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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. 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 20/04/2008 | 1 Comment

Welcome to the new website. It has taken longer than we expected but I think it was worth the wait. We have added some new material but we’ll be introducing some new sections and features regularly over the next few months.

We’re thinking about introducing a new section on Scotland which would give an overview of some of the challenges facing Scotland. I’m thinking here about health, violence and low levels of entrepreneurship.

However, when the Centre was set up over three years ago we deliberately decided not to call ourselves the Scottish Centre for Confidence and Well-being since we believed that, thanks to the internet and global communications, we could play a role internationally in disseminating some of the research behind Positive Psychology and the new science of well-being. I hope that we’re managing to do that with our huge Positive Psychology Resource library and Emily’s news. We’ve also added new features on Positive Ageing and are about to produce lots of helpful resources on Social Services and Positive Psychology.

When I wrote my first book The Scots’ Crisis of Confidence I was aware that many of the individual strands I focused on were not unique to Scotland. However, I argued then, and still believe now, that there is a particular Scottish penchant for negativity and pessimism. It is something that outsiders are often aware of – hence the common Scottish stereotype of Private Fraser with his catchphrase ‘we’re doomed, I say. Doomed’. This is the way that Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is increasingly being portrayed by satirists.

Much to the dismay of the old Scottish Executive, research they commissioned showed that despite all the advertising to support ‘the best small country’ idea, in the USA the stereotypical Scot is Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons. Now the thing about Willie is that he is hard-working but incredibly judgemental, critical and downright aggressive. One of his most famous put-downs was when he referred to the French as ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.”

If you talk to many people who come to settle in Scotland they will regularly tell you that there is so much about the country to like and admire – the strong sense of community and family; the emphasis on principles; the patriotism; the intellectual nature of the culture. But they will often say that they are aware of it being a judgemental, critical culture which can lead people to feel apprehensive about standing out from the crowd. Of course, this is just anecdote and so the Centre is also carrying out empirical research which would allow us to carry out cross-cultural comparisons.

So the Centre is in many ways in a privileged position: able to contribute to a developing international agenda on the importance of well-being and positive emotions, such as appreciation and gratitude, while at the same time being able to make a particular contribution to Scotland.
Comment By Comment
Alex Smith

Comment Posted: 24/04/2008 14:31
You're right, Carol, the new websute has been worth wait. I like the look and the ease of navigating. Well done to all involved.I was never sure about you not calling the Centre the Scottish centre. I'm still not sure but I appreciate your views that you want the Centre to be seen as more international. As someone who once wrote to you 'if you go to God with a thimble, all you can bring back is a thimbleful', I should be the last to question your ambition.The recent reports about criminality in Scotland show that we have a long way to go to change our country. I am absolutely convinced that if we can get our poorer (in every sense) compatriots to feel more confident, much of their resentment will disappear and with it much of their criminal behaviour.More power to your elbow.Alex
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