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Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills


It's not something I intend to harp on about but the last week, while I was in the British Library leafing through Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole, I was abducted by aliens. Whisked aboard their beautiful ship, I was just bracing myself for a tediously painful inquisition when the head non-Earthian sat me down and, in passable English, addressed me thus:

'Look, sorry for curtailing your Walpoling activities and all that but my colleagues and I were tuning into your broadcasts of The Commonwealth Games last week and we had one or two questions.'

To cut a long story short, it transpired that she was on a mission to solve a mystery that had dogged her planet for a trillennium, viz, 'What is a Scot?' (Apparently, the ceremony had thrown their long-held belief that the Tunnock's Teacake was a victual rather than an item of clothing into confusion.)

It turns out that extra-terrestrials are not the only life-forms pondering what it is to be Scottish at the moment. Take a gander at the Yes Scotland website (yesscotland. net) and you might draw the conclusion that to be truly Scottish one must be free to be Scottish, unyoked from the rest of the UK (for which read England or, perhaps more precisely, English Tories).

Their opening gambit is a video in which a clairvoyant foetus called Kirsty claims that she is going to be born on the same day as the Scottish independence referendum. She tells us some unpalatable truths about the UK (it's apparently the fourth most unequal country in the developed world, for instance - though that's due in no small part to the fact that the vast majority of Scottish land is owned by a handful of families). The name of David Cameron is not invoked but his grimacing face, filled with revulsion for the Scots, dominates the screen at one point, which explains why the video only received a 18 certificate.

Meanwhile, over at the Better Together camp (, they're pressing the line that, by staying part of the UK, Scotland has the best of both worlds - enjoying a 'strong Scottish Parliament' while reaping the benefits of being part of a larger economy. In a bid to ward off any accusations that a lack of desire for independence makes a Scot less than Bravehearted, their strapline is 'The patriotic all-party and non-party campaign for Scotland in the UK.'

Presumably, any talk of 'scoundrels' and 'last resorts' is not welcome at Better Together HQ.

There are, of course, many other issues beyond the political and economic pros and cons of independence/unification - not least being the siting of Trident nuclear missiles - but, perhaps most crucially, the forthcoming referendum gives voters a chance to reflect upon what they consider to be important to them. Is it security, economic prosperity, political self-determination, a sense of Scottishness? Or, whisper it, none of the above?