THERE is always something contrary about Scots. It’s part and parcel of our nature. It’s bred in us to be suspicious when we’re being told things by those who claim to be our betters or to know better than us, to ask questions, or to automatically take an opposing stance.
You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to, and I sure as hell won’t eat any even if you tell me they’ll prevent cancer and make me live longer. Who are you to tell me to eat vegetables? And five portions a day? Away and boil your heid.
It’s exactly that kind of stubborn recalcitrance which made Scots great inventors or go out and conquer parts of the world no-one else ever wanted to visit. Darien anyone?
And it’s what’s behind a sudden resurgence of interest in the royal family north of the Border – as well as why the SNP can’t seem to raise support for independence past the 30 per cent mark in opinion polls.
Admittedly there were few street parties to celebrate the diamond jubilee, but with the Queen in Edinburgh this week I sense a shift in the air. A realisation that perhaps old Queenie ain’t too bad a head of state after all.
Maybe it started with Wills and Kate’s wedding, or closer to home with Zara choosing the Canongate Kirk to get hitched to Mike Tindall, but when I saw pictures of the Queen from the Ceremony of the Keys at Holyrood Palace on Tuesday I felt a certain warmth towards the royals – which, coming from someone who has long held the belief that the French had the right idea in the late 1700s, is a bit of a philosophical turnaround.
Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t bear all the pomp and circumstance – and expense – which comes with royalty. It might be my mellowing age, or indeed her old age, but there was definitely some sentimentalism involved when I looked at the photos of Her Maj in her practical yet stylish mac as the rain poured down.
I also have to admit to an interest in catching a glimpse of the new Duchess of Cambridge – and not just because she might have got her outfit from Reiss on Multrees Walk, but because she could well be our next queen. Even writing that still makes me inwardly “bleurgh”, but what I’ve realised is that my sudden fondness for royalty actually stems from the fact that we might lose them. Contrariness, you see.
Of course, the SNP says that an independent Scotland would still have the Queen but, even so, in an independent Scotland we would lose what they represent: the quintessential idea of Britishness.
I am a Scot and a Brit. I quite like it that way. I like the idea that those living in other countries can look at us and think: there goes a country full of people so secure in themselves that they allow these fancied-up royals to float around opening hospitals, being patrons of charities, touring old folks homes. They don’t actually feel the royals are any better than them just because they’ve got crowns and palaces – they just don’t want to put hospital patients through visits from David Cameron or Alex Salmond. Just how would anyone be expected to recover from major surgery after that?
The SNP has realised that the threat of removing the Queen has made us want her more – even if we might still rail against others in her family. She’s part and parcel of our nation. She’s our queen as much as those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, of course, SNP policy changed.
And it keeps evolving as it comes up against Scottish contrariness. In its drive for independence the SNP is trying to tell us what we think, what we want.
It believes that by being voted into the Scottish Parliament with a majority of MSPs, that the majority of Scots wants complete self-governance. Which is why it likes to tell those of us who don’t agree with independence that we are “anti-Scottish”.
The problem the SNP has is that it’s Scots they’re dealing with. And we’ll be telt nowt by naeb’dy. Not even Mr Salmond. And the opinion polls are testament to that.
Are you a true Scot?
JUST what makes a Briton is, of course, the subject of the citizenship test, which Home Secretary Theresa May wants to beef up so, let’s face it, it becomes harder for immigrants to become British citizens.
Apparently, she will even be asking people to learn the second verse of the national anthem, which is something about scattering enemies and confounding politics and frustrating knavish tricks. Obviously no-one in Westminster or the City of London knows the words.
But it made me wonder if the SNP would introduce a Scottishness test should we become an independent country, and what it would ask?
Would those desperate to be Scottish be asked the recipe to Irn-Bru? The ingredients in a haggis? Where on a man’s knee his kilt should sit? Whether Braveheart was a true reflection of the William Wallace story? Which road – high or low – actually gets you to your destination first?
I would hope there would never be an attempt to ask people to know the second verse of Flower of Scotland. After all, not even the hoards at Murrayfield on a rugby international can get that right.