Anyone who watched BBC Scotland TV in the 1980s will remember the quiz show Superscot, an indomitably home-made affair presided over by Aberdeen's Jane Franchi, for whom the good old Scots word sonsie could well have been invented.
One of the rounds of Superscot that Big Jane ruled with her characteristic velvet gloved/iron fist was called "Born Scot or Not", featuring a number of well-known Jocks who might - or then again might not - have actually been born there.
Since the show's contestants were usually studious types – I seem to remember a lot of retired headmasters and librarians – obviously plastic Scots such as Rod Stewart didn’t figure here.
It was almost always people who were indisputably thought of as Caledonian by their peers, regardless of the fact they’d first seen the light of day in some dark, exotic, foreign clime. Like, for instance, Hemel Hempstead.
The purpose of the Born Scot or Not game served to illustrate the point that being Scottish wasn’t necessarily about being born in the country, but more to do with the fact that you’d been exposed to and absorbed, Scottish culture, traditions and customs, all of which made you a bairn of Jock Tamson, right down to the obligatory chip on both shoulders.
As we stumble, painfully slowly but nevertheless inexorably toward the referendum which may change Scotland forever – at least in the sense that we’ll no longer be able to blame The English for all our ills – I think it’s probably right and proper that we try and determine exactly who – or what – constitutes a Scot.
Despite not living in Scotland any more – and not really having any immediate plans to return – I still, and suspect always will, consider myself to be Scottish. After all, I was born and brought up there – Scotland is the place that shaped me and made me what I am.
Besides, I think I embody a lot of the traits normally associated with the species – a propensity to girn under pressure, a particular sense of humour, a liking for macaroon bars and the Alexander Brothers and a skin tone which turns puce red when exposed to the sun.
The fact that I live in another country – and am actually entitled to Australian citizenship – doesn’t really change the essential truth: I’m a Jock and I’d do anything for the country. (Except actually live there, obviously).
An ex-girlfriend of mine is an indigenous Australian, a Wiradjuri woman from Central New South Wales, but you’d never guess it to look at her; she has blond hair and pale blue eyes. This is far from unusual however, since the notion of Aboriginality is not exclusively based on genetics and heritage but rather is assessed on whether the individual concerned “identifies as an Aboriginal and is accepted as such in the community in which (s)he lives”.
I don’t mind this definition of ethnicity at all since it seems to me to be far more inclusive and tolerant than one solely based on genetics. It is, I think, about acceptance – and let’s face it, we could all do with a bit more of that.
I’m a Scottish person – in so far as I’ve been imbued and affected by Scottish culture and mores. Off the top of my head, some of the things that influenced me in my formative years were: Mum and Dad, Miss Crawford in rimary school (a right old crab), Francie and Josie, the One O’clock Gang, (I want my nana), Wee McGreegor, Oor Wullie, The Beano, Millport, Butlins at Ayr and many, many more.
Now if that makes me Scottish, I plead guilty.
But hang on, I was also hugely inspired and shaped by Enid Blyton, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, the Blackpool Illuminations, Blue Peter and later, John Lennon, Steve Marriot, and Ray Davies, Monty Python, Porridge with Ronnie Barker, Dad’s Army, Howard Jacobson, John Fowles and the movie Zulu.
Then of course there was Raymond Carver, Robert Mitchum, Elvis and Robert Johnson, DC Comics and The Godfather 1 and 2 (but not 3), Hunter S Thomson, the Beverley Hillbillies, Aretha Franklin, Levi Stubbs, Bill Hicks, Mohammad Ali, Stanley Kubrick, Neil Young, Harvey Keitel, Tony Bennett, Merle Haggard and hundreds, probably thousands more.
Oh yeah, and Barry Humphries, Salif Keita, Garcia Marquez, V S Naipaul, Dylan Thomas, Hazel Hawke, Vincent Linguari, Nelson Mandela and numerous others, too many to mention but all similarly significant and influential.
What does this all mean? Well, I think it means that I – we – have all been exposed to many cultures, traditions and customs, not only the one indigenous to the country in which we were born and, what’s more, we’re all the better for it.
As far as I’m concerned it’s helped to round us out, make us less insular and more understanding and tolerant of the whole world, rather than just the wee country that’s around us.
One of the aspects of Scottish nationalism that has always turned me off is that anti-English thing which even right-minded, easy-going liberal people are often guilty of.
Ruthlessly exploited by nationalist politicians (and if you don’t believe this, you’re kidding yourself), it seems to me to still be a major factor in the push for independence, that somehow with "our people" making all the big decisions, we’ll duly consign all of our difficulties to that fictional receptacle named "the bad old days".
It won’t happen. Politicians are politicians, regardless of which Government they inhabit. If history has taught us anything, it’s taught us that. Politicians don’t solve problems; they just talk about solving them.
When it comes to creating a more just, liberated and tolerant society, only we – you and me – can do that and we can’t do it through blame and accusation of our neighbours, not whilst they, despite a common heritage and I believe, shared ideals, are doing the same thing.
So there’s nothing wrong with being Scottish. But be a citizen of the world, too.
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