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Postcards from Scotland

Some critical comments and reviews

Harry Reid
review in The Herald, 8.2.2003

'… I do have, without indulging in the Scottish negativity that Craig so decries, various caveats. I think she is too kind to Stevenson, too hard on McDiarmid (surely the greatest Scot of the last century). She is certainly too literal in her interpretation of McDiarmid’s polemics. He was, after all, a supreme mischief maker. She seriously underestimates the strength of residual sexism in the Church of Scotland.

And while she makes a magnificent case for a more positive attitude to enterprise and wealth creation in Scotland … she is perhaps not suspicious enough of attendant American values.

…Craig does not give anything near enough credit to those titanic individuals who have succeeded in breaking the mould. And her ultimate chapter is weak; it is the only time she slides towards motherhood and apple pie.'

Iain Macwhirter
The Sunday Herald, 9 February 2003

'Many will take issues with Craig’s Jungian theorising and with her sometimes contradictory generalisations about the state of the Scottish psyche.'

George Kerevan
The Scotsman, 10 February 2003

'I have a great deal of time for Carol Craig. I can see that she is desperately trying to grapple with a real problem. But reading her book reminds me of the looking-glass world of Iraq, where they claim to be a democracy and 100% of the electorate turns out to vote 100% for Saddam … Carol wants individualism just as long as nobody dares want something different from her and nobody gets hurt. Unfortunately that leads you straight back to collectivism. Try living in a collectivist housing estate in Scotland, Carol, and explain that bit about crime being high in America.'

Gianna McKenzie
New Edinburgh Review 112

Gianna McKenzie's review  is thoroughly critical and has nothing positive to say about the book other than one word - ‘insightful’. The reviewer particularly dislikes Craig's attempt to apply Jungian psychological type concepts, thinks the notion of a Utopian streak in Scottish culture ‘baffling’ and accuses the author of ‘borrowing from the weary discourse of new Labour’. However, Carol contends that the review completely fails to examine the basis of her critique of the dominant cultural analysis of Scotland. McKenzie concludes by saying:

'To end on the author’s main theme, the problem of ‘the Scots’ crisis of confidence’. A notable and perennial feature of the Scottish cultural landscape is the construction by our intellectuals of labyrinthine evasions of the crucial question. Scottish lack of self-belief is not the effect of habits of personal malice and nastiness somehow related to the inquisitorial practices of the Kirk several centuries ago. If it was, we would find the same problem in all traditionally Calvinist societies. The phenomenon is systemic, and can only be understood, ultimately, by reference to politics rather than psychology. And consequently, the solution lies in politics, not assertiveness classes. It is ironic that we are now being lectured about becoming more enterprising and ‘standing on our own feet’ by the same elites who believe that the big decisions are best left to institutions in London (or Washington) – after all, what they have really always been saying to us is: who do you think you are? '

Tony Cohen review

Scottish Affairs, 2004

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