St Andrew’s Day

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th November 2012.

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Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I do not find it repugnant. I find it awful sad that, because of the politics that we have in the Parliament just now, Annabel Goldie feels that she has to be British on the day for celebrating Scottishness.

After that expression of togetherness, I wonder whether I might offer just a little bit of constructive criticism. We are in danger of becoming very divided. We are not having a civil war. We are having a civil referendum. We are in danger of dividing ourselves, and we can gain nothing from it. Unless we run a good referendum, Scots will be much less inclined to celebrate St Andrew’s day following the referendum.

By a good referendum, I mean that people must feel that they own it—that it is theirs and not the province of any party. It must belong to the Scots—to each and every one of us—and none of us is any more important than the others in how we interpret it. However, the basis of that is information. Every other member will know that too, because people are saying to us, “But I don’t know where the information is. I don’t know the answer to this, that and the next thing. I want to know about defence, the currency and Europe.” We have time to provide that information in a neutral and balanced way, and not in a party-political way. There are, of course, choices to be made on all the big questions that we will put to Scots, and they will answer them in their own way, but they can do that only if the information is there.

To be perfectly honest, I am really disappointed with the Government for not having the gumption to realise that that comes before all the party-political nonsense that will divide us, I think to no good effect.

Taxi drivers in Edinburgh have told me that they want to be able to discuss what is happening with visitors who come into their cabs. Foreigners who come to Scotland just now know that something is happening and they want to know what it is. The taxi drivers have told me that they would like to be able to discuss it, but they need information with which to do that. I therefore suggest, as another idea that jumps off from St Andrew’s day, that we provide that information for people who want it, because all Scots can be ambassadors for Scotland. That would be much more likely to stimulate interest in and knowledge of the real Scotland.

Although Margaret McDougall gave a very funny speech about one-legged haggises or something, there is a real, deep Scotland about which many of our fellow Scots know little. One thing that we could do is stimulate interest in that. We will not do it if, in some way, we apologise for being Scottish and say that it has to be diluted by saying that we are British. I can feel just as British as anybody else, believe it or not, because I have a great deal in common with all the other folk on this island, but I have a friend in Barbados—she is perhaps my best friend—and I feel something in common with her as well. I do not think that there is any great merit in saying, “I’m Scottish and British,” compared with saying, “I’m Scottish and I feel all sorts of other identities too.” Those identities might be from all over the world, with different causes. Maybe we should start to think outwardly properly, instead of stopping our internationalism at Dover, because that is a gey limited way to celebrate the fact that, as we say, we come from the country that Rabbie Burns described as offering a brotherhood of man throughout the world.

I realise that we do not celebrate Burns until January—although I celebrate him every month, to be honest. However, if we can celebrate St Andrew, his influence in the world and his influence on us just as Scots, that will be much more satisfactory than somehow making it into a half-baked British apology. I appeal to Annabel Goldie, whom I know is as Scots as I am and is just tainted at the moment because we have the possible divisiveness of a referendum, to get up, have a good shoogle around and be as Scottish as I know she is. She does not have to apologise to anybody for it.