Wednesday, 10 November 2010


It was Saturday night. The conference had ended. A massive 14.285714% (every little helps) of 2010 scholars had stayed for the final night.  Though this number didn’t include “groupies”.  As the lonely Scot I felt some pressure to make suggestions .... what did I come up with?  Scottish folk music!  Albeit semi-acoustic. Being “cool” is so over-rated, you know.
The Scotsman Lounge is my favourite pub in Edinburgh. More a Spit Only pub as they think Sawdust is for girls.  We could have gone to the trendy bars or the student pubs with Irish names ... but the Scotsman is part of Scotland many visitors don’t see .... or at least see and live to tell the tale.
Bearing in mind the guests were Sassenachs, I’m sure they felt comfortable and welcome with the dominant display above the bar:

Its from the Declaration of Arbroath, that declared Scottish Independence from England in 1320 .... we take a while to let go, north of the border! The two piece band played their own songs about love lost and the solace of alcohol.  When I first started going it was all about the protest song ... about oppression, injustice, the struggle, the fight, the revolution and the socialist way.  William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, the Jacobites, the Highland Clearances, the love of this country .... our country.  The oppressors were usually the English or the landowners .... or worse still, the English landowners.  A high proportion of my good friends are English - and some even own land - but when I used to step into the Scotsman there was a fever that took hold.  The thought of truth being repressed, compassion being discarded and justice being suffocated, does that to a man and makes you sing louder.  
This is mere history ... it just happened to involve the English (sorry) but the bottom line is ... all this anger involves the lust of some for wealth and therefore the lust for land. It’s not just the Scots and the English, its a common theme throughout the world with a few notable variations.
This culture permeates rural society a millennium on. People used to fight and die for land in the UK, so at least there’s been some form of progress.  Yet land still brings out a certain avarice in folk.  There is a significant minority of farmers that would rather farm 1000 acres at a loss, than 100 acres at a profit.  Land is emotional, it can become a fever, having more land is often the most important priority in a farmer’s brain.
This culture resists any temperance on who can own land, it gives rich approval to taxation breaks for land ownership, and, most importantly, it prevents trust in new (and even existing) ways to lease land.  After a 1,000 years - despite all the singing - land is still guarded warily and possessively.  Some people really want it, some people really want to keep it ..... nothing has changed.
This is the culture that saturates our soil .... to change it, seems impossible.  But there is hope - I reckon there is a reason why the two piece sing no longer of protest and prefer the more important things in life - love and good times. 11 years ago the Scottish Parliament opened and I have sensed a shift in culture since.  Scotland had a voice again, its destiny was partly in its ownership, we as a people had a bit of hope and pride.  It gave us an opportunity to make our own decisions.  I feel we love the English a bit more as a nation now because they were, in many respects, unselfish by helping Holyrood happen.
If not a bit more love, then at least a bit more unselfishness, a bit less fever, a bit more trust - from both sides of the land question - would go a long way to letting go of the past .... forgiving and forgetting .... and - for first generation farmers - walking on with hope in our hearts.


Rona Amiss said...

Blimey, Were we in the same pub? you forget to mention that us English have no fear as all those scots were 5ft nothing and we had the great high one at 7ft and counting.
Maybe the money wasted on the scottish parliment could have been used to fund a new entrants scheme or am i just be sensible, right wing revolutionary.
Now i'm so busy writing replies to your crazy blog i haven't got time to write what really happened!

Rona Amiss said...

Oh and in our very English, unemotional way we really enjoyed our night out. Your were a great host you mad blog writer.