So, what have the Scots ever done for us? Just 101 of the innovations Caledonia gave the world

Think, like the Westminster frontbenches, north Britons are all take, take, take (except for the oil, of course)? Read our celebratory survey, and think again

Adam Smith

Misappropriated as the philosophical father of our money, money, money culture, the absent-minded Scottish Enlightenment philosopher spent a decade writing The Wealth of Nations. He studied at the Universities of Glasgow and Oxford – and considered the teaching at the former superior.

Bank of England

Sir Mervyn King has Sir William Paterson to thank for the second-oldest central bank in the world. The Scottish trader proposed the idea of the BoE. In 1694, Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax, adopted his idea, founded the bank and was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. Where did we keep the gold before?

Bay City Rollers

The tartan One Direction of their day, the Seventies teen sensations gave us endless meaningless pop nonsense such as "Bye Bye Baby" and "All of Me Loves All of You". When dedicated followers of Rollermania weren't tripping over absurdly long tartan scarves, they were being hauled, weeping, over crash barriers when the excitement of "Shang-a-Lang" got too much.

Best-ever World Cup goal

Scotland may not have progressed past the first round in the 1978 World Cup, but the nation's presence will be forever remembered for a super strike by Archie Gemmill during a 3-2 win against Holland, often cited one of the greatest Cup goals.


Blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan made a pedal cycle based on a hobby horse, with horizontal pedal movement. He would "cycle" the rough roads in Dumfriesshire, but never tried to profit from his invention. Unlike the Lycra industry.


Mel Gibson was too busy directing and starring in this epic account of William Wallace's battle against King Edward of England that he seemingly didn't have time to perfect a Scottish accent. The film took more than $200m at the box office and transformed the market in blue face paint. Altogether now: "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freeddddddooOOOMMMM!"

Britain's greatest tennis player

The world's No 4 and winner of eight Masters Series titles, described by English commentators as British in victory and Scottish in defeat, Andy Murray will no longer be open to claim by those south of the border if Scotland gains independence. The Australian Open kicks off tomorrow, as the nation agrees in unison: "I really think this could be Andy's year." Maybe.

Burns Night

A night to raise a dram or two to Scotland's patron saint of gloomy poetry and drunken wailing, Robert Burns, arguably most famous for having written "Auld Lang Syne" in 1788. Arms crossed, should old acquaintance be forgot, de-daaaa de-da de-daaaaa. Hat-tip to anyone who knows any words beyond the first verse. Even if you're Scottish.


While canals date back to Roman times, we have Thomas Telford, from Dumfriesshire, to thank for the design of the Ellesmere and Shrewsbury canals, as well as the Caledonian canal.

Carnegie Hall

Andrew Carnegie's ascent from weaver's son to billionaire steel magnate is one of the greatest rags-to-riches tales ever. Of course, he had to leave Scotland to make his fortune, heading for America with his parents in 1848, aged 13. But he did put a lot back, giving oodles of money to his home town of Dunfermline to build a library and a park, and to New York for Carnegie Hall.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Glasgow chef Ali Ahmed Aslam lays claim to creating Britain's favourite dish, and the staple of a million takeaways. The proprietor of Shish Mahal restaurant, in the west end of the city, was experimenting with condensed tomato soup, and threw in spices for sauce. And culinary history was made.

Chilean Navy

Admiral Thomas Cochrane, nicknamed the Sea Wolf in the Napoleonic Wars, left the UK in official disgrace. He was welcomed to Chile, in 1818, where he became a citizen of the country, took command of the national navy and introduced British naval customs.


Sir James Y Simpson, a professor of midwifery, was his own guinea pig, experimenting with chloroform on himself and later on his friends in 1847. He went on to use it as an anaesthetic to ease the pain of childbirth, leading to its acceptance in modern medicine. If only you could use it during a debate on the Barnett formula.

Christmas Tree

Still finding pine needles under the sofa? It's probably Scotland's fault. Millions of Scots pines are grown across northern Europe and Asia every year, before being hacked down, lit up, tinselled to death, then chucked out with the last bit of turkey.

Colour photography

Those Kodak moments were only possible thanks to 19th-century Scottish scientist James Maxwell, who invented the "three-colour method". His theory, based on mixing red, green and blue colours of light, led him to present the world's first colour photograph – inevitably of a tartan ribbon – in 1861.

Criminal fingerprinting

It wasn't until 1880 that Dr Henry Faulds, a Scottish surgeon working in Japan, realised he had the secret to catching criminals at his fingertips. He published his idea of recording fingerprints with ink, and was the first to identify fingerprints left on a glass bottle. Which is why all good criminals wear gloves.

David Cameron

He hides it well, but the Prime Minister is of Scottish stock. His great-great-grandfather, Alexander Geddes, made his fortune in the US before returning to Scotland in the 1880s. And the Camerons had an ancestral home in Aberdeenshire, Blairmore House, for decades before selling up in 1931. Expect him to mention this more in the next couple of years.

Decimal fraction

The 16th-century mathematician John Napier's discovery of the logarithm has brought misery to countless generations of maths students. And Napier, the 8th Laird of Merchiston, also invented "Napier's bones" – an abacus to calculate products and quotients of numbers.

Deep-fried Mars Bars

A calorie-laden recipe of a Mars bar dunked in batter and fried in oil was dismissed as an urban myth when reports first emerged in the mid-1990s, but it remains a staple in many fish and chip shops north of the border.

Defeating the poll tax

The hated policy, which led to the riots that helped to topple Margaret Thatcher, was first introduced north of the border. Calls for mass non-payment, in the face of prosecution, started in Scotland and spread to the rest of the country.

Doctor Who – the best ever

West Lothian-born actor David Tennant, the 10th doctor in BBC1's Doctor Who, is destined to be remembered as the people's favourite. After only one year, he was named the best doctor ever by readers of Doctor Who Magazine, beating the previous all-time favourite, Tom Baker.

Dolly the Sheep

The world's first cloned mammal was created in 1996 by a team of experts at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh. Dolly survived for six years, before she died from a lung disease. The world's most famous sheep is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland.

Driving on the left

It was Scotland, not England, that pioneered driving on the "wrong" side of the road. Driving on the left entered Scottish law in 1772, more than 60 years before England and Wales adopted it in 1835. If only the rest of the world had followed suit.


Pointy-hatted class clowns, thickos and anyone caught pulling girls' hair should have spent their time stood in the corner of the classroom cursing 13th-century Scottish theologian John Duns Scotus, who was ridiculed by humanists and gave the word dunce to the world.


In 1753 a law was passed in England saying that under-21s had to have parental permission to marry. It didn't apply in Scotland, and the legend of Gretna Green, the first village people came to when crossing the border on the old coaching route from London to Edinburgh, was born. Just don't tell your mum.


Not so much Straight Outta Compton as emerging from the Court of King James IV. Rap battles seen in Eminem's semi-autobiographic film 8 Mile, where two or more artists trade rhyming insults, derived from the medieval Caledonian art of "flyting" and travelled to the US via Scottish slave owners. Word up.

Eternal youth

The mischievous boy Peter Pan, who spends his never-ending childhood in Neverland, is known all over the world. But the character, created by quirky Scottish novelist and playwright J M Barrie, was based on the author's older brother, who died at the age of 13.

Excitable commentators

Andy Gray, until his recent debacle at Sky, was just the latest incarnation. Think rugby's Bill McLaren – "They'll be dancing in the streets of Jedburgh tonight!" Best of all? Arthur Montford. Grown men can still be brought to tears as the final whistle blows in 1973, Scotland qualify for their first World Cup finals in 16 years – and Arthur's voice screams, then cracks: "And that is it! That is it! Congratulations, Scotland! Well done, boys!"


Long screeds of wafer-thin, slippery paper, the beep-beep-chrchrch, the catchphrase "number of pages including this one". Hurrah for inventor Alexander Bain from Watten in Caithness, who came up with the world's first facsimile machine. We might think of it as an icon of the 1980s, but it was in 1846 that Bain reproduced graphic signs using a clock to synchronise the movement of two pendulums to scan a message. How would we ever cope without it? Oh.

First World Cup

Scotland at least managed to qualify for the first World Cup – by organising it themselves. In 1909, 20 years before the official Fifa tournament, Scotsman Sir Thomas Lipton, of Lipton's Tea, organised the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy in Turin, where international club teams represented their countries. West Auckland represented England, who won in 1909. It's been all downhill since then.

Flushing toilet

Eighteenth-century watchmaker Alexander Cummings was the first to patent a design of the flush toilet. In 1775 he invented the, S-trap – still in use today – which uses standing water to prevent nasty smells backing up out of the sewer.

Gallows humour

Laughing in the face of death, literally, has its origins in the taunts made at public executions in Scotland and elsewhere. Now Scottish humour is a byword for gallows humour – especially when it comes to the regular ritual of seeing the national football team getting trounced.

Gin and tonic

The drink of millions worldwide, but it would not exist had it not been for Edinburgh-born George Cleghorn, an 18th-century doctor who discovered that quinine could cure malaria. The quinine was drunk in tonic water, but it was so bitter that gin was added to make it more palatable. Bottoms up!

Glasgow kiss

A nodding reference to the city's violent reputation, this is Scottish slang for what the English call a headbutt. In 1994, legendary Glasgow Rangers forward Duncan Ferguson received a three-month prison sentence after planting a particularly heartfelt "kiss" on John McStay of Raith Rovers.

Glorious Failure

It was 1974 when this first started: Scotland had qualified for their first World Cup finals in 16 years, won one and drew two (including playing Brazil, the world champions, off the park) and still got home before the postcards. They were, believe it or not, the only unbeaten team in the tournament. They failed by the narrowest of margins in 1982, 1986, 1990 and at the European championships in 1996 to get out of the first group. Now Scotland don't even get that far anymore. NB: Argument applies also to Andy Murray.


Scotland is the birthplace of golf – with the first written record in 1457, when James II banned it as an unwelcome distraction from learning archery. Since then, it's given us plus fours, Pringle jumpers and Tiger Woods's colourful private life. The Old Course at St Andrews dates to the 16th century. Fore!

Gospel singing

The singing of psalms in Gaelic by Presbyterians of the Scottish Hebrides, according to Yale University music professor Willie Ruff, evolved from "lining out" – where one person sings a solo before others follow – into the call-and-response of what we now know as the black gospel music of the southern US. Hallelujah.

Greatest ever headline

When Inverness Caledonian Thistle staged one of Scottish football's biggest upsets by beating Celtic in the Scottish Cup at Parkhead in 2000, The Sun took inspiration from an unlikely source: Mary Poppins. "Super Caley go ballistic, Celtic are atrocious" screamed its sublime headline.

'Gregory's Girl'

Bill Forsyth's charming coming-of-age film in which John Gordon Sinclair, helped by the awesome Clare Grogan, comes to terms with Dee Hepburn displacing him in the school football team. Stats of interest: when you sneeze, it comes down your nose at 165 mph; there are eight women to every man in Caracus (sic); and proper exposure of a photograph takes 10 elephants. There are those known to this newspaper who have named their younger daughter in honour of the famous dressing-room scene's climax: "Bella! Bella!" Class.


Bird flu, remember that? Killer viruses sweeping across from south-east Asia. Not quite. The first known strain of the highly pathogenic avian influenza, now known as H5N1, actually first appeared in Scotland, when an outbreak killed two flocks of chickens on a farm near Cruden Bay in 1959.


The word (from Hallows Evening) is Scottish in origin – arising out of ancient Celtic celebrations of Samhain ("summer's end") that signalled the end of the harvest season. Some Scots would leave an empty chair and a plate of food – believing that ghosts would come out on Hallowe'en.


Well, the Scots can't take the credit for inventing New Year's Eve, which is what Hogmanay means, but they do know how to have a party. Customs for the annual bean feast vary throughout Scotland, ranging from swinging a fireball through town in Stonehaven, to "first-footing", crossing a friend's threshold with a symbolic gift, such as a piece of coal or salt. Don't ask.


From losing weight to giving up smoking and Paul McKenna stage shows, this just won't go away. The Kinross-born surgeon James Braid was the first to experiment with hypnotism, using candles to get people into a trance-like state. And, presumably, eat an onion while clucking like a hen.

Hypodermic syringes

Anyone who has seen Trainspotting shouldn't be surprised that Scotland's connection with syringes goes back a long, long way. The Edinburgh-based physician Alexander Wood is credited with inventing the hypodermic syringe in 1853. And 143 years later, Danny Boyle's underground hit would chart Renton's bid to kick his heroin habit on the streets of Edinburgh.


Its E numbers and artificial flavourings make this radioactive-looking pop any paranoid parent's nightmare, but the fizzy drink is so popular north of the border that it rivals both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and AG Barr, the company that makes it, has an annual turnover of £20m. "Made in Scotland, from girders," goes the slogan. Well, er, no, not exactly. The name actually comes from "iron brew" after it was used to quench the thirst of Glasgow's steel workers at the turn of the century.

Jack Vettriano

Art critics may turn up their noses, but Vettriano is one of the country's richest artists and is loved by millions. His paintings fetch six-figure sums, but he gets the real money from reproductions: Vettriano's The Singing Butler sells more posters and postcards than any other work in Britain. The original fetched £740,000 at auction in 2005. It does not feature a butler singing.

James Watt

Without this Glaswegian engineer, the Industrial Revolution might never have happened. He developed a way of making steam engines efficient, to speed trains along. The rail replacement bus service came later.


The dancing coloured shards seen through a kaleidoscope have entertained children and drug-addled teenagers for generations. The Edinburgh-based physicist Sir David Brewster first came up with the concept in 1815, but never made a penny from it as he didn't register a patent in time.

Kelvin scale

Glasgow University academic William Thomson, Lord Kelvin to his friends, discovered there was a lower limit to temperature, which he called absolute zero. His rescaling of temperature to start at this point (-273C) was named after him and is still used today. Brrr.

Kirsty Wark

If Paxman's not on, we'd rather have Kirsty. The 56-year-old Newsnight presenter proves that you don't have to live Islington to be a successful BBC luvvy. Based in Glasgow, Newsnight Review is now made in Scotland, so the guests come to Kirsty. Manages to be authoritative with just a hint of sexiness. Emily Maitlis, take note.

King James Bible

To traditionalist English Anglicans, there are few things more faith-affirming than the King James translation of the Bible. It is poetry compared with the New International Version. Only trouble is – England's James I was Scotland's, and was born in Edinburgh Castle. A scholar and author of several works, he was nevertheless called "the wisest fool in Christendom". By an Englishman, of course.

Lime Cordial

How peculiarly British it is, like lemon barley water and Vimto. In fact, it is specifically Scottish, first bottled and sold by the son of a Leith shipbuilder, Lachlan Rose. It had grown in popularity on ships as a way to prevent scurvy on long journeys. Today, Rose's remains the leading brand.

Loch Ness Monster

Conspiracy theorists have had years of pleasure ruminating over the possibility of a monster living at the bottom of Loch Ness. Snaps of the snake-like beast, with those famous double hoops poking out of the water, have fuelled fantasies worldwide, and helped the local economy not a little.

Long John Silver

Shiver me timbers, the meanest baddest pirate on the high seas was the brainchild of Edinburgh-born Treasure Island author Robert Louis Stevenson. With a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg, he has become the image of swashbucklers the world over. And Scotland's links to piracy go beyond literature – Captain Kidd, executed in 1701 for piracy, was born in Dundee.


'Weeeeeeeeelllllllllllll...' The pint-sized Glaswegian songstress with the huge voice shot to fame with "Shout" back in 1964 and cemented her place in Scottish hearts by winning the Eurovision Song Contest with "Boom Bang-a-Bang" five years later. Lulu remains fiercely patriotic. She's still singing, although the hits have dried up, but the 63-year-old is on the bill for a special performance at Butlins in March.

Mary Queen of Scots

"Don't die before you've lived," is a suitable motto for one of the largest characters of 16th-century Europe. At one point, Mary Queen of Scots presided over four nations: Scotland, France, England and Ireland. But a lack of political prowess, three failed marriages and an intense rivalry with the Queen of England meant she died almost as dramatically as she lived: executed in 1587, with all her possessions burnt by order of the English government. But her son united the crowns.


Descended from a Scots-Irish family, brothers Dick and Mac McDonald changed the way the world ate after they opened the first branch of McDonald's in San Bernardino in 1938. Now 64 million people are lovin' it....


Ready-meals would be a distant dream if the magnetron had not been developed by Scotland's Robert Watson-Watt. These short-wave radio waves are now used as the source of heat in microwave ovens – essential for students, exhausted parents and rubbish cooks the worldwide.

Neil Reid

This warbling young Scot still holds the accolade of the youngest person to reach No 1 in the UK album chart. Known by his countrymen as "Wee Neil Reid", his version of "Mother of Mine" won him 1971's Opportunity Knocks and propelled the 12-year-old to Top of the Pops stardom. He is now reportedly an independent financial adviser in Blackpool.

Nordic noir

You wouldn't have Stieg Larsson, Wallander or The Killing if you hadn't first had Taggart. The Scottish detective series following Glasgow's Strathclyde Police was the original gritty crime thriller. Not afraid of being unrelentingly grim, it drew a cult following in Sweden and Denmark, inspiring a new generation of writers.

Nova Scotia

Scotland didn't only give one of Canada's most beautiful spots its name (the translation from Latin is "New Scotland"), but also many of its people. The largest non-Canadian ethnic group in the province is the Scottish, who make up almost a third of the population.

Oor Wullie

The comic strip, along with that other Scottish staple, The Broons, was first drawn by cartoonist Dudley D Watkins for The Sunday Post newspaper. The character's trademark spiky hair, dungarees and upturned bucket made him a hit in boy's annuals in the 1970s.


After noticing that oil was dripping from the roof of a coal mine, Glaswegian chemist James Young discovered that by using heat you could distill coal to make paraffin. Homes without electricity could be lit and heated, thanks to his invention.


If Ayrshire-born Alexander Fleming hadn't been such an untidy scientist we would never have the life-saving drugs we have today. His discovery of a mould growing in one of his culture dishes that killed the surrounding bacteria prompted one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the 20th century.

Piano foot pedals

East Lothian-born carpenter John Broadwood is credited with developing the foot-pedal method for sustaining the pianoforte's sounded notes. Broadwood also revolutionised the instrument's boxy design, coming up with the grand piano in 1777.

Pneumatic tyre

Where there's a hit, there's a writ. So, the question of who invented the inflatable rubber tyre had to be fought out in a legal battle between two Scots. Veterinary surgeon John Boyd Dunlop, who patented a bicycle tyre for his son's tricycle in 1888, is commonly credited with the invention.


Parritch, as it is correctly known, has been described as the "backbone of many a sturdy Scotsman" and was made famous by the Highlanders of the 18th century. Eaten for breakfast and left to harden into slabs for consumption later, it was a symbol of a life led simply.

Postage-stamp adhesive

Imagine a world without those little damp sponges for people who are too busy/posh/dry-mouthed to lick their own stamps. Thanks to James Chalmers, from Dundee, we don't have to. He wrote proposing the idea to Robert Wallace, then MP for Greenock. It is not clear how he made sure the stamp stayed on his letter.

Premier-league managers

English football fans despair that the division boasts no fewer than seven Scottish managers – the daddy being the master of the hairdryer bollocking, Alex "the boss" Ferguson. Intriguingly, all were born within 13 miles of Glasgow city centre. The Scottish factor is so strong in football that hopefuls might do well to practise their Glaswegian twang.


The screw, or a mechanical type of fan that produces a force by converting a rotational motion into thrust, is credited to Scot James Watt, who first applied it to a steam engine on board ships in 1770.


Developed in secret during the Second World War, the object-detection system that uses radio waves to determine the location and speed of an object evolved under Angus-born Robert Watson-Watt in 1936 and later tracked aircraft in the Battle of Britain.


First sold in 1824, the Macintosh coat is named after its Glaswegian inventor, Charles Macintosh. He designed one of the first waterproof fabrics by rubberising sheets of material in his textile factory.


Considering the wintry temperatures recorded in Scotland, you would not think refrigeration was utmost in people's minds, but it was here that physicist and chemist William Cullen demonstrated the first method of artificial refrigeration in 1748. However, he did not put it to practical use.

Rock music

You ain't nothin' but a Highland terrier, or so the song might have gone, had Elvis known he was a Scot. Yes, even the father of rock was a Jock, as a fan discovered when he traced his idol's ancestors back to Lonmay in Aberdeenshire in the 1700s. Without The King, we'd all still be listening to tea dances, so thank goodness for Lonmay.

Ronnie Corbett

Best known for being the little man in the big chair, telling never-ending shaggy dog stories, the 5ft 1in, 81-year-old was looked down upon by both the middle and upper classes on The Frost Report but has towered over British comedy for six decades, challenging the traditional joke format by feigning to forget his own punchlines.

Scottish Mafia

The advent of New Labour brought to the frontline rather a lot of old Scots, from Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to John Reid, Derry Irvine and Charlie Falconer. The coalition, ahem, struggles for Scots, though Michael Gove, Danny Alexander and Michael Moore are flying the Saltire around the Cabinet table.

Sir Walter Scott

Thanks to his poems such as The Lady of the Lake, and novels including Ivanhoe and Rob Roy, the Scot is still considered to be one of Britain's literary greats. Waverley, published in 1814, is often credited with being the first historical novel.

Snap, Crackle and Pop

We'd still all be eating eggs and bacon if Dr John Harvey Kellogg hadn't dreamt up the cornflake, going on to become a cereal inventor. Descended from Scottish Immigrants, the Seventh Day Adventist from Tyrone, Michigan began working with his brother Will Keith Kellogg to develop breakfast cereals in 1897, launching the brand that would later give us Rice Krispies and Frosties. They're grrrreaaattt!

Steam hammer

A power-driven hammer used to shape large pieces of wrought iron was invented in 1837 by Scot James Nasmyth. His hammers were said to be able to crack the top of the shell of an egg placed in a wine glass, without breaking the glass. If only the same could be said of the glass in Glasgow pubs.


Forget Rab C Nesbitt and The Simpsons' Groundsman Willie, a Scot was actually behind the original stereotype – a type of printing plate in which a whole page of type is cast in a single mould and was invented by William Ged in 1725.


Ever wondered where the word "tarmac" came from? Add "tar" to the surname of Scot engineer and road builder, John McAdam, and you have it. His process, "macadamisation" developed smooth, hard-surfaced for roads in around 1820.


"Mr Watson – come here – I want to see you," are the famous first words that Scottish inventor Alexander Bell uttered to his assistant during his invention of the first practical telephone in the 1870s. He rushed his design to patent within hours of another inventor. It took another two years before he could get Mrs Bell off it.

The best joke?

"That's a doughnut or a meringue?" "No, you're right, it's a doughnut." (Read it out loud in a Glaswegian accent).

The Big Yin

Billy Connolly, the nation's favourite long-haired Glaswegian, made his name after an appearance on the Parkinson show when he told a famously rude joke. Parkie was left helpless, in tears of laughter, and it catapulted Connolly into the role of one of the biggest stars of comedy. He holds the record for the most ever appearances on Parky, at 15.

The King of the wild frontier

In 2010, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged Davy Crockett as one of a number of "trail-blazing Scottish-Americans" in a message to mark St Andrew's Day. The frontiersman and politician died in the battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution.

The Krankies

Before spilling the beans last month on their colourful past sexploits, the comedy duo and panto regulars – Janette Tough and her husband Ian – were best known for TV appearances in the 1980s, portraying schoolboy Wee Jimmy Krankie and his father.

The shortest place name

Ae, a village near Dumfries and Galloway, boasts the claim to fame of having the shortest place name in the UK. Situated in a conifer forest, it lies near the Water of Ae, a tributary of the River Annan.

The Tartan Army

Football's finest export anywhere. Ambassadors, more than fans, men, women and children who carry the good name of the nation abroad, by road, rail, bicycle, foot, and even once, when making it to Argentina, by submarine – allegedly – cf England's thuggish boors.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

John Buchan, author of some 30 novels, gave us the book which inspired the Hitchock film The 39 Steps, and was also an influential journalist and politician. In his lifetime he was Governor General of Canada, a propaganda writer during the First World War, a Unionist MP and a foreign correspondent.

The weirdest football result

Something of a tongue twister for sports announcers, the amusing score line of Forfar 5 East Fife 4 came at Station Park on 22 April 1964 during a Scottish Second Division match.

The White Heather Club

"Haste ye Back" to 1958, when the BBC launched this Scottish variety show, which always ended with singer and entertainer Andy Stewart and cast singing that song. The Penguin TV Companion in 2006 voted the programme one of the worst 20 TV shows ever. What do they know?

Theatrical superstition

If you are an actor, look away now. Shakespeare's play Macbeth, thought to be cursed, is given the euphemism "The Scottish Play" by its performers. Actors dare not utter its name, and it is thought the play itself can bring them bad luck.


The Wire, Mad Men, Take Me Out... you name it, we may not have had it without Scottish inventor John Logie Baird. In 1926, he became the first person to publicly demonstrate a working television system. Two years later, he gave the first demonstration of colour television.

Uncle Sam

The Americans have Greenock to thank for the personification of their country as Uncle Sam. Popular theory suggests Uncle Sam was named after New York meat-packer Samuel Wilson, whose parents originally came from the Scottish town.

US Navy

Sailor John Paul Jones is known in America as a founder of the country's naval force. Born on the estate of Arbigland near Kirkbean, southwest Scotland, he later emigrated and fought against Britain in the American War of Independence.

US presidents

An astonishing 23 presidents of the United States have Scots or Scots-Irish heritage, including many of the most distinguished: Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton. The George Bushes, senior and junior, also originate from Scotland, though obviously it was Texas that made them that way.

Vacuum flask

The saviour of ramblers and picnickers across the world was the brainchild of Scottish physicist and chemist Sir James Dewar. He made the invention in 1892 but failed to get a patent and so did not profit from his ingenuity.

Victoria Falls

During one of his African adventures, the 19th-century Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone became the first European to see the Mosi-oa-Tunya, a spectacular waterfall between Zambia and Zimbabwe. He named it after his reigning monarch, Queen Victoria.

"We're doomed"

The words will be familiar to fans of BBC sitcom Dad's Army as the catchphrase of the miserable Scottish character of Private James Frazer, a member of the Home Guard, and Scottish undertaker, played by the late Scottish actor John Laurie.

Wee ginger people

If Scots have a reputation for being short, it might be because they are: research last year showed Scottish men (averaging at 1.73m) are two centimetres shorter than men in south-east England. There are also statistically more redheads in Scotland than England.


Not to be confused with Irish whiskey, the first evidence of the production of the "water of life" in Scotland is recorded in 1494, although distillation dates back centuries before. James IV was said to be rather partial to the tipple. Slàinte!

England's glory... Compare Perfidious Albion's fine contributions

Christmas cards Not wanting to write lengthy letters, English civil servant Henry Cole came up with the idea of the Christmas card in 1840. It has since become a way of saying less to more people – threatened only by the advance of Facebook, text messaging and email.

Dog boots The Englishman who brought you the underwater bicycle offers another invaluable invention: dog boots. The footwear for pooches was initially designed for the Queen's corgis but has spawned an international craze

Glee clubs While the Scots have held firm to their musical traditions, the English have let theirs slide. Glee, for instance, began in Britain, around the 1700s and remained popular until Victorian times. The art is now largely the property of Americans.

Grounding strips The chain and rubber "grounding" strips that dangled from bumpers in the 1970s and 1980s were sold in petrol stations with the promise of reducing static and preventing car sickness. They did neither.

Losing badly From the expectation of triumph to the invariable crumbling under pressure, magnanimity in defeat is not wired into the English psyche. "We wuz robbed!" is practically a national anthem, and the default reaction is to knock over a drink, or furniture, or someone.

Rubber bands One snap and they're useless. They serve little purpose beyond pointless fights and ensuring post arrives bent. The first elastic bands, made from vulcanised rubber, were patented in 1845 by Stephen Perry in London.

Spending a penny John Nevil Maskelyne was an English stage magician but for the Scots his greatest disappearing act came in the form of the lockable toilet, requiring the insertion of a penny. Its contribution includes the well-worn euphemism of "spending a penny".

The pencil For most of the 17th century the only source of this soft, greasy allotrope of carbon was a mine at Borrowdale, Cumbria. The French spoiled everything by developing graphite powder.

The tin-can telephone The telephone may have been invented by a Scot, but England's Robert Hooke lays claim to the tin-can alternative nearly two centuries before. Optimists might argue that it paved the way for modern communications. More sensible heads believe its value amounts to little more than keeping children amused..

The toff The Scottish hate them; the aristocracy admire them – and therein lies the problem. Little wonder the term "toff" dates back to novels by Englishman John Creasey whose depiction of an upper-class sleuth has been socially cemented ever since.

10 surprises: Quintessentially Scottish, they originate elsewhere

Archie the inventor Archie the Inventor - The story in Balamory may well be that Archie – or Miles Jupp – is only an honorary Scot. The actor, who bluffed his way onto an England cricket tour of India as BBC Scotland cricket correspondent, went to school in Berkshire and Rutland.

Bagpipes What? You mean that dreadful whine isn't Scottish? Nope. Evidence suggests the instrument first appeared in the Middle East, in about 1000BC. And bagpipes even make an appearance in the Bible. The Highland bagpipe is now mass produced in Pakistan.

Burke and Hare Though the West Port murders took place in Edinburgh in 1827 and 1828, Scotland's most famous serial murders were committed by two Irish immigrants. William Burke and William Hare killed 17 people in the early 19th century, selling the bodies to Dr Robert Knox for use as material for dissection.

Getting off scot free 'Scot' is a actually a Scandinavian word for a tax – levied hundreds of years ago – and the phrase is used to describe people who have got away without paying a price of some sort.

Haggis The medley of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, is a source of pride to many Scots. Or at least it was until the discovery of a book, The English Hus-Wife from 1615, which contained an English recipe for haggis. The first mention of a Scottish haggis wasn't until 1747.

Kilt The Scots may have developed the kilt during the 16th century; English Quaker Thomas Rawlinson may have made it wearable in the 1720s, but the orgins of the kilt lie in ancient Egypt, where the shendyt was worn

Meanness The joke that copper wire was invented by two Scots pulling at opposite sides of a penny has done little to dispel the myth that the Scottish are frugal. But a myth it is: in a recent poll by Readers Digest, Scottish people are reported to give more to charity per head, than anywhere else in the UK.

Scotch eggs A petrol station favourite, the Scotch Egg – a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, covered in breadcrumbs – was in fact invented by upmarket London grocer Fortnum & Mason, in 1738.

Scotch mist To the English – and the rest of the world – it is rain, but in Scotland, well, it is still rain, yet to assert their hardiness, the Scots call it mist. The expression is now used as an impatient description of something obvious which another has failed to grasp.

Tartan The pattern has roots cast as far afield as China. Tartan-like leggings were unearthed in western China, strapped to the "Cherchen Man", a 3,000 year-old mummy. by Pharaohs. Today it just makes it easier to spot a Jock at a wedding.

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