David Hume

An A-Z Journey Around Britain

19 Glasgow


Glasgow is a left wing city. Shipbuilding and marine engineering industries developed in Glasgow after the Industrial Revolution. The ‘Red Clydeside’ 1920s movement contained intellectuals and also charismatic leaders from the trade unions. Dramatic strikes and anti-war protests convince some that revolution was possible. This is doubtful but there is a legacy. Scottish charismatic leaders continue in football.

Despite the left wing attitude of Glasgow, Scottish nationalism has been unkind to the British Left. The Scottish Nationalist party brought down the Labour Government of 1979, and that led to the election of Margaret Thatcher. The wipe out of Labour yesterday in Scotland by the Scottish Nationalist party could ensure that Labour will never again manage central government in either England or Britain. The latter will outlive this Tour Of Britain blog but its continued existence is unlikely.

2.3 million people live in Glasgow, which is 41% of the population of Scotland. Outside Glasgow, people also live in overspill towns like East Kilbride. Many of these people consider themselves Glaswegian.   Over 15% of the population of Glasgow are from ethnic minorities. Glasgow has superior race relations to England. These exist despite the religious division that creates antagonisms within the City. In the 10th Century, Glasgow was the second largest diocese in Scotland. The size of the bishopric aided economic growth.

The existence of rich landowners has preserved the Scottish countryside. This is fine for tourists but not for those crammed into overcrowded Glasgow tenements. Glasgow has always mixed the grim and the great, the heroic and the defeated, the intellectual and the brutal, the desirable and the unacceptable. Voltaire said that ‘we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation.’ No one expects David Cameron to say something similar the day after the British General Election.

Best remembered from the 18th Century Scottish Enlightenment are David Hume and Adam Smith. Fame should not be begrudged but Hume is misunderstood, and Smith, who would have been appalled by modern neo-liberal economics, is deliberately misquoted. Smith argued that self-interest produced a benevolent ‘invisible hand’. Unfortunately, his famous example of how his meal arrived because of the self-interest of farmers and merchants failed to include the altruism of his mother who had to cook the food.

Glasgow had a University in the 15th Century and a City of Glasgow Police in 1800. Its growth paralleled London, and the cities are similar. Glasgow belongs in the Europe top ten financial centres. Both cities have an underground railway system. The underground trains in Glasgow are half the size of those in London. But London lacks the abrasive energy of Glasgow. This is not mere romance and myth. It exists and it has potential, something that David Cameron may brood upon today as he sips his celebration bubbly.


Abrasive atmosphere and the Glasgow International Jazz Festival make a visit essential.   Time magazine has compared the Glasgow music scene to Detroit in the 60s. You will not, though, hear anything to equal Ain’t To Proud To Beg by the Temptations or You Really Got A Hold on Me by the Miracles.

Next week, mumbo jumbo and gumbo in the South West, Glastonbury.

Howard Jackson has had four books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His latest book and compilation of horror stories is called Nightmares Ahead. Published by Red Rattle Books and praised by critics, it is here.

If you want to read more about his travels click here


An A-Z Journey Around Britain

16 Edinburgh


Life has existed around Edinburgh since 8500 BC. In the 5th Century BC the Greeks had created civilisation, democracy and the theatrical masterpiece, Medea. When the Romans arrived in Edinburgh in 638 AD, the Scottish were still on a 2000 year journey to discover Andy Stewart and Donald Where’s Your Trousers.

Edinburgh is not the largest industrial city. It has the second largest financial centre in the UK, the highest percentage of professionals in its population, four universities and, thanks to Blackwell, a decent publishing industry. Edinburgh is refined.

I almost had a honeymoon in Edinburgh. It consisted of two bus trips to the Capital from nearby Bathgate.   My wife and me drank in the Victorian bar Cafe Royal and had to endure self-satisfied folk music. The bar still exists and is worth a visit. There is plenty of good beer in Edinburgh but the bar, Ushers, is reliable.

When I was young, I disliked the snob appeal of Edinburgh but now the City always makes me want to stay longer. It exists as a reminder of how life used to feel before Thatcher came to power. People want culture as much as they do money. The Festival may be burdened with the weird and mediocre but it is a positive force, and Edinburgh is great for theatre, cinema and bookshops. The horror story of modern consumerism is hidden in retreats called malls, all located outside the city.

No doubt, the romance of Edinburgh consists of deceit and illusion. The Old Town that now defines the best urban panorama in Britain was a residential and public health disaster before the New Town was built in the 18th Century. The novel Trainspotting and its heroin addicted heroes lived in the suburb Leith. The cultural and educational achievement of Edinburgh has added prestige to the Scottish nation and produced icons like David Hume and Robert Louis Stevenson. The underclass of Edinburgh, though, is brutal and destructive. Despite the desire to shock, Trainspotting somehow shares the smug superiority of the refined that it condemns. But, although semi-literate, it deserves its status as a cult novel.  Hume argued that morality and conduct was rooted in passion and sentiment and not reasoning. If he ever reads Trainspotting, he may change his mind.

Modern analysts have insisted that the view of Scotland as left wing and communal is wrong. So the sense of pre-Thatcher order that I experienced on Princess Street might have been sentimentality. Perhaps but those who have doubts about the distinction between Scotland and England should watch coverage of the civilised Scottish Parliament. Lacking English class warfare and the imitations of boorish aristocratic conquerors, their rational debates are as remote from the House of Commons as 5th Century Greece was from 1st Century AD Scotland.

91.7% of the population of Edinburgh is white. This compares to 96% in the rest of Scotland and is a pleasant feature in a Capital where, I hope, Social Democracy is still supported. The Islamic population worships in the Edinburgh Central Mosque.


Scotland is not noted for fine food but Edinburgh is the exception. A night out in Edinburgh is as expensive as London but size and attitude are important and Edinburgh has the advantage in both.


Next week, idols and disillusionment, Falkirk.

Howard Jackson has had three books published by Red Rattle Books. His 11,000 mile journey around Brazil is described in Innocent Mosquitoes. His next book is a compilation of horror stories and is called Nightmares Ahead. It will be available very soon this Spring.

If you want to read more about his travels click here.