Scots and failure

Stuart Cosgrove, director of nations and regions at a British TV channel, claimed on Sunday that “Scots prefer failure to success” and cited the work of writer James Kelman as evidence. He reportedly told the Observer:

“The Scots prefer failure, whether that’s the failure of the national football team, the failure of industries, the failure of the parliament. They almost obsess over it. They also love the culture of poverty. They indulge the culture of poverty.”

Speaking ahead of an address to be delivered as part of the Edinburgh Lecture series, Cosgrove highlighted the cinematic portrayal of a Scotland beset with drug-addiction, alcohol and sectarianism.

He said: “There is hardly one film made in Scotland by a Scot that is not cast in some dreary, awful, urban, deprived social landscape. I think this is a failure of the imagination. This self-loathing, inward-looking obsession has damaged Scotland. . .

Kevin Williamson, a former publisher of Scottish writers including Irvine Welsh cited 18 years of Tory rule and the concomitant disenfranchisement of working-class Scots as inspirations for Scottish novelists’ preoccupation with failure.

“Writers have a duty to express what needs to be addressed,” he said. “Stuart Cosgrove should be more concerned about turning Channel 4 into a piece of populist crap. He has taken a television channel which used to reflect the things Kelman and people like that were portraying and turned it in to a reality-TV hellhole.” Novelist A.L. Kennedy, whose latest novel will finally appear Stateside this spring, agreed.

Has Cosgrove read Niall Griffiths’ grim, compelling Sheepshagger? What blithe generalizations would he make about the Welsh, if so?

Somewhat related:

  • In other Scottish literary news, Hotel World author Ali Smith and two other writers “will discuss the role writers play in shaping perceptions of Scotland during a special debate” this Wednesday night.


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