Sure, be like St Andrew but enough of the myth making about Scotland - Susan Dalgety
Tomorrow is St Andrew's Day. If you’re lucky, your boss will have given you the day off, but more than likely you will be working.
The Scottish Government decreed it should be a public holiday back in 2006, but only as a substitute for an existing one, not an extra break.
But worry not if you’re stuck behind a till, or on a hospital ward, or like me, sitting on my couch pretending to work while watching Escape to the Country, you can still join in the national celebrations.
This year the Scottish Government and its agencies, including VisitScotland, have decided that we should all be like St Andrew. According to a cheesy, sorry, cheery little film on the Scotland.org website, our patron saint was known for being “strong, friendly and fair’.
His philosophy was simple, says the chirpy voiceover: “Share what you have with those less fortunate and be kind to one another.”
“Let’s keep up this tradition and be like St Andrew by sharing an act of kindness,” exhorts the disembodied voice. “Like buying a stranger a coffee, donating to a food bank, or buying something from a charity shop.
“If everyone in Scotland did something small it would all add up to create something special, hashtag be like St Andrew,” he ends in a patriotic flourish.
I am all for “being kind”, though I confess I had never thought of my charity shop habit as an act of kindness, rather a way to satisfy my shopping urges on a budget, but I did find this St Andrew’s Day propaganda rather sinister.
But not nearly as creepy as the ‘Scotland is Open’ video, part of the same campaign, where a young woman carefully reads a script that insists Scotland is “a place of equals, we are creating things anew.”
“We are Scotland and good things live here,” she ends with a smug smile, at which point I switched off.
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old socialist, Scotland is not a place of equals. More than one in four children live in poverty. We have the highest drug deaths in Europe, three-and-a-half times the rate in England and Wales. The median wage in Scotland is £25,600 a year, yet a one-bedroom flat in Gorgie sells for £140,000 and more. We are not a ‘place of equals’, and the only things we appear to be ‘creating anew’ are hospital waiting lists.
I don’t want to sound churlish. I am a big fan of tradition, so I welcome St Andrew’s Day celebrations, particularly the handful of live events that have returned this year. But the Scottish Government’s clumsy attempt to use our patron saint’s day to promote nationalism makes me slightly queasy.
This year’s campaign sets out to portray Scotland as exceptional. Its aim is to create a myth of the perfect nation, to underpin the SNP/Greens’ stated aim of leaving the UK.
It won’t work. Even the most committed nationalist must know that Scotland has as many economic and social challenges as England. And the latest YouGov polls shows that support for independence has stalled at around 40 per cent. The state of our National Health Service is what matters to people now. Perhaps the Scottish Government could #BeLikeStAndrew and “be kind” to our NHS.