottish thinkers have pondered political questions. Much time and energy has been spent on the nationalist question or a campaign for devolution. But now we have a good measure of home rule, and a parliament in Edinburgh, we now seem to be in for a period of boring politics where there is broad consensus on how Scotland should be governed. The lack of an ideological edge in politics right round the western world - what Daniel Bell called the 'end of ideology' intensifies the boredom and has led to voter apathy. It is very easy to criticise this stale political climate and see it as something lamentable but it may have benefits as well by encouraging us to divert our attention to other areas of life. This need not be individualistic navel-gazing. It could be time spent thinking about how we can improve our society - not by waiting for politicians to do things for us, but by changing our own perceptions and values.

So a period of boring politics may well be what we need in Scotland to see a real rise in intellectual forment. 'Not much ' comfort for professional politicians, like me' was Susan Deacon's swift reply.

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