Scotlands History

Great Slump and Glasgow Empire Exhibition

After the boom time of World War I, heavy industries went into a severe economic downturn by 1920.  Scotland relied on a narrow industrial base and world trade had declined, so orders spiralled downwards.

The failure to diversify into new ‘sunshine’ manufacturing industries led to employers sacking workers, cutting wages or lengthening workers’ hours. Competition from Europe with cheaper coal, in contrast to the lack of new technology in UK pits, led miners and other unions into the General Strike of 1926. Six months later miners had to cave in to their employers’ demands.

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 worsened the depression. By 1932 one third of the nation’s workforce was unemployed, with the worst health and housing in unemployment black spots.

In 1931 the Scottish population was in decline and the Labour Party was decimated at the General Election. A National Emergency coalition government was formed by Ramsay MacDonald. For thousands, the only survival routes were either migration south for better job prospects, or emigration – as generations before had found – to the USA, Canada, or Australia.

The Glasgow Empire Exhibition of 1938 was designed to showcase Scotland’s achievements, and signalled a resurgence of optimism but it would take another war to lift Scotland out of the great slump.

  • photograph of a tray, commemorating 1938 Glasgow Empire Exhibition

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