(Published in Business Standard on September 20, 2014)
So Scotland held its referendum yesterday, and said ‘No thanks’ to kicking out the English. For a while it was very close but then the No thankses pulled ahead by a decisive margin.
I know, right? The English are so used to being kicked out of countries that this time they themselves turned their backs, lowered their trousers to display buttocks painted with the outline of boot soles for better targeting, and offered the Scots their turn. And the Scots said no—the Scots! Those famously aggressive drinkers with the blue Mel Gibson face! Worse, they didn’t even say No, they said Better Together, which is what you say when you’re too depressed about your decision to say No. But it still feels like a shame to waste all those boot outlines.
What do you mean, Who cares about Scotland? Oh, I see, you’ve been cut off from the world because you, like me, spent the last couple of days living, eating, sleeping and cursing in your car in one ginormous traffic jam the size of the Andromeda Galaxy, on account of the fact that Chinese president Xi Jinping was visiting? No, wait, I take that back—the Andromeda Galaxy is actually moving.
What’s that? You say it’s not that you were cut off from the world, seeing as there is no sentient life left on earth that does not have mobile data and a Twitter account, but just that you don’t give a flying galaxy what happens to Scotland as long as the whisky keeps flowing?
Well that’s typical of a former colony—you’re all done with getting your own independence, so you don’t care about anyone else. You probably care more that a bunch of Chinese soldiers were doing the salsa in Ladakh at the same time that Prime Minister Modi was nibbling lovingly on President Xi’s ear in central Delhi and the good people of Delhi were decomposing at the wheel. You probably care more, in your selfish local way, about the thousand wild-eyed people who were rustled up by the Rashtriya Lok Dal to do the merengue on the UP-Delhi border and threaten to cut off water supply to the capital unless party chief Ajit Singh can stay put in his ministerial bungalow even though he’s no longer a minister.
Well I’m very enthusiastic, though now I don’t know what to feel. There was almost a whole new nation born! Then they decided not to be born. Maybe they prefer the sound of a million Englishmen gloating? How depressing. Or maybe not—maybe they’ve secretly been running England all along and are having trouble giving up all the power. Oh well, a tiny bit over half of them probably know what’s best for… never mind.
Either way, I retain a soft spot for the Scots. Thanks to referendum hysteria I’ve been besieged with every memory of every fleeting association I’ve ever had with Scotland. Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s ballad-poem, ‘Ticonderoga: a legend of the West Highlands’, which is about warring Stewart and Cameron clansmen and full of properly Scottish vengeance, and also delicious words like ‘pawkier’ and ‘scrog’ and ‘scaur’. I like red hair, and I love Mark Knopfler. I adore the heyland coos (which other people pronounce Highland cows). I like the rivers and heathery moors and the gritty national character, all of which go into producing Scotland’s best ever export, Scotch whisky.
And I confess that I like it a lot that Scottish men wear skirts and allegedly no panties, and yet manage to be lady-killers. (It’s the accent.)
You came so close, Scotland—almost an aye for a nae, you might say. Never mind, maybe in another few hundred years.