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A time for cool heads

Earlier this week the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg arrived in Parliament with a powerful warning.

Without drastic action we risk “the end of civilisation as we know it", she told a rapt audience that included some of Britain's most senior politicians.

This was just the latest instalment in an extraordinary journey that has seen the young Swede go from organising school ‘climate strikes’ in her native Stockholm to speaking in the European Parliament and an audience with the Pope.

Her sudden celebrity comes not so much from what she says as the way she seems to embody the angst of a generation who fear a much worse world than the one their parents knew.

Without doubt Thunberg is an impressive person – articulate, persuasive and with a gift for phrasemaking. Her millenarian message is perfectly tailored to the internet age: unambiguous, emotive and dramatic.

The same brand of doom-mongering also underpins the wave of protests by Extinction Rebellion, whose members continue to superglue themselves to various parts of the British capital, for reasons even they have probably forgotten.

But rhetoric and feelings – however sharply expressed - are not the same as facts. As Marian Tupy argued on CapX this week, too often the green movement seems to focus less on what's happening to the natural world than on engaging in a quasi-religious anti-humanism - a creed based more on punishment than progress.

More to the point, much of what Thunberg says about climate change is both untrue and counter-productive.

For instance, she lambasts the UK for "absurd" policies, even though this country has substantially reduced its emissions since 1990, partly thanks to the demise of coal as a primary energy source.

Her assertion that “nothing is being done” is also simply false. After all, the last decade alone has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of both solar and wind power, with increased generation from bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower too. That is a result of both market mechanisms and governments investing in new technologies.

As Adnan Amin of the International Renewable Energy Agency notes: “Turning to renewables for new power generation is not simply an environmentally conscious decision, it is now – overwhelmingly – a smart economic one.”

Note too the long list of automakers phasing out diesel engines and turning their focus to electric cars. None of this means there is room for complacency, but nor is it "nothing".

It is on the basis of these kind of facts that free marketeers can debate with the likes of Thunberg and her supporters – and certainly not through counter-productive attacks on her age, her mother’s occupation, or even the fact she is autistic.

After all, even those sceptical of Thunberg’s apocalyptic certainty can agree that we ought to be urgently preparing for a world with fewer fossil fuels.

As the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said on Thursday, one’s views about climate change do not change the fact that “it is sensible for everyone to use finite resources in a responsible way”.

While some accused Fox of denying climate science, his intervention was in fact a welcome attempt to show that everyone, sceptic or otherwise, can make common cause on reducing the use of hydrocarbons.

If we are to take anything from Thunberg’s appearance this week, it should be to focus ever more intently on what a world with less fossil fuels will look like.

But if we want a cooler planet, first we must make sure we have cool heads.

John Ashmore
Deputy Editor, CapX


You can view a video introduction to this newsletter at:

Scottish News from this weeks newspapers
Note that this is a selection and more can be read in our ScotNews feed on our index page where we list news from the past 1-2 weeks. I am partly doing this to build an archive of modern news from and about Scotland as all the newsletters are archived and also indexed on Google and other search engines. I might also add that in newspapers such as the Guardian, Scotsman, Courier, etc. you will find many comments which can be just as interesting as the news story itself and of course you can also add your own comments if you wish.

Thousands take part in Glasgow Kiltwalk
Organisers said a record 13,000 people took part in the event, which began at Glasgow Green.

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Time is ripe for a new partnership between the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
Together Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK are 125 million people.

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Army how to wear a kilt video leaves viewers in stitches
A hilarious video by the British Army teaching people how to properly wear a kilt has been widely praised thanks to the performance of the Scottish soldier who presents it.

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Global Britain just became the world’s top investment destination (despite Brexit, of course)
Last week the UK was acclaimed as the global number one for investment displacing the US, an economy nine times our size.

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Scientists making aviation fuel of the future in Scotland
The aviation fuel of the future could be made in Scotland - with scientists working to create an environmentally-sustainable replacement.

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The Brexit Party is the earthquake British politics needs
The establishment is right to be terrified by this diverse, dynamic new party.

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Wanted: A leader for Britain’s shale revolution
Shale is part of the solution, not part of the problem

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Why is nobody talking about nuclear power?
The Green New Deal ignores the safety and reliability of nuclear energy

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Cask Conditioned
President Trump's administration believes it is time to remove protections put in place for Scotch

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On this day 1707
The Act of Union takes effect

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No clear understanding of new welfare responsibilities
There is no clear understanding of what is needed to deliver welfare payments to Scotland's expected 1.4 million claimants, Audit Scotland has said.

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The Yellow Vest Protests and the Tragedy of Emmanuel Macron
How the Gilets Jaunes Brought the French President Low

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Nigel Farage's Brexit Party surges to a NINE point poll lead ahead of the European elections
The Eurosceptic party is now on 30 per cent, up from 28 per cent in a week, according to a survey by YouGov for the Times

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The Brexit Party
The Brexit Party was launched in April 2019

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The story of London's tech scene, as told by those who built it
Over the past decade, thousands of fast-growth startups have flourished in Britain. Now the founders of the UK's biggest startups are telling that story in their own words

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Electric Canadian

The Canadian Horticulturist
Volume 24 (1901) can be read at:

3800 Miles Across Canada
By J. W. C. Haldane (1900) (pdf)

You can read this at:

The Great Company
Being a History of the Honourable Company of Merchants-Adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay by Beckles Willson with an Introduction by Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, present Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company with original drawings by Arthur Heming and maps, plans and illustrations (1899) (pdf)

You can read this at:

History of Hamilton
A few books on the city for you to read at:

Connecting Communities
Historical and Personal Reflections.

In this presentation, Elsbeth Heaman asks, “What can history teach us about how to get along with each other?” and you can view this video and read the transcript at:

The Six-Nations Indians in the Province of Ontario (pdf)
You can read this article at:

Conrad Black

Donald Trump's nationalism is of all colours

Electric Scotland

The Scottish Review
Added Volume 35 - July October 1899 for you to read at:

Folk Lore Journal
Added volume 7 which you can get to towards the end of the page at:

Beth's Newfangled Family Tree
Beth asked me to post up a story of sea turtles in NC so have added it to her index page at:

Also added section 1 of the May 2019 edition on the same page.

An Historical Account of the Settlements of Scotch Highlanders in America
Prior to the peace of 1783 together with notices of Highland Regiments and Biographical Sketches by J. P. MacLean (1900) (pdf)

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Eminent Arbroathians
Being Sketches historical, genealogical, and biographical 1178-1894 by J, M, M'Bain (1897) (pdf)

You can read this at:

Robert Burns Lives!
Added chapter 265 to this series which you can read at:

Scottish Australian Ancestors
Got in an interesting wee story which you can read at:

Mrs Laggan
Edited our page on this lady to provide links to her books which you can get to at:

Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders of Scotland
To which are added translations from the Gaelic; and letters connected with those formerly published in two volumes by Mrs Grant of Laggan (1811)

You can get to this at:

The Forester
Plain and Practical Directions for the Planting, Rearing, and General Management of Forest Trees by James Brown, Forester, Armiston (1847) (pdf)

You can read this at:

The Story


THE pathos of the story of the last century Jacobites does not lie in the Fifteen or even in the Forty-Five. The halo of romance that surrounds that magical Edinburgh week, the dignity of immortal defeat upon Culloden Moor, the marvel of those glorious months of wandering in the ‘land o’ the leal;’ all these things are a crown of life to a dead cause. Nor does it lie solely in the after-life of the Prince. Rather do we find it in the records of those who spent long years in exile, sighing for ‘Lochaber no more’ and repeating ever the sad refrain—

‘But the weary never come To their ain countrie.’

It is true that there were those among them who found friends in the land of the stranger, and who lived to work for the alien and to fight against the land that gave them birth; but this is no alleviation of the story. For it merely shows what a loss this hopeless struggle caused to the country for which the best on both sides would willingly have died. In happier circumstances, the eighteenth century might have had on its roll of fame numbers of brave and true men whose lives were wasted in miserable intrigues in Foreign Courts and who might have given new associations to great traditional names and have invested old Scottish homes with fresh memories that men would not willingly have forgotten. But all the time—

'Lone stood the house, and the chimney-stone was cold'

From this great band of exiles there stand forth two brothers, who are distinguished from their comrades at once by their personality and by their fate. By the seacoast, nor’ nor’ east, in the farthest corner of Aberdeenshire, stood, till last year, the ruins of the castle of Inverugie. On the one side, the sea-spray dashed against its walls and windows; on the others, lay the bleak, bare treeless country of Buchan, passing, southwards, into the sands of Forvie, the deserted parish long since buried under sand hill and covered with green bents; and stretching, northwards, into the fertile Howe o’ the Garioch, bounded by the haunted bill of Benachie, and almost within sight of Tap o’ Noth itself. For miles and miles the great feature of the landscape was the stern castle wall, and in this corner of the country the owners of Inverugie had the guiding o’t. To the great house of Keith belong many pages of Scottish history. They had been for centuries hereditary Earls Marischal of Scotland. It was a Keith who had led the Scottish cavalry at Bannockburn, and the blood of a Keith had staiued the banner of Scotland on Flodden Field. The fifth Earl, the founder of the college which produced Dugald Dalgetty, had borne a great part in Reformation politics, and he had gone on that perilous voyage to Denmark to bring back King James’s bride: the voyage when five witches had raised a storm such as no man could remember, by baptizing a cat, knitting to its four feet four joints of men and casting it into the sea with mystic words of hellish adjuration, the devil himself being present and being seen to carry a mysterious staff. The Earl had lived to tell the tale and to execute righteous judgment upon such bold and presumptuous sinners. In the seventeenth century, the family interest shifted southwards from Inverugie to Dunnottar, and during the ‘Troubles’ their attitude was strangely inconstant. But in the end they are found definitely enough upon one side, and the story of the Black Hole of Calcutta was rehearsed in the dungeons of Dunnottar. As.we approach the end, we find ourselves back again at Inverugie. There, in 1693, was born George Keith, and, in 1696, his brother James, sons of the ninth Earl Marischal and Margaret Drummond, his wife, the high-spirited daughter of the House of Perth, doomed to spend her latest years in the never to be realised hope that

'I’ll be Lady Keith again, The day the King comes o’er the water.’

It is of the younger of these brothers that we are to speak —James Keith, Scotsman, Frenchman, Spaniard, and Russian; and, finally, the Marshal Keyt, whose statue is in the Wilhelm-platz, and whose figure is to be seen on the Denkmal of Frederick the Great in the Unter den Linden. Of his earlier years a few words must suffice, for he himself begins his Memoirs thus:—‘Memories are commonly tedious in the beginning by the recital of genealogies, trifling accidents which happened in the childhood, and relating minucies (hardly fit to be imparted to the most intimate friend), that it renders them not only uninstructive to the reader, but often loathsome to those who wish to employ their time in any useful way.’ The formative influences of his life (to use our modern jargon), were three in number—his brother, his brother’s tutor (afterwards Bishop Keith the historian), and his own tutor, Peter Meston. They were all staunch Jacobites and Episcopalians, and Meston was the author of a poem of great popularity in his own days. ‘The Knight’ was an imitation of Hudibras, and consisted of a coarse satire upon Whigs, Hanoverians, and Presbyterians. When Meston was made a regent in Marischal College, James Keith followed him thither, and was pursuing the learning of that age when the news burst on an excited world that Queen Anne was dead.

After Queen Anne, the deluge. Keith has himself told us all about the intrigues that preceded the Fifteen, and he sketches with great incisive power the causes of its failure. Following his brother, the tenth Earl, he joined the Jacobite forces. Keith was under no misapprehension about the leaders of the plot. He knew men, and he spares neither Ormonde nor Mar. He was present at Sheriffmuir, the battle of which

'Some say that we wan,
And some say that they wan,
And some say that nane wan at a’, man;
But o’ this I am sure, That at Sheriffmuir

A battle was fought which I saw, man ;
And we ran, and they ran,
And they ran, and we ran,
And we ran and they ran awa’, man'

Keith was only seventeen years of age, but the Fifteen was the first event of his life, and he has pictured it with much detail. But we must hasten on. In May, 1716, Keith escaped to France, where the Queen Mother, the unfortunate Mary of Modena, received him most graciously. ‘Had I conquered a kingdom for her, she could not have said more.’ Next year he had a never to be forgotten meeting in Paris with Peter the Great, but he failed to attain a position in the Russian service. Not Peter, but his daughter, was to profit by Keith’s genius, and, ere that time came, Keith was once more to fight on Scottish soil. In 1718, he took part in the mismanaged Spanish invasion, and was defeated in the skirmish of Glenshiel. Curiously enough, he made his way from the West Coast to the East, instead of making straight for France, and, in the summer sunshine of 1718, he looked his last upon Inverugie and Peterhead, and betook himself to Spain. In the Spanish army he fought with distinction. He was present at the siege of Gibraltar in 1726-7, and made a suggestion which might have led to its capture. He pointed out that the English considered it scarcely worth while to guard against the little Spanish troop, that they allowed the Spanish soldiers to enter the town without any hindrance, that 'at less than 400 yards from the place there are sand bancs where a thousand men might lie concealed, and which they then had not the precaution to reconnoitre' and he suggested that it would be easy to surprise the garrison. But the Spanish general was much too magnificent for this. He expected reinforcements, and he said that Keith was a Protestant, and that Spain would take Gibraltar by storm or not at all. So it was not at all; and Keith, declining the earnest request of the King of Spain that he would change his religion, departed to Russia, where Spanish influence obtained for him the position of Major-General in the Russian army. As everybody knows, he rapidly acquired a position of supreme importance in the Russian army; he won Russian battles, ruled Russian provinces, negotiated Russian treaties. Then, in 1747, he suddenly left Russia and entered the service of Frederick the Great. The real cause of this decision has not been properly understood, although the instinct of James Grant led him to form a correct hypothesis, where more sober historians and biographers have missed the point. Before dealing with this, it may be well to give the remaining facts of his life. He became a Prussian Field Marshal, and the intimate friend of Frederick. In battle, siege, and especially in the great marches which redeemed Frederick’s chances so often, Keith was ever the guiding hand. He had a share in the victory of Rossbach, and the defeat of Hochkirchen came about because the king declined Keith’s advice. There, on the 14th October, 1758, Keith dealt his last blow. ‘Two shots in the right side be had not regarded: but this one on the left was final: Keith’s fightings are suddenly all done.....He sleeps
now in Berlin, far from bonny Inverugie: the hoarse sea-winds and caverns of Dunnottar singing vague requiem to his honourable line and him, in the imaginations of some few.’ So far, Carlyle. The Earl Marischal wrote thus: ‘My brother leaves me a noble legacy: last year he had Bohemia under ransom, and his personal estate is seventy ducats.’

Keith’s biographers have always been puzzled to know the reason of his leaving the Russian service. Mr. Nisbet Bain, in his recent book on the Empress Elizabeth, attributes it to his being offended by the refusal of the Russian Government to give an asylum to his brother, the ex-Jacobite, and piqued besides at not receiving the command of the auxiliary corps of 30,000 men sent to the Rhine in 1747.’ The secret history of the year is explained in a series of letters, the originals of which were in the Bibliotheca Sussexiana, and seem to have disappeared after the dispersion of that collection. Copies, however, were presented by General Hebeler to the Royal Library at Berlin, in 1843, and the present writer had the privilege of examining them in the summer of 1898. They are mainly addressed to the ‘Chevalier John Drummond,’ a cousin of Keith, and a grandson of the fourth Earl of Perth. Young Drummond had been ‘out’ in the ’Forty-five, and Keith had set his heart upon his taking service under the Empress Elizabeth, and carrying out the great designs for the aggrandisement of Russia, which Keith himself had formed. The series of letters extends from 1745 to 1756, and two of them are addressed to the Chevalier’s father, Lord Edward Drummond, and one to the Empress herself.

It is in a letter to Lord Edward Drummond that we find the real reason of Keith’s leaving Russia. It bears no date, but internal evidence shows that it was written about 1755. The Empress had made to her great soldier a proposal of marriage, and Keith had left because of her ‘royal determination to raise me to a height which would have been both my destruction and her ruin, of which she was soon convinced—even the day after my departure, when she had but barely intimated her design.’ No doubt, Keith was right. He had already made enemies, ‘being a foreigner, and deemed by those who knew not better, an Englishman.’ So he went away on the morrow. Was Elizabeth’s heart really touched? She certainly made love in a somewhat matter-of-fact way. She argued that Keith was ‘the only general, martially, geographically, and politically, who perfectly understood the grand projects of my great and good parent, and who had a soul suited by the great God of the universe to comprehend, and powers alone to execute them.’ Elizabeth was probably a married woman; she was childless, and thirty-eight years of age. But it would have involved no great difficulty to divorce or otherwise remove the Cossack shepherd whom she seems to have made her husband, and she longed for an heir to establish her throne. ‘You,’ she said to Keith, ‘are the only man alive who can, in time to come, train up a son, if he possesses your mind, to execute the plans of Peter the Great, under your improvement.' But there was probably more than this, for the Empress was not a woman who regarded practical considerations only, and to the end of Keith’s life she maintained a correspondence with him. Six years after he had left her Court, she could write to him in terms like these: ‘Alas! Keith, I am, as you well know, but a woman. So was Zenobia, the wife of Odenatus, who was, as you was, her general, her hero' and Keith himself says that her letters remain 'a sacred pledge of her gracious friendship, confidence, and unbounded attachment.’ Keith’s own attitude suggests nothing of this sort. He admired and trusted the Empress, and regarded her as his ally in carrying out his great schemes. But of the lover there is not a hint. Keith’s attachments were very steadfast, and some years before he had rescued a Swedish girl from the fate of a Russian captive, and had trained her up to be his life-long companion.

The correspondence between the Empress and Keith was not restricted to love-making or vain regrets. From Berlin he attempted to guide the policy of Russia. He was convinced of the folly of thinking (the words sound strangely modern) ‘that it is the interest of the commercial nations of Europe to maintain the Turks in splendour,’ and he believed that it would help ‘the greatest intercourse of commerce, navigation, population, and happiness to mankind/ if Russia should be in possession of Constantinople, while virtue and abilities animate the Russian Government.’ To this end he wrote long letters of advice both to the Empress and to young Drummond, pointing out how this object would best be attained. The final subjection of the Ottoman Empire might, he thought, involve a war of conquest, and he made a full estimate of the military and geographical conditions. But to this method of accomplishing his end he was strongly adverse, and he gave Russia incidentally a motto which she might well inscribe on her banners. 'Progressive boundaries, not rapid conquest' he said, and Russia has not failed to profit by the lesson. The letters which contained military details were mostly addressed to Drummond, who never entered the Russian service. But when the Russo-Turkish war of 1768 broke out, Drummond communicated Keith’s letters to the Russian Government, and placed them at the disposal of the Russian authorities.

The letters are interesting in other ways. They contain evidence of the mastery possessed by Keith over all the conditions of European politics in his day. He knows the military power of every nation; he gives us tables of the strength of the various navies; he approves of his cousin’s idea ‘of opening the neck or narrow space of continent between the cut de sac of Darien with the South Sea at or near Panama, and there dividing that grand continent’ He knows intimately the factions contending for power in Great Britain, and the secrets of the government of Louis XV. It is characteristic of Keith that his letters are discursive and touch many varied topics. He knew history well, and he was easily led into an historical dissertation. Like many Scotsmen, he had a weakness for historical parallels and contrasts, and a chance reference leads now to an elaborate comparison of Alexander the Great with Peter the Great, and again to a picture of the problems that confronted Henry IV. of France as contrasted with those that Peter had faced. He had, too, the national love of dogmatic statements and the national antipathy to priestcraft ‘Peter the Great' he says, ‘took example from the wise powers of the North—Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Holland, and Prussia—where the priesthood are confined to labour but in the vineyard of divinity and morality, or suffer pains and penalties for misdemeanours and crimes.’ The Scotsman’s love of Scotland was always with him. Three years before Hochkirch, he wrote passionately of his attachment to the land of his ancestors, nor would he admit that her doom was sealed, as most men thought, in 1756. ‘England has the vanity and folly to imagine herself equal to an extended territorial empire in America. She will repent when it is too late. Her venality of Government and the vice and avarice of her factions will finish her career. The nature of her climate, soil, air, and her inherent stamini will again revive her, and therefore Britain cannot sink into a Province, but for a season; for, after all her spurious breed are exhausted, her distant mountains and remote valleys will again re-people the land. A regeneration of the country from Aberdeenshire is a vision worthy of a Keith.

The personal fascination of a man who captivated the Empress Elizabeth, and became the confidant of Frederick the Great, can have been no small thing. Yet in life he formed but few attachments. His ruling affection was probably his love for his elder brother, the Earl Marischal, whose character Mr. Lang has so brilliantly sketched in The Companions of Pickle. His life can scarcely be accounted a failure, for he helped to lay down the lines of Russian policy. Had fate been kinder, his name might have ranked with that of Peter the Great. Or, had he been educated amid Whig influences, we might have associated him with Pitt and Wolfe. Tn 1740, indeed, he had an interview with George II. in London. But between Keith and the House of Hanover there was a great gulf fixed, and to bridge it proved impossible. So he lived in exile, beloved of a Russian Empress and a German King, the last and the greatest of Scottish soldiers of fortune.

Robert S. Rait.

And that's it for this week and hope you all have a great weekend.