The Scotsman Launched


The Scotsman Launched

Edinburgh, Edinburgh and the Lothians The 25th of January 1817 AD

With its first words: “Before proceeding to the ordinary business of our paper, we beg to observe, that we have not chosen the name of SCOTSMAN to preserve an invidious distinction, but with the view of rescuing it from servility,” a new national voice for Scotland was launched into the world. For all of the first page and the first two of the three columns on page two (of just eight) it then proceeded with a political and philosophical excursion whose pomposity is reminiscent of The Independent at its most self-regarding. But like that latter newspaper, it sought to offer a different view of the world.
The Scotsman pledged “firmness, impartiality, and independence” as opposed to the aforementioned servility which had been the spark for its creation – its founding co-editor William Ritchie angered when his revelations about Edinburgh’s New Infirmary could find no place in any existing outlet. Ritchie, a solicitor born in Fife , teamed up with Charles Maclaren, a clerk and writer originally from Haddington , and others including the former’s brother John, to create a paper to attack establishment targets including the then hugely corrupt council of Edinburgh .
Based at offices in 347 High Street, the weekly soon proved a hit. Priced at 10d (which meant it would not lose money with just 300 papers sold) it was a luxury item, but demand quickly saw a Wednesday as well as Saturday edition appear.
It was surely no coincidence that the first edition of the paper came on the anniversary of Robbie Burns’ birth ; The Scotsman’s stance as representing Scottish radical opinion underlined by its opening diatribe being followed by ‘Foreign Intelligence’ concerning the sitting of the French Chamber of Deputies, events in Spain and Portugal, America’s affairs, only thereafter touching on matters of moment in London .

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