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About A Week: Bonny Scotland

Scotland for the Scots, says Peter Hinchliffe. Why should they not have home rule?

If I’d been born north of the Tweed at the top end of the A1, mine would be the loudest voice shouting for Scottish home rule.

I’d be wearing a kilt, of course. A sporran too. I would have learned the Gaelic. I might even have dyed my hair ginger.

And every passing Englishman would get an earful.

“See here, Jimmy. It’s oor whisky. Oor oil. Oor country.

“Westminster may be good enough for you. It’s not good enough for us. So put that in your pouch and brood on it!”

I’d win no converts. Strident words merely strengthen opposition.

But I might send a few Sassenachs away to dream uneasily of skirling pipes and marching kilts.

South of the border Scottish independence is what you discuss when every other topic of conversation has been exhausted. In Scotland it is a live issue.

Me, I’m a Yorkshireman. Proud of where I am from. I like malt whisky. I even like unsweetened porridge. But I don’t have a drop of Scots blood in me.

If you are like me, with a deep sense of pride in place, you can understand the desire of the Scots to be masters in their own national house.

The Romans certainly thought the Scots were special. They built a wall from coast to coast to keep them out of England.

Or put it another way, to keep them in their own country.

The Scots didn’t like being penned in. Secretly, cunningly, they landed warriors 10 miles south of the wall. A cohort of Roman wall-men were routed.

I can’t help grinning when I think of the scene. There are the Romans in full musical-comedy military get-up standing on the wall, gazing intently towards the misty, murky northlands.

Suddenly, from behind them wild, gutteral words. A sound like Billy Connolly in full spate.

“Och noo, ye garlic-smelling brutes. Get back home to Rome. Scotland for the Scots. Wah-hey!”

The Romans never did dominate Scotland. They came. They saw. They fled.

The English, after centuries of border conflict and royal intrigue, came, saw and stayed.

We’ve been there more than three hundred years. And still Scotland is its own country.

A people and a history which the world cannot ignore. Particularly the English world.

It has its own instrument, its own music, its own national dress, its own canny outlook on life, its own distinctive writers, its own legends, its own drink. The finest drink there is.

There are records of Scottish monks making malt whisky in the 15th Century, though it was probably being produced long before that.

In Gaelic it was called uisgebeatha, water of life. This was corrupted in the 18th Century to usky, then to whisky.

At weekends, come 11 pm, I pour myself a generous measure of scotch. I sit and sip, savouring the taste, the warmth, the feeling of well-being.

There’s a wealth of warm pleasure in sampling all the grand old malts - Glenmorangie. The Glenlivet. Dufftown Glenlivet. Laphroaig. The Macallen. Sheep Dip. . . .

There are dozens of them. Happy prospect!

Just one generous measure at each go, you understand. Alcohol, even such a glorious alcohol as malt whisky, only brings delight when taken in modest doses.

Anyone who doubts that Scotland is its own special place should walk the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. Or stand on the battlements of Stirling Castle, looking out towards the Wallace monument on its wooded knoll, and the unfolding, enticing panorama of the Highlands.

History seeps out of the stones and the scenery.

Stand by the 18th green at St. Andrew’s – a public footpath runs right by it – watching a foursome put out, and you are reminded that Scotland also gave the world one of its finest games.

A country indeed! There are few which have a richer history, or a finer people. I can only think of one. England.

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