One of the most famous moments in Scottish film history is the arse baring chieftains of the Scottish troops in the thoroughly hilarious Mel Gibson epic Braveheart shouting “Freedom!” as they run at the bastard English, ready to kill all who wish to take from the Scots and their land. I wonder what Wallace would have thocht o’ the wild lands that are now Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Would he be sympathetic to our woes that we should put up with the fact that we are not a sovereign state for the benefits or would he hate the fact that there is not a King of Scotland?
The other famous scene is that of the simply mesmerising Trainspotting, a film that depicts a Scottish life so disastrous you might wonder what Wallace died fighting for. The scene is a defining moment in Scottish cinema for several reasons: It shows that we know what a shit way the whole arrangement is, that we can take the piss out of our selves, and also that we can do it in a way so brilliant, set against the exact backdrop that makes many love this country (myself included), that it is funny even though the truth is being spoken in an entirely unfunny way.
“It's shite being Scottish! We're the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some hate the English. I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers. Can't even find a decent culture to be colonized by. We're ruled by effete assholes. It's a shite state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and all the fresh air in the world won't make any fucking difference!”
The question is, is it shite being Scottish? Is Scotland a shite country? I don’t think it is shite being Scottish – for one thing it is not being English, which can make more a difference than some would believe and some would understand. It is a distinction to be from the underdogs, the subservient, the pilloried and pillaged, and the ones that the small timers. It carries with it a baggage of sorts that instantly will give you rapport with many a foreigner for that count. And don’t forget the not-being-English-fact.
Indeed, in researching this blog post, it occurred to me that my heritage is something I take for granted, whereas our American and Canandian cousins positively relish in the fact that they are from somewhere. It is not necessarily Scotland or Ireland, but Germany, Jew, Dutch, Mexican, Portuguese, Italian, it seems that the big great democracy has an identity of it’s own, and that identity is built around being from somewhere else. Being “Scotch-Irish” doesn’t mean that you are from Scotland or Ireland, but from the band of travelling folk that made the Eastern side of American what it is now. The nationalities get all screwy.
Is Scotland a shite country? I don’t think so either. I t has some incredible history, the stuff that films are literally made off, and along with Europe has a history the US are envious of. The scenery could give anywhere in the world a run for it’s money. The cities are all distinct in their style: Edinburgh has it’s castle and windy roads; Glasgow has it’s sandstone Mackintosh styles and incredible industrial scars; Dundee has the hilly city centre and massive Tay Estuary on it’s doorstep and Aberdeen, the much maligned Aberdeen, has the grey granite that is jokingly given stick for but can be unsettlingly beautiful in the right light. The thing is that these are the places that make Scotland what it is, not what the people think of these places.
So, is Scotland shite? Yes. You might be thinking why can I come to that conclusion after refuting both of the above questions? Well there is the third question that I have deliberately left out, and that is simply to do with ideas. Ideas above our station, in particular. Indeed, Scotland is home to many of the great inventions, many of the great scholars of the early period of Enlightenment, and had more Universities than the whole of England for a long time… but there lacks any real greatness. The common folk today expect much more of such a simple, small, unwealthy nation. We expect more of our country because of the pedestal raising of our forefathers, those who we see as heroes who were actually terrorists and murderers. We see their view of the country as what we could have, but are much less inclined to kill hundreds of English to fight for it. We are a nation hurtling towards the brainwashed masses voting us out a Union with England and Wales that could ruin everything for all countries involved. Could we raise an army big enough to defend our shores in time, or could we split any assets with England at all? No we couldn’t.
And the fact that a growing minority seem to think that we can is a car crash in slow motion, hurtling towards a long, expensive and pointless program of devolution and independence. Why should we think that we can pull out of the Union when if anything we have been the ones who a benefited most from it? That is why Scotland is shite. With all the amazing scenery, the brilliant cities and the international ego-rubbing, we seem to have became aware of some aura around us that doesn’t exist.
In saying all that, at least I am not English.