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Thrifty Scot

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"In Scotland, panic buying of petrol is rampant, with Scots putting in as much as five pounds at the pump."
BRIAN BLESSED, Have I Got News for You note 

Along with being brave and violent, Scottish people are also often stereotyped as being thrifty, if not outright stingy, with their money and belongings. Within Scotland itself, people from Aberdeen may be stereotyped as being especially thrifty. Probably Truth in Television, since Scotland has always been a poor area compared to England, not to mention being considerably less fertile than the south. Thrift is a necessity under such circumstances. This would be perhaps supported by the fact that among Englishmen people from Yorkshire have a stereotypical reputation for thrift. On the other hand, Ireland has in large periods of its history been considered even poorer but the Irish are stereotyped as impulsively generous.

Part of the reason for the Scottish reputation for thriftiness is the dominance of the (Calvinist) Presbyterian Church of Scotland, especially in the Lowlands, and the importance of the Scottish school of economics in the tradition of Adam Smith. Indeed, the Scottish reputation for thrift probably comes from the early 18th century, shortly after the union with England, when a lot of business-savvy Scottish Covenanters (i.e. Serious Scottish Presbyterian Calvinists) started to come to England to start commercial ventures; the role of these Scottish businessmen in the Industrial Revolution—also pairing up with very thrifty English Nonconformist Protestants—cemented the association of the Scottish people with fiscal caution. All this has tended to make large parts of the world look on the Scots as embodiments of the Protestant work ethic who are "all work and no play", combining the stereotype of the Thrifty Scot with that of the Dour Scot.

Another major factor attributed to this trope was the massive failure of the Darien Scheme to establish colonies in Panama, which bankrupted many Scottish nobles and pushed forward the 1707 Act of Union.

See The Scrooge and All Jews Are Cheapskates for examples of non-Scottish people who don't like to spend money.


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  • This, combined with Violent Glaswegian, is a major part of Billy Connolly's act.
    • "My uncle once dropped ten pence; he bent over to pick it up, and it hit him in the back of the head."
    • "You may have heard that nasty rumour floating around that copper wire was invented by two Scotsmen fighting over a penny."
    • One time, Connolly was on Conan O'Brien explaining that he once bungee jumped naked on his travel show because the bungee place had a policy that if you jumped completely naked, it was free. When Conan asked why he did this just to save a few tens of dollars, Connolly replied "You'd have to be a Scotsman to understand".

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: Scrooge McDuck hails from Scotland, probably because of his love of money. Despite being the richest duck on Earth, Scrooge resents spending even the smallest amount of money.
    • In The Micro-Ducks from Outer Space, when the micro-ducks (who are all no more than three inches tall) offer Scrooge a bag of gold coins in trade, Scrooge has to examine them under a microscope to see them properly and comments "How about that? Gold coins no bigger than a Scotsman's tip!"
    • Scrooge's whole family is noted to be thriftier than most Scots, and when Scrooge is revealed to be the thriftiest of the family in history, the ghosts of his ancestors carry him in triumph.
    • In occasional stories, a single thriftier family member is seen: Scrooge's cousin Douglas, a rather batty gold miner who's so ridiculously stingy he considers Scrooge a spendthrift. In one story they fight to see who can get better discounts from a barber, and in another Douglas pursues Scrooge during a chase with Magica De Spell to demand Scrooge carry out the chase in less expensive ways.
  • Middenface in Strontium Dog is one of these, and usually asks Johnny for a loan whenever he appears.
  • Asterix and the Britons has a gag where our heroes need to track down a barrel of magic potion that's been hidden among identical wine barrels. A smiling barkeep turns dour on seeing they're ordering one cup for three, asking if they're Caledonian (the Roman name for Scotland).
  • Jommeke has a character named Mic Mac Jampudding who is basically a walking Scottish caricature. He will always try to avoid spending money on anything. In the album "The Jubilee" he brings a bottle of mountain water to Jommeke's birthday, which he bottled himself in order not having to buy it in a store.
  • Judge Dredd once exploited this trope during a Cal-Hab day parade where he was chasing a perp through a crowd of Cal-Habbers. When he announces that a half-cred note has been dropped, causing everyone but his perp to duck to look for it, allowing Dredd to nail the perp.
  • Viz once introduced Norbert Colon as being "even meanernote  than a Scottish person".

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave: Downplayed when Merida chooses to open King Fergus's private reserves after telling the clans of Dingwall, MacGuffin, and Macintosh that their sons should be able to choose love for themselves in due time. A perturbed Fergus decides to use the small drinking vessels.
  • In the Animated Adaptation of Soul Music, Mr Clete, the Guild of Musicians president who is horrified by the idea of people playing or listening to music without the Guild getting a cut, has a Scottish accent.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ill Be There, a 2002 movie starring Charlotte Church and Craig Ferguson, had Ferguson's drunken, profligate ex-rock star character crash through his mansion's window on a motorbike. While in the hospital the next day, the doctor asked him if he had suicidal feelings; he replied, "Why would I do that? I'm rich, and I'm Scottish."
  • In the feature length version of The Wizard of Speed and Time, Brian Lucas (no relation) goes to the studio accounting department to get funds to make the Wizard film. There he finds Angus McTavish, CPA, who tells him to put the P.O. (purchase order) in the IN box, and he might get some funds released during the next fiscal quarter. McTavish goes back to scanning over massive paper spreadsheets all over his desk:
    McTavish: Now, where is that nickel!

  • Two Scots once took a bet for a penny. The gamble? Which one of them could stay under water the longest. The outcome? They both drowned.
  • How was copper wire invented? Two Scotsmen fighting over a penny.
  • A Scotsman and an Englishman were leaning on a store counter, when a robber walked in carrying a gun. The clever Scotsman took out his money and handed it to the Englishman, saying "Here's the ten pounds you lent me."
  • An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman are eating dinner at a restaurant. A fly lands in the Englishman's soup, so he sends for the waiter and the waiter fetches another one. As soon as the waiter returns with the new bowl, a fly lands in the Irishman's soup, so the waiter goes and fetches him another one, too. The waiter returns with the Irishman's bowl of soup, at which point a fly lands in the Scotsman's soup. The waiter goes to take the bowl away and get another one, but the Scotsman waves him off, fishes the fly out, pins it by the wings, and says, "Spit it oot, ye wee bugger!"
  • In the days when smoking was permissible on a train, an Englishman asked the Scotsman he was travelling with for a light. The Scotsman duly handed over a single match. Then the Englishman realised his cigarette case was empty, and put it back in his pocket with a resigned sigh. The Scotsman held out his hand.
    "In that case, ye'll no' be needing that match."

  • Flashman's father-in-law is a wealthy Scotsman who does not approve of Flashman's profligate ways and often threatens to stop supplying him with money.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder was of Scottish descent on her mother's side. A couple of times in the books, Pa makes an admiring comment about Ma's Scottish resourcefulness with food when they're living in the middle of nowhere.
  • In the poem "The Lang Coortin'" by Lewis Carroll, the lady is thriftily Oblivious to Love. When her suitor sends her golden rings, she has them made into a chain for her dog; when he sends her locks of his hair, she uses them to stuff a cushion; when he sends her a letter declaring his love, she returns it unread, because the postage wasn't prepaid.
  • A two-line poem by Ogden Nash, "Genealogical Reflection":
    No MacTavish
    Was ever lavish.
  • In one of Mercedes Lackey's The Elemental Masters books, one wizard makes a throw-away line about having to take care of some magical issue in Loch Ness. He speculates that the Scots will somehow find a way to make money off it while the character he's talking to claims that the Scots will "use every part of a sheep but the 'baa'."
  • In one essay George Orwell comments on a joke at the time: when a collection plate at a lecture comes around, a Jew faints and a Scotsman carries him out. He points out this also fits the stereotype of the Scots being physically strong and the Jews being physically weak (this was before modern Israel).
  • In Phineas Finn Phineas is shot at by a Scottish MP who suspects him of having an affair with his wife. Phineas asks for a glass of brandy to steady his nerves. The landlady, also Scottish, proclaims that such a terrible deed has never happened in her house- then tells Phineas "that will be sixpence for the brandy, sir".
    Live-Action TV 
  • The "Poet McTeagle" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus chronicles what are ostensibly the poems of Scotland's greatest poet, but are actually all requests for money.
  • Classic Doctor Who serial "Terror of the Zygons" used this stereotype as a punchline for the last episode. The majority of the action took place in Scotland but for the finale the action moved to London. At the end the characters go back to Scotland so that the Doctor can retrieve the TARDIS, which he and Sarah leave in. The local duke whom they had rescued then berates the Brigadier (who had been earlier wearing a kilt) for calling himself a Scotsman, yet not getting the Doctor and Sarah to give him their unused return train tickets to London so he could get a refund.
  • One of the first claims discussed on Would I Lie to You? was from Scottish multimillionaire Duncan Bannatyne of Dragons' Den fame, saying that he'd banned his employees from buying paper clips, forcing them instead to use only the ones that came in with the mail.
    Angus Deayton: Lee, what are you thinking about this?
    Lee Mack: Well, I have to say, the idea of saving money on paper clips is absolutely ridiculous, although the accent is swinging it a little bit... Okay, we think that's true.
  • An episode of Dad's Army involves Frazier maniacally hanging onto his stash of gold coins despite all Captain Mainwaring's attempts to get him to put it into his bank.
  • When David Tennant appeared on QI, Lee Mack made a joke about Tennant being a Thrifty Scot. Tennant then started waving his pen around like it was a Sonic Screwdriver. He then made an observation that during World War II, the British army had a tank touring throughout the UK, and encouraged people to chuck their spare change into the tank for the war effort.
    Tennant: And where did they get the most money? Glasgow!
    Lee Mack: Yeah, 'cause they thought it was a big fruit machine. 'Look, I won a soldier, Mummy!'"
  • Only an Excuse? sometimes portrays the Celtic board like this, such as suggesting they invaded the pitch after a supporter threw a 50p piece at the ref.
  • The Crown: Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother finds herself in an accidental Queen Incognito situation when Captain Terry, the owner of the Castle of Mey (which she wants to buy) on the far northern coast of Scotland, doesn't recognise her on sight. When the captain finds out that she is the widow of George VI and mother of the Sovereign, he asks her why he never told her. She says that it's partly for the wonderful sensation of not having the pressure of being royal and partly because he would have doubled the price if he had known. His response?
    Capt. Terry: Spoken like a true Scotswoman.
  • The Professionals
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Fugitive" when George Cowley reprimands Bodie for supporting "that popular misconception of the Scots. You couldn't find a more generous race." While he's saying this he's refusing to share the sweets he's eating, and it's implied that earlier he used Bodie to pay a 12p fine on his overdue library books (by handing him the books as 'cover' when Bodie had to enter the library).
    • In "Where The Jungle Ends". Cowley orders Bodie to buy a suit for the mission because he has to look like a politician's bodyguard. At the end of the episode as Bodie is walking off with Doyle, he explains they're actually walking off to the tailor to return the suit.

  • Possibly the least insulting stereotype thrown around in "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice" by Flanders and Swann.
  • Eric Bogle often pushes this stereotype about himself, usually at the expense of of other band members; such as suggesting that he doesn't pay them.
  • Lonnie Donegan, himself born in Scotland to a Scottish father, included this gag between stanzas in his single "My Old Man's a Dustman":
    "I saw a Scotsman scraping off his wallpaper."
    "Oh, decorating?"
    "No, he was moving."
  • The Scottish musical comedy group Scotland the What? had a parody of "Let's Do It" that concluded:
    You do it, we do it,
    Scots across the world because it's free do it.
    Let's do it, lets fall in love.
  • Swedish folk singer Evert Taube's song "Eldarevalsen" ("The Fireman's Waltz") tells of a sailor who is accidentally left behind in the ship's boiler, hears the engine start up and figures he's about to be boiled alive, but is saved at the last minute when another crewmember peeks inside looking not for him, but for the ax the sailor was carrying. The only explanation given for why the crewmate would be more worried about an ax than his mate is "He was Scottish, you know, and it was his ax."

  • In 1944, a rumor spread that President Franklin Roosevelt had left his Scottish Terrier behind on an island, and sent a destroyer to fetch him back at great cost. Roosevelt drew on this trope (as well as Violent Glaswegian) in his response:
    You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since.

    Print Media 
  • There's a famous cartoon from Punch! showing two stereotyped Scotsmen in kilts:
    Peebles Body: [to a Townsman who was supposed to be in London on a visit] E-eh, Mac, ye're sune home again!
    Mac: E-eh, it's just a ruinous place, that! Mun, A had na' been the-erre abune Twa Hours when — Bang — went saxpence!

  • The characters Hamish and Dougal, created by Graeme Garden and Barry Cryer originally for the Sound Charades round in I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. The Catchphrase "You'll have had your tea?" is intended to be heard as "You're not expecting me to feed you, right?"
  • Several ones pop up throughout The Men from the Ministry, such as Sir Calvin McFrugal, the financial advisor of the Ministry of Works who considers having two chocolate-biscuits during the elevenses insane extravagance.


    Western Animation 
  • In Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, in the The Wind in the Willows segment Angus McBadger is in charge of Toad's finances and thus is very concerned about money. However since Toad is an Upper-Class Twit whose various manias and hobbies have threatened to bankrupt him, and his tendency to cause huge amounts of damage without a care, this is very justified.
  • In the Disney cartoon "Pigs Is Pigs", the conflict in the story is partially because the Scottish McMorehouse doesn't want to pay an extra 4 cents to have the guinea pigs shipped as "pigs" rather than as "pets".
  • The Max Fleischer "adaptation" of The Raven completely overhauls Edgar Allan Poe's poem to make the titular raven a Traveling Salesman trying to sell a vacuum cleaner to a wealthy Funny Animal Scottish terrier, who fits this trope to a T.
  • In the wartime cartoon "The Spirit of '43", Donald Duck's thrifty side is represented by a Scottish duck (who coincidentally looks like Scrooge but predates him by a few years).
  • Scrooge Mc Duck, of DuckTales (1987) fame, is perhaps Disney's best-known example of this trope. His thriftiness varies from a virtue to being outright miserly depending on the story. It's widely believed he was based on both Ebeneezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol and Andrew Carnegie, the latter being a fabulously wealthy Scottish industrialist. Later in life Carnegie became a philanthropist, but Scrooge remained quite ungenerous with his wealth and adhered to this trope.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • In "The Blow-Out", a cash-strapped Porky finds a nickel lying on the ground, but it gets snatched by a Scottish terrier decked in a kilt and bonnet.
    • In "My Bunny Lies Over The Sea", the Scotsman whom Bugs Bunny messes with is shown as being thrifty. He has only one bullet that he has kept in the family for years, and he is tricked into lowering Bugs' golf score because Bugs makes it seem like an auction and his immediate reaction is to want a lower number.
  • The Tex Avery cartoons "TV of Tomorrow" and "Car of Tomorrow" have a "thrifty Scotchman's model" joke; a flashlight on the former, a pedal-operated car on the latter.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: While he doesn't have a typical Scottish accent (he talks like a stereotypical 17th-18th Century English pirate), Eugene H. Krabs otherwise fits the bill here EXTREMELY well. His fellow crabs at a convention in "Kracked Krabs" also fit this trope, and they actually compete to see who is the cheapest one of all. Krabs wins by a landslide when he attempts to steal his and SpongeBob's hotel room while checking out after being asked to leave. And yes, you did read that correctly, he didn't just steal FROM the hotel room, he tried to steal the entire room.

    Real Life 
  • This trope originated in 18th-19th century England, and is a shining example of a stereotype being built upon one population only being exposed to a very specific subset of another population (see also: stripy-shirted French onion salesmen). The Act of Union of 1707 linked the English and Scottish economies in a way they had never been linked before, and more or less eliminated all difficulties in crossing the Anglo-Scottish border by making them, you know, one country. As a result, almost every Scot in Scotland who had a desire to get rich beat a fast path down to southern England, where the wealth was. Needless to say, the English recognized the traits that tend to be typical of such go-getters (including thrift) in these Scots, while failing to see the same traits in themselves...
  • A large proportion of the jokes about Gordon Brown while he was Chancellor of the Exchequer played on this trope (ha, ha, the frugal Scot is in charge of the country's finances! It's so funny!). Brown didn't help his case by playing into another stereotype about Scots: that of the "dour Scotsman" who shows no emotion and is consistently gloomy in his mien if not his outlook. The jokes persisted somewhat during his tenure as Prime Minister, given that he was overseeing the country during the financial crisis and money matters were front and center, but strangely, his Chancellor, the equally-Scottish (if born in London) Alistair Darling, did not receive the same treatment.
  • The Scotch brand of tape gets its name from an incident where the first attempts didn't have enough adhesive on them, prompting buyers to call the makers "Scotch" (which used in this sense is a pejorative meaning "cheap"). The story goes that the tape was originally manufactured by 3Mnote  for Detroit engineers and auto stylists to separate different colors of paint, e.g. in two-tone paint jobs. The original tape only had adhesive on the two edges, leading to bleeding paint. The Detroit guys sent a message to 3M's chief engineer telling him some variation on "take this Scotch tape to your Scotch bosses and tell them to put adhesive down the middle."
  • The image of Scottish thriftiness is also popular in Germany, where you sometimes see advertisements proclaiming goods at "Schottenpreise" (Scotsmen's prices). In Germany itself some Protestant regions also have a reputation for thriftiness or stinginess, e. g. Swabia (Württemberg), Westphalia and within Westphalia Lippe (a rural region with a strong Calvinist tradition). There is also the common expression preußische Sparsamkeit (Prussian thrift).
  • As late as the 1980s the US supermarket chain Safeway had an in-house brand called "Scotch Buy", with a jingle to (very roughly) the tune of "Loch Lomond".
  • Automaker Studebaker introduced a budget-conscious series of cars called the Scotsman in the 1950s, which eliminated many options such as a radio and cigarette lighter to cut costs.
  • James McElvar, singer of Scottish boy band Rewind, wore all of his clothes on board a flight in an attempt to bypass a £45 luggage fee. Unfortunately for him, it caused him to suffer heat exhaustion and pass out. Luckily, he got better.
  • The early history of the discipline of thermodynamics (and the associated early research into heat engines) owes a great deal to Scots being cheap, largely by trying to save fuel:
    • The foundational thermodynamic concept of "latent heat" was discovered by the Scottish scientist Joseph Black in the 1760s after a group of Scotch whisky distillers commissioned him to research the minimum amount of fuel needed to fire their stills.
    • A few years later, Black's student and fellow Scotsman James Watt, working off Black's research, made a small but significant modification to the Newcomen steam engine. This change made it much more efficient, which—surprise, surprise—saved fuel. When Watt went into business selling his new engines, he and his partner didn't charge for the machines directly—they charged a percentage of the buyer's savings in fuel costs for a year. The development of the Watt engine led directly (by way of people—Scottish and otherwise—trying to save even more fuel) to the invention of the study of heat engines and thermodynamic cycles in the early 19th century.