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Scott invented a tartan caricature of Scotland in order to please the English.

In his General Preface of 1829 to Waverley (Penguin Classics, p.523) Scott explains his purpose as follows:-

" ...I felt that something might be attempted for my own country of the same kind with that whch Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland - something which might introduce her natives to those of her sister kingdom in a more favourable light than they had been placed hitherto, and tend to produce sympathy for their virtues and indulgence for their foibles."

This is tantamount to saying that the Scots required the approval of the English, and that the Union should operate on the basis of English patronage.

The way Scott chose to do this was to represent Scotland in terms of a Highland image, which was based on a romantic and somewhat superficial view of traditional, pre-1745 Highland society.

Despite his fascination with the Highlands, Scott never appears to have appreciated genuine Highland culture. He never made any attempt to learn Gaelic, and he never met Duncan Ban MacIntyre, who was living in retirement in Edinburgh when Scott was young. (Scott would have been 41 when MacIntyre died in 1812).

Scott's knowledge of the Scots language was excellent (see, for example, Bailie Nicol Jarvie's dialogue in Rob Roy), but he made no attempt to defend the achievements of either pre-Union Scotland or of the great men of the Scottish Enlightenment.

The invention of the Highland tradition of Scotland was described by John Prebble in "The Highland Clearances", but its definitive account was given by Hugh Trevor Roper in an essay "The Highland Tradition of Scotland", in "The Invention of Tradition", eds., Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, 1983. But Trevor Roper does not claim that Scott invented Scotland, but that he invented the popular image of Scotland.

I wrote to Prof. Trevor-Roper (then Lord Dacre of Glanton) in 1986 to express my admiration of his essay and received a very nice letter back.

For these reasons I hope you will appreciate why I refuse to wear tartan. But I have published a number of articles in Gaelic and am currently embarking on a history, in Gaelic, of the Western Isles kelp industry.

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