OUR attitude to wealth and wealth creation is something we really need to sort out before we make another appeal to the Scottish people to vote for the national independence that is their birthright and the best way to fulfil their aspirations.

I say so after the range of reactions from readers to the column I wrote last week about the Sunday Times Rich List and the sort of Scots who appear on it. The Scottish list is notably lacking in certain types who figure prominently in the corresponding English list.

There are two types that dominate this English list at the top end. One is the oligarchs – foreigners who have forged fortunes in distant countries by fair means or foul. They bring their ill-gotten gains to the City of London, which beckons them with the broadest capital markets in the world. They invest the cash in hidey-holes that are hard to trace by regulators or watchdogs. The oligarchs avoid taxes at home, and the UK Government indulges them here. It wants the City to retain its pre-eminent global status as a mecca of fiscal freedom.

The other type on the English list are the toffs, the traditional ruling class of wealthy people, under attack by radicals for more than a century but still often battling through to preserve their old property, with perhaps a stately home in the sticks.

While many have fallen by the wayside in the modern UK, still there are enough of them to make it apparently impossible for any large public company or charity to do without one or more on its board.

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The Scottish list largely lacks either of these two types. The oligarchs regard Scotland as a country where they go to shoot wild animals rather than invest their money. And the toffs, while quite successful in holding on to their estates, do not regard these as sources of income – simply because the estates on this side of the Border are not sources of income but rather, if anything, financial burdens. Properties that make people millionaires are in Buchanan Street in Glasgow or Princes Street in Edinburgh, not in the parts of Caledonia that are stern and wild.

So it has surprised me to see some readers’ comments on my column last week. I wrote how the great majority on Scotland’s Rich List made all their money for themselves. They represent a first generation of wealth. They came from ordinary backgrounds, had a brilliant idea and set up their own companies, taking all the risks this entailed. A few had a wee wobble or two on their way up, but were never put off and today are deservedly reaping ample rewards.

Yet Monica Foe of Edinburgh wrote in to say: “The rags-to-riches sentimentalism involved in this is frankly sickening, especially in the current climate.”

She went on that I “should have more respect for the hard-working people building the small businesses that constitute a large part of our economy. They will be experiencing unprecedented difficulty at present, and probably don’t have a crew of tax lawyers creatively accounting their way out of this black hole”.

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But Monica, I have often written about small business in Scotland, because it is where the industries of the future will grow. Usually my columns criticise the Scottish Government for neglecting some of the real commercial problems among new companies in favour of foisting on them an essentially irrelevant agenda of political correctness. Take a look at the criteria to be imposed for loans by the new Scottish National Investment Bank.

A more sensible case was set out in a letter from Selma Rahman of Edinburgh, who made particular reference to our trade with Bangladesh, the origin of the Victorian prosperity of Dundee. Later, things changed. For a period after its independence in 1971, Bangladesh was among the world’s poorest countries, not least because its leaders decided the new nation should be socialist. The result was, as in all similar cases, a disaster.

TODAY, Bangladesh has turned to capitalism instead and is well on its way along the path followed by other Asian tigers in the global economy. It has been achieving growth of about 6% a year, or 10 times as much as Scotland. Fifteen million of its people have moved out of poverty. Its industrial revolution, like others in history, started with textiles.

As I sit writing this column, I am wearing a groovy Jacamo shirt from Bangladesh.

Selma Rahman points out, however, that the coronavirus crisis may bring an end to the period that has seen developing countries integrate with the global economy to an extent never seen before. In the case of Bangladesh, it has a close relationship with one of our top-10 companies, Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, run by Philip Day. He also owns a string of high-street retailers, including Peacocks, Jaeger, Jane Norman and Austin Reed, which sell, among many other things, Bangladeshi exports.

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The men and women who work in the factories in Dhaka and Chittagong remain by our standards extremely poor. They put in long hours in conditions that fall well short of Western safety standards. In 2013, 1000 of them died in the collapse of one factory which was eight storeys high. Cracks had appeared in the walls, but the management made the employees carry on working under the pressure of looming shipping deadlines.

It may seem amazing that ordinary people flock to such jobs, yet they do. For them, it is the way out of the peasant poverty that has afflicted their country over centuries (the first Scot to write about famine in Bengal was Adam Smith in 1776). They had parents and grandparents who still eked out an existence among jungles and swamps. But the living descendants have joined the global economy.

Their poverty has dropped by one-third, they are eating more and living longer. Whatever Westerners may think of the new way of life, I don’t think Bangladeshis want to go back to the old one. They see the new one as the way to wealth – which they can reach, if other Asian countries are their example, in far less than 200 years.

But what will happen now that the coronavirus has shown that the long supply chains are not the unmixed blessing we assumed when Edinburgh Woollen Mill started buying textiles from Bangladesh? Not only cheap goods can come to the West, but loathsome diseases too.

If I were to bet on the outcome, I would put my money on victory for the human aspirations rather than for the deadly virus. In other words, more Europeans and Asians will remain interested in bettering their condition than in shrinking back from a contagion of which, after all, we as yet know little.

They will still want wealth to make themselves happy. And the capitalist system remains the best means of accumulating wealth, for the many as well as for the few.

It is, of course, true that people who have long enjoyed wealth can become jaded with it, and seek ideals that seem somehow less grubby.

I would not have thought Scotland falls easily into this category except that we appear at the moment to be ruled by such people. I hope they will soon find something else to do.