They can’t get enough of “die Queen” in Germany these days. Every big newspaper and TV channel in the federal republic has been spewing out Jubilee stories in recent days.
And no, it’s not because they think Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is one of their own. It’s because many, many Germans are genuinely fond of the island they usually called England.
Even if they realise the affection is not always returned.
That’s the funny thing about German coverage of Scotland’s independence referendum. I might be overstating this (and I am happy to be corrected) but it strikes me that the same liking for all things British - and maybe especially Scottish - runs right through the reporting.
Take last week. Germany’s second main public TV channel, ZDF, ran a big segment on the referendum on its weekly Auslandsjournal, a show a bit like the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent.
“'Ja’ oder ‘Nein’, Independent or Not,” went the segment’s blurb before saying the “eternal struggle between Scotland and England was going to the next round”. There followed some routine TV reporting rehearsing all the usual arguments over independence.
But, like with some many other Scottish referendum reports, it wasn’t so much what the Germans said I found interesting; it was how they said it.
ZDF’s reporter followed Angus Robertson, the SNP’s main man in Westminster, as he whizzed around his Moray constituency in his Audi chatting in perfect German. Robertson talks of Scottish independence as his mission in life, his “Lebensaufgabe”, and sets out, in a way few other politicians could, a vision for his country in a foreign language.
But as he talks, ZDF cuts to its image of Scotland; to moody Speyside hillsides, quiet beauty, picturesque fishing villages and a weather-worn trawlermen asking whether Scotland can live on oil and Scotch alone.
Its reporter interviews sceptical teenagers on the village green in Tomintoul and the owner of a local whisky shop. Typical of modern Scotland? No, but could this be how we are seen in Germany. Malt, kilts, and fishermen?
Of course, ZDF was in Moray because this is the constituency German-speaking Robertson represents, not because the area lives up to some kind of preconceived idea of Scottishness. But other German broadcasters have also resorted to similarly romantic pictures of our country.
Earlier this year, German radio ran a big special on Scotland, one of its “Faces of Europe” series.
Yes, it discussed the independence referendum but, amid descriptions of the Hebrides and Jacobite songs, there were readings from Walter Scott and Theodor Fontane, the German writer whose tour of Victorian Scotland inspired a book that is still widely read.
Paul Bishop, professor of German at Glasgow University, spotted that broadcast. He said: “The Germans have a very positive view of Britain, and of Scotland in particular – which goes right back to the reciprocal interest in the two countries in the nineteenth century, such as Walter Scott’s interest in German Romanticism.”
Yet the modern German-speaking world, of course, should “get” the independence v devolution debate. Why? Well the federal republic itself is made up of strong, devolved “lander” such as Bavaria or Lower Saxony with their own strong regional identities.
You can be German and Bavarian, rather in the way Unionists see themselves as Scottish and British. But then the German-speaking world also has Austria and (much of Switzerland), which share a common language and a lot of common culture but not a common state.
This, arguably, is closer to a Nationalist vision of Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the English-speaking world.
London-born Angus Robertson, whose mother was German, is living proof of Scotland’s links with Germany. So too is David McAllister. He is the conservative leader of Lower Saxony, one of those German lander and a possible future chancellor. McAllister is also half-German and half-Scottish. His views may vary on the union from Robertson. But this week he is holding talks with Alex Salmond.
Will Scotland be a sort of British “land” - like Lower Saxony - or an independent state like Austria? And whatever happens, how will it fit into Europe?
Because this is another recurring theme of German-language reports on Scottish independence: Europe and the Euro.
ZDF in its Auslandsjournal asked a lot about currency, about pounds or euros. The same topic was raised this week when Robertson, continuing his charm offensive around the continent, spoke to Vienna’s Wiener Zeitung.
“We are not Nationalists,” roared the paper’s headline as Robertson - who was described as an “SNP-Mastermind” - spoke of overlapping identities: regional, national and European.
Wiener Zeitung closed its report by asking: “What course would an independent Scotland take on European integration?”
Thanks to Paul Bishop of Glasgow University for help with this blog. Have you spotted a story about the independence referendum in the foreign media? Let me know at email@example.com or @leasky on Twitter