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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 09:48 GMT
Taking Scots beyond the 'cringe'
Fan in Horseshoe Bar, Glasgow
Scotland's "crisis of confidence" is being explored at a conference in Glasgow.

The gathering of key policy makers and influential figures aims to reinforce the idea that significant change can only be achieved if Scots address how they see themselves.

The "Towards a Confident Scotland" conference is looking at new ideas in confidence and culture throughout every area of life from education to health, enterprise, social inclusion and sport.

Speakers include Scottish Enterprise chief executive Robert Crawford, VisitScotland chairman Peter Lederer and television broadcasters Kirsty Wark and Iain Macwhirter.

Negative aspects

Conference organiser Carol Craig said that the Scottish cringe was common in society.

She said: "Some sectors of Scottish society believe that if anything is Scottish it must be third rate.

"There is also a tendency for us to exaggerate the negative aspects of Scotland."

Ms Craig believes the problem starts very early in life.

"We are brought up to believe that we should not think very highly of ourselves. We try to keep people in their place."

American psychologist Professor Martin Seligman has spent years studying the Scots lack of confidence, which he said leads to poorer health, lack of achievement and lower life expectancy.

We put gags on ourselves. They are self-imposed because we don't want to appear stupid or inadequate, because we don't want to be criticised
Cordelia Ditton
Voice Business

He said: "When we have an educational system which systematically beats down pride and individuality, in which competition and losing is a terribly bad thing, that is probably one of the things that leads to this.

"But that is something we can undo."

Others think that the way to boost Scotland's confidence is political.

Scottish National Party MSP Jim Mather said: "Other countries that are independent, autonomous, have the power to compete, are the ones that have genuine confidence. "

Political author Gerry Hassan, head of the left-leaning think tank Demos Scotland, doubts whether politics alone can deliver the answer.

Possibility of failure

He said: "What this conference is about is saying change is a much wider cultural thing.

"That is not necessarily for or against independence, it is saying we need wider cultural change whether or not we are independent."

Cordelia Ditton, director of Voice Business, has been working for several years to retrain Scots, to break down their natural reserve and to make them behave in a more confident open way.

She said: "The Scots have this desire to be respectable.

"We put gags on ourselves. They are self-imposed because we don't want to appear stupid or inadequate, because we don't want to be criticised.

"Yet experimentation and allowing yourself the possibility of failure is what makes us grow in all sorts of senses."

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