Sunday, January 21, 2007

Scotland: Too Funny for Independence?

On the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union Scotland appears to be going through one of its Independence Now phases. They should be encouraged solely because this would maximise the embarrassment of uber-Scot Gordon Brown. However, I fear an independent Scotland may not thrive. Scots suffer from a compulsion to parody themselves. On my recent visit I entered a small shop. I was followed by a small tweed-clad man. 'Hellooooo, Finlay!' cried the woman behind the counter. 'Helloooo, Susan!' he cried back. Both spoke in a comedy Scots falsetto, which, I am convinced, was dropped the moment I left. I have also heard that on the Isle of Skye they switch into Gaelic at the sight of any foreigner and switch back to English the moment they think are alone with their own folk. Now the Scottish nationalist Alex Salmond has suggested the Edinburgh assembly should impose a £1 million toll on every Trident nuclear warhead that enters Scotland. This is brilliantly witty but ill-advised - obviously we would retaliate with a swingeing impost on claymores entering England. Is there something fundamentally unserious about contemporary Scotland? And, if so, can they hope to rule themselves without sinking, giggling, beneath the gloomy waters of the loch?


  1. So long as Ian Rankin is writing, there'll always be a gloomy Scotland.

    Exiling Alexander McCall Smith would help reduce the balance of wimsey there, too.

  2. I think you're right about the Scottish comedy put on for tourists, Bryan. When Allan and I were there this summer, half the pubs in Edinburgh advertised "free-range haggis" or "haggis raised in Scotland." The tour guide at the Castle even showed us an enclosure "where sheep, cows, and haggis were penned until the soldiers needed to slaughter and eat them."

    Guess it might work on Americans who never saw that episode of The Simpsons discussing the true provenance of haggis.

  3. Yet again the phrase 'desperate but not serious' comes to mind...
    Lavish McTavish

  4. I live in glasgow and alot of people are like that irrespective of whether an englishman is there or not.
    You'd probably start talking like that yourself if you lived here long enough.

  5. For a while I talked like that just because I happened to be reading Trainspotting. But then I'm a compulsive mimic and often have to take pains not to subconsciouly slip into the accent of whoever I'm talking to, in case they take offence.

    The interesting thing about this latest little flowering of Union break-up talk is that it's being turned on its head. It's no longer the Braveheart-loving Scots driving the disUnion wagon, but the English, who have begun to feel that they have nothing much to lose by ditching their ungrateful northern neighbours and probably a little bit to gain (about £700 a head, according to Jonathan Guthrie in the FT).

    Scottish nationalists should bear in mind Truman Capote's phrase about more tears being shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

  6. ...Scots suffer from a compulsion to parody themselves...

    Scots suffer from a compulsion, just when getting sort of organized, to let it all fall apart over petty bickering.

  7. AT the risk of being a political bore...Scotland is the only country to not have a right of centre major party.

    I think this gives them a funny, yet suicidal, attitude to politics. All the parties compete to be more authoritarian and spend of taxpayers money.

    Glad I don't live there.

  8. Glad you don't live there too, Cityunslicker. Although I feel certain many of my fellow Scots must strongly, if rather secretly, bemoan your absence. Are you SURE we can't make you change your mind? You sound like such terrific company.

    Mind you, I'm glad I don't live there (any longer) too. But still.

    Hello host. One of the depressing things about these latest, fevered, discussions, is the response of those Englishmen who are (ostensibly) most keen on preservation of the Union.

    I wonder if they ever stop to think how their sneering and thinly veiled threats sound to prickly Scottish ears? To be told we are unable, too dependent, too poor - an ungrateful and parasitic bunch who've never had it so good - too goddamn self-destructive, no less, to run our own affairs. To be told these things ad nauseam rather makes us feel you don't like us. And even the fair minded amongst us are made to wonder what on earth the point is of trying to make this marriage of convenience work.

    Just a thought. (and sorry for going on)

    Kind regards etc...

    PS. Cityunslicker - only joking, by the way. You made a good point about the right of centre party thing. Sad, but true.

  9. Hello!

    Very interesting blog!
    I have created another one in which I talk about nationalism. It can be applied to any nationalist issue currently held in any part of the World. I'm from Spain (EU)and we here have things like these.



  10. I just want to say that I really love this website and I love Scotland! I hope you guys will love my new blog, it is for people from Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. 'Experience - Scotland' is my first blog but it is a lot of fun: (