It has become almost a cliché that during the period of intense colonialism by the great powers of Europe 'the sun never set on the British empire'. The reason that this cliché persists is that the idea behind it is true: according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "[b]y the end of the 19th century, the British Empire comprised nearly one-quarter of the world’s land surface and more than one-quarter of its total population" (Britannica). This vast conquest was not done on a whim: it had deep roots in ideas of cultural and economic superiority and, more to the point, the (demonstrably false) idea that the British Empire represented progress and 'civilization', while the rest of the world represented backwardness and so-called 'barbarism'. These ideas arose, developed, and even to some extent occurred in Scotland through the academic works of writers such as Adam Smith, William Robertson,and James MacPherson, as well as the myths that arose around the Jacobite Rebellion, putting Scotland at the forefront of the horrors that were to come when those myths were exploited by later revisionists.
"Noble Savage, Noble Scotsman: The Act of Union as a Dubious Model for British Colonialism,"
Augsburg Honors Review: Vol. 12
, Article 2.
Available at: https://idun.augsburg.edu/honors_review/vol12/iss1/2