Series on Scotland: Professor Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh

Professor Tom Devine helps us put our understanding of Scotland and the prospect of independence in perspective.


Talking in the Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh. credit for photo: BBC

Talking in the Playfair Library, Old College, University of Edinburgh. credit for photo: BBC

Continuing on The Academic Entrepreneur’s series on Scotland and The Imagination Economy in light of the upcoming independence Referendum, let’s here from Senior Research Professor in History, Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh. He is also the Director of the Centre of Diaspora Studies. Professor Devine has a lot to teach us on Scottish history, and the union in context.


One of the things I learned from Professor Devine as a student  at the University of Edinburgh was the notion that the real loss of confidence amognst the Scots was not over the union in 1707; rather, it was the end of the industrial revolution, the sudden downturn of industry that coincided with the fall of The British Empire. This led to high unemployment and strife.

In Toffler’s terms, this would be the leveling of the “Second Wave” (Industrial Age Society), which ushers in the ” Third Wave”(Information Age Society). We are now at the beginning of the Third Wave and while Professor Devine doesn’t describe it this way, he does speak to a growing awareness and confidence amognst the population . I believe this is because the Third Wave has begun to lift all boats over the last two decades. We see the knowledge and creative economy growing in Scotland.

My theory posits that with sound and creative innovation policy in the areas of immigration, incubation, entrepreneurship, higher education, venture capital, currency, trade and tax, an independent Scotland can maximize the Third Wave and ride it up to heights yet unseen on the globe in terms of wealth creation. In short, this is the potential of the Imagination Economy.

As a historian, Professor Devine admits the he doesn’t know what is going to happen post-independence “because that’s not my area”. The Academic Entrepreneur, while leaning more towards the futurist side, doesn’t know what is going to happen either.  However, this is because its entirely up to the policymakers. Good government with keen insight and an understanding of creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and how policy effects these realms is needed. Will good politicians, researchers, analysts be aboard? Will the public be aware enough to make good decisions?  This is the challenge and remains to be seen.

Professor Tom Devine, University of Edinburgh






Professor Tom Devine – History of Scotland and the Union “Better together or should Scotland Say Yes” during the University of Edinburgh’s Alumni Weekend


Here is an interview with Professor Tom Devine.


Interview with Tom Devine


Contact information:

Tom Devine, OBE, BA, PhD, DLitt, HonD Univ (Strathclyde, 2006), Hon DLitt (Queen’s, Belfast, 2001), Hon DLitt (Abertay, Dundee, 2001), FRHistS, FSAScot, FRSE, Hon MRIA, FBA

Senior Research Professor in History and Director of the Scottish Centre of Diaspora Studies
Formerly Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography (2005-2011)


Room 01M.17, William Robertson Wing, Old Medical School, Teviot Place University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

Telephone:  44 131 650 4029


About The Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies

From the University of Edinburgh website:

The Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies (SCDS) was established in 2008 within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology as a result of a generous private benefaction of over £1 million.

At present the Centre has nine academic staff, eight postdoctoral fellows, nine honorary postdoctoral fellows and ten graduate students. It is a research unit offering advanced training and supervision for MSc and PhD students. A full programme of conferences, symposia, seminars and workshops is presented each academic session. An important feature of the Centre’s activities is public outreach. Links with other complementary disciplines at Edinburgh such as African Studies, Anthropology, History, Italian, Politics South Asian Studies and Sociology are well established.

SCDS is one of the foremost global centres of excellence on the history of emigration and immigration, subjects of great current political, social, economic and cultural interest both within and beyond the academy. In its first years of development, most attention was given to work on the Scottish diaspora which, because of its nature, scale and world-wide impact provided a superb historical ‘laboratory’ for research on international human mobility. While Scotland will always remain a core area of interest, increasing attention is now and in the future being given to comparative studies, generic diaspora themes and the migration histories of other ethnicities.

The Administrator of the Centre is Sarah Duffy (; Tel: 0131 651 1254) to whom all enquiries should be directed in the first instance. The Director is Professor Tom Devine OBE DLitt Hon MRIA FRSE FBA.




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