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The town of St. Andrews

November 30th is St. Andrew’s Day, so this week’s blog post is about Scotland and the possibility that it may become independent following a referendum that is taking place next year. I was initially thinking of discussing traditional events that I remember from the St. Andrew’s Days that I spent in Scotland. However, that would have resulted in quite a short post indeed. St. Andrew’s Day is really nothing like St. Patrick’s Day in national or international terms.

I’m glad to see that websites such as www.scotland.org have been talking up St. Andrew’s Day, but I find it hard to identity with the idea that ‘there will be parties galore in Scotland, events around the world’. I actually went to school in a town called St. Andrews and was rarely aware of special events taking place to mark the day of our country’s patron saint.

I remember hearing a few years ago about an attempt to boost the profile of Scotland in the United States by focusing on events that were to take place on Tartan Day, which I recently learned is April 6th. my initial reaction as that this seemed a bit odd as it involved ignoring our patron saint’s day and also Burns’ Night (25 January, a day that celebrates our national poet Robert Burns). However, November and January are perhaps not the best times of year to have major outdoor celebrations as the weather can be somewhat ‘dreich’, to use a Scottish word. Dreich, meaning cold, gloomy and wet, was recently voted Scotland’s favourite word in the Scots language. I’m not quite sure what that says about the national outlook!

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Deep fried Mars bars: one of Scotland’s more recent culinary traditions.

Although St. Andrew’s Day is often in many ways a bit of a non-event in comparison with St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland (and anywhere in the world that sells Guinness), or even St. David’s Day in Wales, I do quite like the fact that Burns’ Night constitutes a day when Scotland celebrates its national poet. As a vegetarian who has never eaten the traditional haggis, I perhaps have a somewhat different approach to its traditions. However, as I have mentioned in a previous post, the invention of vegetarian haggis has provided me with a way of celebrating Scottishness that is more suited to my culinary preferences and beliefs.

When I was at primary school, every class had a Burns recitation competition during January where everyone would have to recite (or simply read) a given Burns poem. In my second year of primary school, I came third out of the boys in my class and then it was downhill from there. Burns’ poetry, written in Scots, is written in a dialect that it many ways foreign to me as my parents were born in Belfast and Dublin rather than places such as Glasgow or Edinburgh and moved to Scotland as adults.

Despite that, Scotland remains the country where I grew up and a place for which I retain a great sense of fondness despite having lived in England, France or Wales since 1998. This means that I won’t be able to vote in the referendum next year that could lead to Scotland becoming independent. Although I’ll be following the result closely, I don’t really have an issue with the fact that I won’t be able to vote. I feel that it’s people currently living in Scotland who should have the final say on its future. I’ve lived in Wales for almost six and a half years now and was able to vote in a referendum about extending some of the powers that have been granted to the Welsh Assembly since devolution.

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Scotland is generally seen as quite a welcoming country but there have been some unconfirmed reports of toads pushing cyclists off their bikes in the Edinburgh area.

There are many questions about what an independent Scotland would involve, and a recent BBC News article discussed several of them. Will Scotland be able to keep sterling as its currency if it becomes independent? How easy will it for Scotland to join the EU as an independent nation? If Scotland joins the EU, will it be pressured into adopting the Euro as a condition of entry?

Some aspects of discussions about money and an independent Scotland amuse me, especially as it seems that some people in the rest of the United Kingdom appear to think that Scotland already has its own separate currency. Most sterling bank notes are produced in England but there are also sterling banknotes that are produced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. They are all legal tender and should be accepted anywhere in the UK, but attempting to pay for something in England with Scottish banknotes can sometimes appear about as welcome as proposing to pay for an expensive car with monopoly money or old milk bottle tops.

There are also questions being asked about Scotland’s ability to stand on its own two feet in economic terms as well as issues that involve both employment and diplomacy. What will happen to revenue from oil rigs in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland? If Scotland becomes independent, will the UK government still want to (or be able to) keep nuclear submarines at Scottish bases? I also heard a rumour that bee keepers who had received grants from the London-based government would have to return some of their equipment if Scotland were to become independent. In a protest in partly inspired by the film Braveheart, some of them recently got together to chant ‘they can take our hives but they’ll never take our freedom’ (OK, I admit that I made up this bit about the bee keepers just so I could work in a one-liner…).

West Sands, the beach in St. Andrews where the opening sequence of the film Chariots of Fife was filmed.

West Sands, the beach in St. Andrews where the opening sequence of the film Chariots of Fife was filmed.

The possibility of Scotland becoming independent brings with it the chance that there will be such a thing as Scottish passports in the near future. On some levels, this appeals to me as many people in the UK define themselves as being from Scottish, English, Welsh or Northern Irish but simply have a UK passport that does not reflect this sense of identity.

However, the fact that I don’t see an administrative document as necessarily providing a necessarily true or full reflection of my own sense of national identity or cultural belonging also means that I probably wouldn’t rush out to get a Scottish passport if they became available. I’m of Irish ancestry thanks to relatives from both the North and the Republic, was born and brought up in Scotland, married to a woman from England and live in Wales with our Welsh-born son.

Whether or not Scotland becomes independent, it will remain the place where I was born and a land to which I will feel a sense of attachment. Whether or not it becomes an independent country, it may well feel quite foreign to our son despite the fact that he is already enthusiastically eating porridge aged seven months old. No matter what happens in next year’s referendum, I look forward to sharing some of Scotland’s culture and traditions with him as he grows up. By the time Burns Night comes round on January 25th, I reckon that he should be old enough to have his first taste of vegetarian haggis.

 

What did you think of this post? What are the traditions that you most enjoy celebrating? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.

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I’ve linked this blog post up with the ‘Something for the Weekend’ parent bloggers link-up hosted by The Voice of Sarah Miles and Diary of the Dad as well as the ‘Post Comment Love’ (#PoCoLo) link-up hosted by Verily Victoria Vocalises.

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