Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
This is about more than our politics and our laws. This is about who we are, how we carry ourselves.(First Minister Donald Dewar MP, MSP, at the state opening of the Scottish Parliament, 1 July 1999)
Scottish theatre in the late twentieth century was a vital, challenging and diverse cultural industry. It was an active participant in a period of huge social, cultural and legislative change, reacting to the election of Tony Blair’s New Labour government and the devolution referendum in 1997, followed two years later by the election campaign in Scotland and the opening of the first Scottish parliament for 292 years. In a country with a population of a little over 5.1 million, a parliament in Edinburgh made government a more tangible and personal thing than ever before – Scotland’s politicians were more accountable and the electorate more involved in the processes of government. As a consequence of the constitutional changes within the nation, the ‘imagined’ nature of Scotland also changed. Scottish culture had been much preoccupied with issues of colonialism, marginalism and parochialism, but in a context where at least some aspects of political independence had been achieved, the dynamic shifted from aspiration and desire to definition and responsibility.
Writing for the Scotsman in the aftermath of the devolution referendum, Scotland’s leading playwrights, David Harrower and David Greig, were challenged by the creative potential of this new environment:
Scotland has voted to redefine itself as a nation. To redefine ourselves we need to understand ourselves, exchange ideas and aspirations, confront enduring myths, expose injustices and explore our past. The quality, accessibility and immediacy of Scottish theatre make it one of the best arenas in which these dialogues can take place.