DID you wake today to the thunder of guns and throw open the curtains, thinking “Yippee, it’s the Glorious Twelfth?” Around where I live, guns pop all year long, but most of the time it’s crows or other vermin – or so I assume – that are being picked off. Come August, however, the heat is turned up and those beautiful squat grumbling tweed-coloured little birds that scuttle out of the car fender’s way in the nick of time are shot in mid-flight in their droves.

Can it be coincidence that the prime minister begins his Scottish staycation this weekend, at the peak of the grouse massacre? Although it’s hard to picture him striding the moors, Boris Johnson is no stranger to the hunting, fishing, shooting fraternity. A photo of him some years ago on the Dalmeny Estate shows him in tweed plus-fours and waistcoat, looking uncannily like Mr Toad. With the air of an evangelical butcher, he clutches a brace of pheasant by the neck, exuding such triumph it’s as if he had learned they were SNP guerillas.

Where he and his partner and child will be spending their holiday is, as yet, anyone’s guess. Rumours suggest a couple of nights will be under canvas. Since his last vacation was in a luxury villa on the private Caribbean island of Mustique, it’s more probable he’ll be pitching his tent on a country estate than at Peebles’s camp site. Think Balmoral, on a miniature scale.

Indeed, Johnson might well be thinking of it. As he heads over the border to escape the burdens of office, he is already emulating Queen Victoria. Should he land in the Highlands then he is all but retreading her footsteps. Ever since she and Albert discovered the charm of the Grampians, deepest rural Scotland – preferably with a backdrop of mountains and distilleries – has been the autumn playground of the wealthy.

Many of the hunting lodge set are Scots, but at this time of year there is an influx from the English shires, hoping to add a little lairdly lustre to their credentials by toting a rifle or rod. This is the tribe who keep Barbour in business, not to mention the country house rental market. The right-leaning political classes, indeed, gravitate northwards like salmon leaping the Spey, instinctually drawn towards us even though at other times of year they barely remember we exist.

They are the modern equivalent of Sir Winston Churchill. Even though no sportsman, and reviled by the Dundee electorate, who kicked him out for a tee-totaller in 1922, he had a summer holiday house in Angus. Churchill’s grandson, Nicholas Soames, spent every August in Sutherland when he was a boy: “Never been bored in Scotland in my life... I might have been envious of friends who went to Majorca and learned to water ski, but they didn’t have as much fun as we did, and they didn’t have a salmon on the end of a line.”

In this respect, Scotland is no different from those countries where people go annually to ski or surf. If shooting or fishing are your thing, where better? But as serious sporting types know, there is a breed of politicians who only ever shoulder a gun to bolster their upper-crust credentials. Photos of David Cameron on his wife’s family estate in Jura were faintly ridiculous. He looked even more ill at ease in tweed cap with broken rifle over his arm than he did in Brussels.

Disapproval of today’s shooting-estate industry has far less grist for its mill than in the 19th and early 20th centuries, at least in terms of slaughter. The tally of beasts and birds that were felled in bygone Augusts was the game world’s version of the Somme. The numbers were phenomenal. A single small estate might account for 10,000 brace of pheasant shot in a single year. Country-wide, hundreds of thousands of these low flyers were killed, and a great number sent on the overnight train to London for deluxe restaurants. It was considered chic to eat birds that 24 hours earlier had been clucking contentedly in the heather.

Since Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds is environmentally minded, he might well swap guns for gumboots. And, if he’s keen on walking, he could do a lot worse than come to the Borders. This being one of the few Tory seats in the country, however, he risks being mobbed by his fans. I suspect he has his sights instead on a stately home within easy reach of an airport, where a swathe of parkland stands between him and unscheduled encounters with the sort of creatures that have arms as well as legs.

With foreign travel unpredictable at the moment, perhaps we ought not to read too much into Johnson’s decision to vacation in our wilds. Yet, coming as it does on the heels of Jackson Carlaw’s abrupt departure, and a Conservative cabinet charm offensive reflecting abject panic over the state of the Union, it is tempting. How likely is it that the biggest beast in Westminster closed his eyes, stuck a pin in an atlas, and just happened to land hereabouts?

His Caledonian holiday is no idle whim but a calculated move. So how should we interpret it? Are we meant to be flattered at the attention? Or threatened by his presence? Is the fact that Scotland has finally appeared on his mental map to be taken as belated acknowledgement that we matter? Or is it a shameless last-ditch diplomatic push, whose purpose is to save the Union and, while he’s at it, his own political skin?

Whatever the answer, it does not mean he and Ms Symonds won’t have an enjoyable time. And should the PM take to the hills, let’s hope the locals don’t trouble him. The Victorian writer Charles Richard Weld raved about his shooting holiday, with only one reservation: “Nowhere, I venture to say, will you be made more aware of the truth of the adage, ‘union is strength’, than on the Caithness moors.”

He was not, I’m afraid, promoting the 1707 Act, but referring to blood-sucking “little harpies” which, when out in force, were more than a match for humankind. “Union is strength” might stand as a mantra for midgies, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

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