St Andrew’s Day 2017

Another opportunity to celebrate all things Scottish. This year there’s a serious attempt to reclaim the flag – the Saltire – from the separatists and the SNP. St Andrew was crucified on a diagonal cross, poor chap, and was buried. Later, when the burial site was under threat, the Christian authorities ordered that several parts of his body should be scattered to the ends of the world. This was both to preserve the remains and to spread the Word. Good idea, really. I think it’s his knee-cap that got as far as the coast of Fife, after which the town of St Andrews is named.

But, back to the present. We who believe that Scotland needs to be within a (reformed) United Kingdom need to ensure that the separatists don’t make the flag their own. We should all drape ourselves in the flag and take selfies, captioning it with something like: “Ma flag, oor flag, aa’body’s flag”. That settles it. Oor Wullie and The Broons belong to all of Scotland.

While we’re on the subject, interesting to read in this month’s Leither three pieces by local politicians. SNP MP Deidre Brock wrote a sterile piece about Catalonia; SNP MSP Ben MacPherson did a cut and paste job from party HQ extolling the government’s achievements and efforts on renewable energy; and Labour councillor Gordon Munro wrote a hard-hitting and painful to read fact-filled indictment of poverty in Leith. It’s carefully referenced and passionate, ending with an appeal to work together to halt and reverse the worst effects of what he calls 20th century “benign patriarchy”. I would quarrel with the adjective there. He didn’t (have space to) go on to point out that the out-of-control heroin abuse of the 1980s was a symptom of social malfunction. It’s clear to me that Gordon is the only serious, thoughtful, politician among them all.

Do I, a man of the English/Scottish borderlands who has lived in Leith these nigh-on forty years, feel at home? Yes, I do, very much, and very comfortably. But I still relish the tensions. As a young fellow I played village cricket in north Northumberland and occasionally Newcastle. Two or three times we crossed the Border to play at St Boswells, a shorter journey than to Newcastle, but the accents were very strange. So, a life-long hard-core Test Match Special aficionado, I was listening to the match report from far-off Brisbane in the wee small hours recently. The situation was deteriorating for Our Brave and Heroic Boys in White on the Batting Crease of Life. The commentators read out an email from a chap on an oil rig in the North Sea complaining that he was trying get some peace to concentrate while putting up with a bunch of “really immature” Scotsmen who were pretending to be Australian. All in the best of good humour, of course, and no hard feelings. They don’t all understand. Cricket is a Scottish game as well. The British cricket team was named the England team in mid-19th century when everything British was subsumed into England. There have been several Scottish players and captains of the England team. Ach well.