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Why I get misty-eyed for rainy Scotland

NORMALLY when it's overcast, occasionally when it's fair, the stock response to "I'm Australian" is met with the aghast cry of "What are you doing here?", a firm and filthy emphasis placed on the "here".

You'd think no-one lived in Scotland through choice, poor old mist-draped land.

Recently Australia acquired a new national treasure in the shape of the actress Miriam Margolyes, who has been with her Aussie partner since 1968 and has spent the intervening years country-hopping. On Australia Day she became one of 17,000 new Aussie citizens from 145 countries. Britain remains the biggest source of new Australians, providing 3514 this year.

We can't account for all their motives but Margolyes, 71, was clear enough on hers: "I don't like class distinction and there is far too much of that in England.

"There's an energy here – an optimism, a vitality. I think England doesn't have that any more. There's an irony and not accepting bull**** and I love that, that straight-talking stuff."

Look, Miriam, if you'd wanted a bit of irony, rejection of bull and disregard for class you could just have taken a train north. Scotland has this and more. I think in Scotland we're more similar to the Aussies than we'd think, we're just not as tanned or emphatic about sport. Though the looming shadow of the Commonwealth Games might change that.

Australia has its flaws. When I lived there as an adult I was astounded by the casual racism, bamboozled by the attitude to the Aboriginal people and surprised at the lack of discussion around gay marriage and gay equality issues. At the same time, it is optimistic and adventurous, girt by sea and sun-dazzled beaches. Cicadas blow electric kisses into night air thick with residual heat and strung overhead with the light from a million stars.

It's beautiful and there's nothing like it. Literally: so much of Australia is unique, thanks to it being a giant island. Margolyes is right: there's no lack of energy but isn't it easier to be energetic when the sun prods you awake from 5am. In an interview with ABC News she added: "Australians are just more sexually attractive." Also true.

It's a privilege to be bi-national, I don't deny it, but I wish I had Margolyes's sense of certainty. It's an odd thing to bear allegiance to two places. We lived in Sydney's Northern Beaches and I often wonder if, in a parallel universe, there's a Catriona Stewart who surfs and sunbakes and eats dinner at the Rocks.

But it also, sometimes, takes strangers' eyes to evaluate what you have. I love the people here. I love the chats you can have at bus stops and the way the neds apologise for being rowdy right after giving out imaginative cheek.

I like the changing seasons and that tights will cover unwaxed legs. I like that Europe's just over there and that healthcare is free. I'm peely wally, rotten at sport and terrified of spiders.

More than that, though, with the independence referendum creeping closer this is the time to be Scottish, this is the most interesting time. Miriam Margolyes's homing thoughts fly to Australia and often mine do the same. But for now I'm happy to stay here in the rain and incredulity.

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