Scotsman 200: The Queen and Nicola Sturgeon lead anniversary tributes

The Queen has led the tributes to The Scotsman as the newspaper celebrates its bicentenary.

The Scotsman today celebrates its 200th  birthday. Picture: Johnston Press
The Scotsman today celebrates its 200th birthday. Picture: Johnston Press

In a letter, the monarch congratulated staff at the title on the “significant” anniversary and extended her “good wishes” to its readership at home and abroad.

On a landmark day in the history of Scotland’s national newspaper, key figures from across the nation’s public life have also sent messages of congratulations.

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They include political, religious and business leaders as well as leading lights in the worlds of the arts and sport.

The Queen's letter to The Scotsman's managing editor Ian Stewart.

The newspaper was founded by solicitor William Ritchie and customs official Charles Maclaren, under the guiding principles of “impartiality, firmness and independence”, which to this day are printed at the head of its leader articles.

Its first edition was published on 25 January 1817, a year in which plans for the Union Canal were ratified, Jane Austen died at the age of 41, and George III was monarch.

Two centuries on, as the title marks its 53,220th edition, his great-great-great-great granddaughter has commended The Scotsman’s present-day staff on the historic milestone.

In a letter to Ian Stewart, editorial director of The Scotsman, the Queen wrote: “I was most interested to learn that The Scotsman is today celebrating its bicentenary as a national Scottish newspaper. Please convey my congratulations to all those on the newspaper’s staff, and my good wishes to your readers in Scotland and elsewhere, as you mark this significant anniversary.”

The gold leaf plaque bearing the pledge from The Scotsmans Prospectus is refurbished at North Bridge, 1965. Picture: TSPL

The leaders of the country’s main political parties have also reflected on the newspaper’s contribution to Scottish civic life, as well as looking towards its crucial role in the country’s future.


“For two centuries, the paper has been part of the everyday life of Edinburgh and of Scotland, informing, entertaining and commentating on events great and small.

“Through 200 years of tumultuous change across the country and the wider world, the Scotsman has been there to report on and analyse it all.

The Queen's letter to The Scotsman's managing editor Ian Stewart.
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“The paper’s journey has mirrored that of Scotland as a whole, and I look forward to it continuing to report, scrutinise and commentate as the nation looks to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

“The Scotsman occupies a special place in Scottish journalism, and I commend its staff, past and present, for all the work they have done in ensuring its success.”

-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“From your very first edition in 1817 you promised to banish ‘unblushing subserviency’ from your pages and you are still guided by that principle today.

The gold leaf plaque bearing the pledge from The Scotsmans Prospectus is refurbished at North Bridge, 1965. Picture: TSPL

“Down the years you have been at heart of public debate in Scotland, raising the vital issues of the day, never afraid to question and challenge those in power. You’ve earned a worldwide reputation for the quality of your journalism and your knowledge of Scotland and I know there are many more exciting chapters in the Scotsman’s history still to be written.”

- Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell

“The Scotsman has been part of my daily life for as long as I can remember.

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“It has always risen to the big occasion in Scotland without ignoring the wider world. I wish it a happy next two centuries!”

-Lord Steel

During my 45 years in political office and public service I have appreciated the contribution The Scotsman has made to our nation and to the quality of comment and coverage it has provided on the big issues and events: contributing on occasion has been a pleasure.

“In today’s world of dramatic social, political and economic upheaval the Scotsman is well placed to continue to serve the people of Scotland.”

-Former First Minister Henry Mcleish

“For 200 years you have set a high standard for quality reporting and serious debate, made a significant contribution to the cause of home rule for Scotland, and always maintained an interest in the rest of the world too. As a young activist in the late 1970s and early 80s, I read The Scotsman because of its coverage of international affairs. As a campaigner for Scottish devolution and for a change of government in the 80s and 90s, I followed The Scotsman’s reports about the condition of Scotland. As First Minister, I was always acutely aware of the scrutiny of The Scotsman and I appreciated its continuing contribution to national debates about the future of Scotland, the UK, Europe and beyond.

“Your history reflects the modern history of Scotland and your contribution should never be forgotten.”

-Former First Minister Jack McConnell

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“The Scotsman is central part of the Scottish firmament. I have enjoyed it, been infuriated by it, castigated it but often been inspired by it. It is an invaluable part of what makes Scotland a wonderful and still promising part of the world. Its contribution to Scotland’s past has been immense. Its part in our future will be even better.”

- ex-Nato chief Lord Robertson

“When I was still at high school, the paper paid me £80 for a piece I wrote on drugs education. It helped me decide that was what I wanted to do for a living.

“Newspapers are facing unprecedented challenges, but with its distinct voice and a focus on encouraging talent and investing in people, I hope The Scotsman secures its place as one of the country’s essential news sources for many years to come.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson

“This newspaper has been a proud champion of devolution for decades. The opening of the Scottish Parliament is one of Labour’s greatest achievements, and for decades The Scotsman worked to build public support for devolution. For 200 years, this newspaper has often been ahead of its time. It highlighted gender inequality in 1995 when it was published as The Scotswoman, and launched the online Steamie site over a decade ago when blogs were in their infancy. I was a regular contributor, and being able to have my voice heard as a young political enthusiast was a great privilege.”

- Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale

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“The Scotsman has long played a central role in Scotland’s changing media landscape. Over the years it has been served by many talented reporters and writers. As it marks two centuries in print, I wish it well for the future. Journalistic scrutiny plays a vital role in our society, and the ‘impartiality and independence’ pledged by the Scotsman’s founders are qualities I hope it holds on to.”

- Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie

“The Scotsman has a rich history of strong journalism and delivering the news to the people of Scotland. It has nurtured some of the best journalists in the land. As news becomes more bite sized and digital, the Scotsman has been able to successfully deal with the challenges that comes with it and has been able to continue reporting the news in the 21st century. ”

-Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie


“I’ve always had a soft spot for The Scotsman. My first ever short story won second prize in a contest run by the paper and Sinclair computers. (The winner was Iain Crichton Smith, who became a friend.) Research for my Rebus novels - and other projects - has compelled me to dig into the Scotsman archives, providing fascinating glimpses of a past Scotland. This country continues to change - as does the world birling around it - and more than ever journalism is required to speak truth to power. Here’s to many more years!”

-Ian Rankin, author

“Many hearty congratulations and happy returns on reaching this historic milestone. A 200th birthday for a Scottish newspaper is a huge achievement and is a source of great pride for Scotland. Ever since my student days in Edinburgh I have devoured your arts and music coverage which is seen as authoritative and reliable throughout the world. Generations of Scots have looked first to you for the reporting and analysis of our shared life, at home and abroad.”

-Sir James MacMillan, composer

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“I remember what a thrill it was to read the very first review by Duncan Campbell (which led off the 1977 Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviews) of my theatrical debut Writer’s Cramp which was, much to my great delight, a rave - likewise, with The Slab Boys at the Traverse in the Grassmarket, the following year, this time from Allan Wright - as you can imagine, I have been a huge admirer of The Scotsman ever since(!) - Many Happy Returns on your 200th!”

-John Byrne, playwright and artist

“The Scotsman is at the heart of our national conversation. For many, it is a friend whose presence at their table is a reassuring constant in a changing world. Years ago I agreed to write a serial novel, Scotland Street, for The Scotsman. I thought that would just be for my Scottish readers at home, but no, I was wrong: Scotland Street is now read all over the world and in many languages. I am grateful to The Scotsman for giving a home to those novels and I offer my warmest congratulations to its editors and all its staff, past and present. I hope that your future is a bright one.”

-Alexander McCall Smith, author

“I would like to wish a very Happy 200th Birthday to The Scotsman. I hope we can all take a moment to celebrate this organisation. The Scotsman’s pledge, 200 years ago, was to present and defend impartiality, firmness and independence. Here’s to a future where this newspaper maintains and upholds these principles in the world of journalism. Happy Birthday!”

-Nicola Benedetti, classical violinist

“Congratulations and very best wishes to everyone on The Scotsman on the occasion of your excellent paper’s 200th birthday. Thank you for your world class coverage and support for the arts over these many years, and in particular for the famous Scotsman Fringe Firsts - surely one of the most coveted awards in the world of theatre 
and one which any company can win, from the 
lowest budget student production to the most 
epic of musical sagas: the Fringe First Awards remind us every year that great theatre comes in many guises.”

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-Maureen Beattie, actress


“On behalf of everyone at British Airways, we send our warmest congratulations to The Scotsman for providing its readers with two centuries of quality journalism.

“Having played an important role in the economic life of Scotland over the past seven decades, connecting its people and businesses with the rest of the world, British Airways has featured often in the columns of The Scotsman.

“Probably the most memorable for us, was the front page which featured the iconic image of a British Airways Concorde, accompanied by the Red Arrows, overflying the city of Edinburgh in recognition of the official opening of the Scottish Parliament in by Her Majesty The Queen.

“The image was seen by hundreds of millions of people as it was circulated around the world by the print and broadcast media. To have been at the heart of Scottish society, recording and commenting on the most important political, social, business and cultural events in the life of the Scottish nation and its people, is an admirable achievement, and one rightly celebrated by everyone involved in the publication, past and present.”

-Alex Cruz, chairman and chief executive officer, British Airways

“The Scotsman is to be congratulated on achieving this important milestone at a time when longevity in business is usually measured in decades and not centuries. With 166 years under its belt CalMac may be a newcomer by comparison, but we nevertheless understand the challenges of evolving to meet changing times and ever changing demands from customers.”

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-Martin Dorchester, managing director of CalMac ferries Ltd

“In 2016 Edinburgh Airport celebrated our centenary year and we thought we were getting on a bit – but it is reassuring to know that The Scotsman has quite a few years on us!

“The Scotsman is a tremendous publication, getting to the heart of matters across the country, and we wish the publication and all of the staff a very happy birthday as we look forward to many more years of print and online news and commentary.”

-Gordon Dewar, chief executive, Edinburgh Airport


“For all of the last 20 years getting quotes into The Scotsman has been a vital aim because then I know our message will get in front of ministers. Here’s to 200 more years of influence.”

-Dr Richard Dixon, director, Friends of the Earth Scotland

“Now, more than ever, it’s important that the environmental problems faced by people and nature, and the potential solutions, get raised and debated. The Scotsman has a long and proud tradition doing exactly that.”

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-Lang Banks, WWF Scotland

“The face of Scottish farming has changed immeasurably in 200 years but a constant has been the industry’s ability to rely on The Scotsman to report, fairly and accurately, on the issues that matter most to Scotland’s farmers. That long-standing commitment to cover rural issues on a daily basis has generated incredible loyalty to the paper from its many farming readers and, on behalf of our membership, we wish The Scotsman continued success.”

-Scott Walker, NFU Scotland

“Congratulations on reaching this incredible milestone. Having a paper of such heritage is an asset for all of us involved in bringing Scotland’s stories to life.”

-Simon Skinner, National Trust for Scotland

“Throughout the last 200 years The Scotsman has been there to report on the truly momentous moments of history, and over that time it has become a cornerstone of Scottish life and culture.”

-Roseanna Cunningham, environment secretary


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“Congratulations to The Scotsman on their 200th birthday – from someone living in a house once owned by the editor of The Scotsman.

“Built in 1876, 2 Rothesay Terrace in Edinburgh’s New Town was once the home of J R Finlay, editor of the newspaper. “Since 1998 it has been owned by the Church of Scotland and is now the official residence of the Moderator of the General Assembly.

“Along with the privilege of living in such a lovely house comes a responsibility.

“In 1999 I founded Fresh Start, a charity which helps people who have been homeless make a home for themselves, and during my year of office I am highlighting the continuing scandal of homelessness in Scotland.

“As Moderator I am determined to rekindle that ambition among politicians, civil servants, church members and the wider public. From all I have learned there is no doubt we know what is needed to end homelessness: the real question is whether we have the will and heart to do so.

“So congratulations to The Scotsman, and what better way to celebrate this significant anniversary than pledging to help eradicate homelessness in Scotland. I like to think Mr Finlay would approve.”

-Rt Rev Dr Barr

“As The Scotsman prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary, it is worth remembering the high ideals contained in the newspaper’s Prospectus, published on St Andrew’s Day 1816. Together with a promise not to confine their Journal ‘to the discussion of politics’, the publishers also undertook to make the pages ‘open to all who shall, without personal abuse or libellous matter, bring forward a case which, politically, morally, or religiously, is deserving of general consideration’. I hope these noble aspirations will continue to be upheld, while congratulating all those who have promoted them for 200 years, and offering my very best wishes to the Editor and all the staff.”

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-Archbishop Philip Tartaglia, President of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland

“Many congratulations to The Scotsman for reaching this milestone.

“It has been an integral part of Edinburgh life for 200 years and I hope it will continue to be for many more years to come.”

-Rev Dr George Whyte, clerk to the Presbytery of Edinburgh, Church of Scotland


“The Scotsman has been ever-present in its reporting of rugby in Scotland through its unforgettable highs and occasional lows. From the legendary writing of Norman Mair to capturing some of the sport’s most iconic images through its stable of photographers such as Jack Crombie, Hamish Campbell, Alan MacDonald and Ian Rutherford, the paper has formed a close bond with rugby, which it has always recognised is of considerable and passionate interest to its readers.”

-Scottish Rugby

“The Scotsman is a go-to paper for a large proportion of Scotland’s rugby community, at home and overseas, consistently creating space for supporters to interrogate, understand and celebrate the preparation, progress and performances of the national team.”

-Scotland rugby coach Vern Cotter

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“The Scotsman has played a significant role in promoting Scottish sport and Scottish rugby. I remember when I was a paper boy always reading the sport section during my round

“Rugby writers such as Norman Mair, Allan Massie, Graham Law, David Ferguson and Stuart Bathgate have all played an important part. There has been some excellent rugby journalism passed down the generations and their coverage of rugby at school, club and professional level has helped to raise the profile of the game in this country.”

- Gregor Townsend, Coach, Glasgow Warriors

“Happy 200th birthday to The Scotsman. It’s been a pleasure working with so many great rugby journalists over the years and reading articles covering all facets of the game, from grassroots through to the international stage. I have many memories of flicking through the paper to source school results and match reports, and reading the thought-
provoking musings of Norman Mair, Allan Massie and the likes from a young age. The Scotsman has been a reliable reference for rugby news over the years, and long may it continue.”

-Duncan Hodge, Coach, Edinburgh Rugby

“For anyone growing up in Scotland, The Scotsman has been a wonderful institution. It offers excellent coverage of sport and news at both local and international levels. I have to say something about the late Norman Mair whose knowledge of rugby and golf was encyclopedic. He was a wordsmith and a true gentlemen. I’d like to offer my congratulations on the last 200 years and my best wishes to the paper for the next 200.”

-Gavin Hastings

“Congratulations to The Scotsman – 200 years and still going strong. I have been an avid reader for over 50 years. Unrivalled coverage of rugby union from the days of Norman Mair and old Jack Dunn to the present day.”

-Andy Irvine

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“As a youngster growing up in Muirhouse with a paper round and milk round for company, The Scotsman always had a real presence to me. It was the big paper, in all that entailed; what the grown-ups read and, of course, it was renowned as the newspaper of record. As I made my way in football, I quickly became aware that that respect was garnered for a reason and I soon got to see the human side of the paper.

“Big personalities like Hugh McIlvanney and John Rafferty made their names there and, after returning to Scotland as a manager, I soon discovered that Glenn Gibbons could be hard, uncompromising but always fair. As a lover of golf, the elegance of Ian Wood and knowledge of Mike Aitken resonated.

“If longevity is the true mark of success, then The Scotsman celebrating 200 years says it all. Happy birthday.”

-Scotland football coach Gordon Strachan


“At its best, The Scotsman was a shining, shimmering mirror of its country. The particular politics, the tangled history, the poetry and the landscape.

“As a rookie reporter in the 70s – a sleeper journey away in London – I remember the excitement of a paper where we argued into the night about the editorial line, or whether the right letter had been given the lead slot on the page, or if John Rafferty or Norman Mair should have had the greater sports space (they would count their words in pages, not lines).

“Happy days. Coia cartoons from the Festival, commissioned poems by MacCaig and Crichton Smith (imagine!), eccentric columns and, above all, a brave newspaper that listened to the beat of its heart.

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“The paper reaches deep into the history of Scotland, and for two hundred years the people who care about this place – from whichever political warren they peer out – have known it as an inviting stage, and often their playground. That freedom and commitment has never been more important than now. So, may it thrive. Every time I look across to North Bridge, and those windows where generations of editors stood to gaze, I remember good times, and hope they aren’t over.

- James Naughtie

When I think of the importance of The Scotsman, I don’t think of buildings or mastheads or money or even circulation. I think about people.

“I think of the piercing, unflinching integrity and idealism of my first editor, Eric Beattie Mackay, a man with a North Sea gale on his head and a smile as dry as a Free Kirk hop. Eric was a pessimist with a fierce love of Scotland, and an absolute belief that Scots should be able to govern themselves. His only hesitation would have been a lingering worry that things would fall apart in London without sufficient Caledonian input.

“Then I think of the single most gifted Scottish journalist I knew, the late Ian Bell, in his way just as formidable and just as kind. He had a golden way with words and a passionate engagement with Scottish politics and culture; on any day he was writing, the paper was worth buying for him alone. And I think of the other journalists I still revere – several Jims, Sarah, Robbie, Chris – they know who they are. All great journalistic institutions are in the end a quarrelsome cluster of interesting people. And The Scotsman’s been lucky in its lovely, clever folk.”

-Andrew Marr, BBC

“A strong, indigenous press is vital in Scotland to ensure proper scrutiny of our politicians and institutions and we are delighted that this week The Scotsman and The Herald celebrate 200 and 235 years respectively of serving readers across our nation.

“These milestone anniversaries coincide with a combined print and online audience bigger than at any point in our histories.”

-Graeme Smith, Editor of The Herald


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“The National Galleries are proud of our long association with The Scotsman. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, founded in the 1880s through the generosity of an early owner of the newspaper, John Ritchie Findlay. A portrait of this enlightened philanthropist still hangs in pride of place in the Gallery’s central hall, a reminder for our many thousands of visitors of the past, present and, we trust, happy future we share with one of the world’s great newspapers.”

-Sir John Leighton, The National Galleries of Scotland

“The Scotsman has been a vital part of Scottish life for 200 years. Its dedication to bringing brilliant, informed writing and images of the arts and culture, both in news and features, continues to be a shining example to many newspapers and magazines worldwide.”

-Roberta Doyle, director of external affairs, National Theatre of Scotland

“I’d like to send warm birthday messages from all the VisitScotland team to The Scotsman on its 200th birthday. Thank for you for being the voice of Scotland nationally and internationally for two centuries. Showcasing Scotland is at the heart of what The Scotsman is about, and over the years this has been important for tourism, inspiring not only visitors to come here, but also residents to get out and explore the country around them. We are proud to have worked with you through the good times and the more challenging times, and we wish you all the best for the future.”

-Malcolm Roughead, chief executive, VisitScotland

“The Scotsman has a special place in the social history of Scotland, reporting now for two centuries on the cultural life of a nation – its history, art, heritage, science and many other fields of interest.

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“The collections in our care reflect the technological change the title has spearheaded since the outset: a scale model of the Foster Printing Press, a great leap forward in automated production used by The Scotsman in the 19th century, and the 1928 Belin photo-telegraphy image receiver – the first such apparatus to be acquired by a British newspaper.”

-Helen Ireland, director of external relations, National Museum of Scotland