Highland Scots - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. The clan was a historical political group with a hereditary chief who controlled lands in Common. Consanguine links between members was either demonstrated or stipulated. The clan system was abolished in 1746 after the battle of Culloden. Today the term "clan" is used to designate all the descendants of a particular person, usually cognates.

In general, few distinctions in social status are found. Where a laird is present in a community, he is recognized as a leader. A laird is the traditional landowner. The factor, the man who manages land for the laird, is usually respected Because of his role in mediating relationships between laird and crofters. High status or prestige may vary by institutional arrangement. Religious prestige is highest for ministers, missionaries, and lay elders. Cultural prestige is awarded to bards, musicians, and "Gaelic scholars." Political-communal prestige is associated with "good" works such as participation in local committees. In Gaelic-speaking communities this category is usually occupied by "outsiders" whose work is done in English—for example, the schoolteacher(s), the local doctor, and the nurse(s). Prestige distinctions are governed by Calvinistic virtues, which, if pursued, will result in high standing in the bank and the community. Display of wealth is considered immoral and there is a marked absence of distinctions in housing, food, and clothing. Vocatively, Social distinctions are often reflected in terms of address. Professionals (most often outsiders) are addressed by formal title (e.g., Mr., Mrs., Dr.). Persons from the community are addressed by first name.

Political Organization. The principal units of local Government are either the town or the county councils, which are made up of elected and appointed officials.

Social Control. Leveling seems to be a powerful force in maintaining social similarities. Locals who return to the Community with a formal education are often disliked because they showed evidence of a desire to "get ahead." Persons whose peat stacks are not neat will lose prestige. One is expected to carry out business relationships with people one knows and on a personal basis. Outsiders, and agencies outside the community, are viewed as too far away for meaningful interaction.

Alcoholism rates are high for Scotland in general and the Highlands in particular. The islands of Lewis and Harris have an alcoholism rate six times higher than Scotland. They also have the highest admission rates for involutional melancholia in the United Kingdom. The ethic that one does not publicly criticize others takes precedence over drunken behavior, which often leads to a general disregard for the problem at the local level. Very low rates are reported for delinquency.

Conflict. Personal disputes do occur. Darling reports that petty bickering often occurs about precise boundary lines Between properties. In households where no will has been left, intense intrafamily conflict may occur.


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