​Caught inside a tartan tat shop –  what if someone you know spots you? Susan Morrison

Edinburgh’s High Street has more than its fair share of shops selling Scottish souvenirsEdinburgh’s High Street has more than its fair share of shops selling Scottish souvenirs
Edinburgh’s High Street has more than its fair share of shops selling Scottish souvenirs
Last weekend, the Yorkshire husband and I were forced to go around the tourist shops this weekend in search of a particular ‘thing’.

Of course, I was thrilled. What? A day shopping? Fire up the credit card and watch it burn, baby.

Mind you, it is faintly embarrassing if you live here to get caught inside a tartan tat shop. What if someone you know spots you? The indignity. We considered disguising ourselves.

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Half a day later we staggered away from the High Street, defeated, our ears ringing with the incessant drone of various bagpipey tunes, most of them fairly unrecognisable.

So many shops. So little choice. We were bored rigid. Cheaply refitted identical shops chock fu’ with exactly the same peculiarly pastel plaid scarves, kilts and gloves, piled in exactly the same way with virtually the same prices on them.

Each shop was staffed by interchangeable sad-eyed young people who'd clearly had all the enthusiasm drained out of them.

They forlornly folded woollies with a mildly distracted air, like debutants fallen on hard times and trying to remember life before the fall. They really are miles away. You can tell.

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Speak to one of them directly and it takes a full ten seconds of blinking before they can focus on the question. I don’t blame them for daydreaming. If I had to spend my days with my ears being battered by ‘Highland Cathedral’ on repeat I’d probably start confessing to crimes I didn’t commit just to get out of there.

If one of them grabs you to tell you they shot Kennedy, you’ll know what’s happened.

There are literally miles of silver ‘Celtic’ jewellery, all identical to the shop before and the shop before that. No idea where it all comes from. One young shop assistant told an American lady it was all made here, which I rather doubt.

There might be a Scottish designer behind them, but I suspect there are not workshops making this stuff just up by Inverness.

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Mind you, it's a lovely thought that there’s a remote Highland steading filled with tiny elf-like craftspeople banging out Celtic knot pendants and two-handed Claddagh rings by the truckload.

The day was dispiriting. Is this the best we can do for our visitors?

Everyone knows, I'm as happy to buy tat as the next girl, but these shops are a dead hand on our retail offerings.

Last week on the canal we stopped at Hebden Bridge. It's a delightfully mad little place.

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As everyone we met explained to us, hippies bought houses for buttons there in the 1970s and moved up to do Reiki massage, cast horoscopes and hold workshops to relieve depression in sheep.

Genuine craftspeople moved there, too, and as a result, the place is full of mad, quirky little shops selling things you just don’t see anywhere else.

Well, you can now, since I managed to carry off a fair old bag of swag, so some of it’s in my house.

Now, I know a little town in Yorkshire is a very different proposition to the capital city of Scotland. Shop rental is far more expensive, but surely we can create more opportunities than just the old Tron Kirk for independent makars to show the best of Scotland to the visitors from all over the world?

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