The general principle of course is sound. Of course we should be positive (B+) about being Scots and the whole prospect of being Independent. And so here are a few reasons why I'm proud to be Scots. (And why I'll be even prouder if we decide to take our destiny in our own hands and reclaim our Independence)
Obviously there are lots of other reasons I'm proud to be Scots, but I want to share one that presented itself to me today!
I am proud to be Scots because of my relationship to the Scottish Parliament. You see I've got something of a personal 'history' with the Parliament. I've been past Westminster many times of course but never been in (or really wanted to) and can't get the spectre of Guy Fawkes in the basement out of my mind. Blowing up is too good for it! It's a beautiful Gothic building of course, I'll give it that. In that it definitely scores over the Scottish Parliament. I do NOT like the architecture of the Scottish Parliament. There, I've said it. I really don't like it either inside or out. In my opinion, to use a good Scots word, it's 'bowfing.' But the fact that I've been IN several times since it opened is one of the main reasons I like it. Accessibility.
Yes, you have to go through airport style security but hey, why wouldn't you to get into such a building? The fact is, I've been in it. I feel like that's a huge thing for my democratic rights to actually have access to my Parliament. It means something to me.
I don't like the building, I've said that. But when they showed the opening of the Parliament on TV in 1999 (and it wasn’t even in the building – it was proof that the Parliament is no more about the building than a marriage is about the wedding) I was moved to tears. (Yes, I know, sentimental Scot, but I really was. The moment was enhanced by the fact that when it all went silent before the wifie sang 'A Man's a Man' my collie dog Jake (RIP) gave out the most immense howl (and this was something he reserved for VERY special occasions!) So. Dog howls. I cry. I'm proud to be Scots. We move on.
In 2005 I was proud to be Scots again. Because I have the honour of having written the first play to be performed in the Scottish Parliament. Can you imagine putting on a play in Westminster (pause for jokes...)? No, seriously, can you imagine the 'people' being able to get into Parliament and actually put on a play. Well, it's been done quite a few times now I imagine in 'my' Parliament, but I shall go down in the annals of history (for those who read history annals) as the proud writer of the first play performed in the Scottish Parliament. it was in support of a healthy eating project in association with West Lothian Youth Theatre. I could only have been prouder if I'd known of this venue in advance,because I might have rethought the title. 'Life's a Pizza' was a good, funny, snappy title for a Youth Theatre production but if I'm totally honest, as one who has had a lifetime of writing biting social drama (and being roundly ignored by establishment and public for the doing thereof) to get my big break in the world of the establishment with 'Life's a Pizza' was a tad embarrassing. Or maybe just teaches me not to be too vain or take myself too seriously?
But nothing takes away from the fact that I'm proud to be able to say that I wrote the first play performed in the Scottish Parliament.
And it gave me a good idea. Which I acted upon. I was working at the time with an advocacy drama group run for and by adults with learning disabilities and I knew that if I had been proud to be ‘on’ at the Scottish Parliament, they would be ‘over the moon.’ And if performing at the Parliament was good enough for kids then why not for ‘vulnerable adults.’ So I fixed it. With the support of a couple of MSP’s we arranged for ABC Drama to perform their expose and reflection on the state of our environment ‘The End of the Age of Oil’, you guessed it AT THE PARLIAMENT. A great time was had by all. Proud as punch all round. The group got to go into the chamber. My great friend John got to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ solo in the Scottish Parliament. I was proud to help give him that moment. I was proud to share it. And I was proud our Parliament let us in. It was even more moving than the opening ceremony for me, because it was personal. It was ‘our’ Parliament that day. That was in 2006.
And in 2007 I was back in ‘my’ Parliament again at the setting up of Scotland’s Fair Trade Forum. We were allowed to use the debating chamber and committee rooms and I’m sure that would never happen in Westminster. I am really proud of the ‘open access’ approach of the Scottish Parliament. I feel it reflects a sense of respect from our elected representatives and institutional organisation towards US the people. The ‘wee’ Voices if you like. I’ve had ma wee voice heard at wur Parliament on mair than wan occasion. And it mak’s me prood!
I’ve had nothing personally to do with ‘my’ Parliament since 2007. I sometimes watch it on TV and though the debate is better than at Westminster (at least more relevant) and the behaviour somewhat better, it still bothers me that the kind of shouting each other down mentality has seeped into the Parliament chamber and debate. But all in all I find a lot more to be proud of – I feel it’s my fellow countrymen (and women) trying (generally) to do their best for me and mine and that makes me proud. With more power, with full independence I think a) they’d be able to do a better job (and that’s cross party not a poltical point) and b) we as Scots could feel even prouder.
But today – what’s got me actually writing about how proud I am to be Scots is this. In case you’ve been on a world cruise or drunk for a year or so, I’ll remind you that I’ve been actively engaged in the process of bringing the works of one of Scotland’s ‘forgotten’ writers back into publication. It’s been a long and at times lonely row to hoe but in just a couple of weeks things will start to happen. And so I started telling people. Of course lots (most) of them just ignore me, passing on the street like I’m trying to collect for a charity which asks you to pay attention to things that are ‘well, not nice’ And that gets a bit depressing, I have to admit. I have a nature which means I do not enjoy cajoling, bullying or generally trying to force people to PAY ATTENTION or DO WHAT I WANT. I like to offer informed choice and then let people make that informed choice. My life experience to date is that they usually choose to ignore whatever I’m saying. I have to respect that. But it’s not easy to feel proud about anything when the response you get from your efforts is A BIG FAT NOTHING.
So. Why do I feel proud to be Scots today? Well, because yesterday, I was sending out ‘invitations’ to the events. The last batch. To the great/good and generally anyone I thought really should know about this. Time consuming and generally ends up with staring at my silent email inbox wondering if something has gone horribly wrong and none of the messages get out there (I find that politeness has gone out the window even in responding to emails now, perhaps the only way to get a response with most folk these days is via Twitter but I’m no Twit (terer) ) So imagine my surprise when into my inbox popped a response from one Alex Fergusson MSP (Conservative and Unionist for Galloway and whatever else they have cobbled together with it to make up the numbers these days) He’s only gone and tabled a motion AND THIS IS IT:
*S4M-09617 Alex Fergusson: Centenary of S R Crockett, Scottish Novelist--
That the Parliament notes the centenary of the death of Samuel Rutherford Crockett, the Scottish novelist, on 16 April 2014; further notes that he was born and raised in Galloway, graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1879 and, after some years of travelling, became a minister at Penicuik in 1886 before becoming a full-time novelist following the success of his first novel, The Stickit Minister, in 1893 and subsequent novels, which featured the history of both Scotland and Galloway; commends the Galloway Raiders on marking Crockett’s centenary with a series of events including walks, talks, readings and the launch of the 32-volume, The Galloway Collection, which will bring all of Crockett’s Galloway-based novels back into circulation for the 21st century in e-book and print editions, and considers this to be a most fitting way to commemorate the centenary of the death of S R Crockett,
considered one of Scotland’s greatest writers.
Supported by: Jamie McGrigor*, Nanette Milne*, Liz Smith*, Murdo Fraser*, John Lamont*, Margaret Mitchell*, Jackson Carlaw*, Hugh Henry*, Kevin Stewart*, Mary Scanlon*, Annabelle Ewing*, Jim Hume*, Mike MacKenzie*, Patricia Ferguson*, Sandra White*, Nigel Don*, Roderick Campbell*, Dennis Robertson*
As far as I can work out this means that it’s just possible that in either today’s ‘business’ or in the next six weeks they may mention this in the Parliamentary Chamber. I don’t for a moment imagine that there will be a free flowing debate about the relative merits of either SRC as a writer or this novel over that novel BUT the point is, he has been acknowledged in OUR Parliament. And that makes me proud. And of course I am proud that my efforts in trying to bring him back into the Scottish public consciousness is mentioned too. A little praise goes a long way in my world (it has to, it’s like hen’s teeth!)
I may tattoo ‘The Parliament commend the Galloway Raiders’ and ‘Considers this to be a most fitting way to commemorate the centenary of the death of S.R.Crockett, considered one of Scotland’s greatest writers’ on my body. Or put it on my own gravestone. Or think what an endorsement for a book cover!!! At least I will learn and repeat the words at the Memorial event and probably many more times as a mantra when we are forging our way up the Galloway hills in what I just KNOW will be rain, rain and probably more rain. It won’t matter. Let it rain. I’m proud to be Scots.
(And that, Lee, is hopefully worthy of a B+ in anyone’s books. That’s one fine reason to be proud to be Scots, isn’t it?)
Oh, and for anyone who is actually interested in finding out more about S.R.Crockett you can become a Galloway Raider free HERE or if that's too scary, read my current Authors Electric blog post HERE which (also free) will may be of interest particularly to writers. Or not. That’s your choice.