It’s always struck me as odd that someone like me – the child of two committed republicans – should have spent so much time at Royal celebrations as a kid. Silver jubilee. Britannia docking at Caithness (several times). Braemar Games (many times). But then my parents were also atheists and sent me to Sunday school, so you’ll have to ask them what it’s all about, not me.

Certainly, if it was my parents’ hope that the sight of repeated ostentatious royal displays would somehow turn me off the whole thing and make into a revolutionary, their hopes were misplaced. Sitting on my dad’s shoulders watching the Queen visit Aberdeen in 1977 is one of my most vivid childhood memories. I loved the spectacle and the crowds and the cheering. Happy times, really.

However, I also hope, now that we’ve reached the platinum jubilee 45 years later, that my childish delight in royal spectacle is balanced by an appropriate realism about what it really means: one part of my brain is always saying ‘isn’t this great?’ while the other is always saying ‘isn’t this silly?’ and the same applies to the idea of the street parties that are being held for the jubilee.

In case you’re in the mood to stage a party yourself, there’s a handy guide on the UK Government’s website. You can download instructions for getting all the permissions you need as well as pictures of the Queen and patterns for bunting and if you want to try Prue Leith’s bobotie, there’s a recipe for that too should you consider it appropriate. Some 1,800 parties are due to be held, including around 100 in Scotland.

But I wonder what the relatively low number of parties, as well as a lack of hullabaloo in Scotland generally, tells us about our identity and sensibilities and how they’ve changed. I was speaking to the historian Sir Tom Devine the other day for a magazine piece this weekend and he told me about the kind of parties that happened in Scotland for the coronation in ’53 and one party in particular.

The party was in Motherwell where Tom grew up. Corrie Drive to be precise. Everyone in Tom’s street took tables out of their houses and lined them up the road, from top to bottom. Tom said it was taken for granted on his street that a party would happen and one of the reasons was that British nationalism was uncritically dominant. What a difference 70 years make.

I have to say I’m pleased by this in a way and pleased that we’re more critical of displays of Britishness than we were. In fact, I think everyone should be subject to a jubilee party test and if you’re able to attend and enjoy one unquestioningly and uncritically and unironically, then you’ve failed the test miserably. I would happily attend one of the parties but I like to think – without being too much of a party pooper – that I’m also aware of the dangers of jingoism and nationalism.

So, is the relatively low number of parties a sign we’re heading in the right direction on nationalism in Scotland? I’m tempted to say yes. But then I remember some of the abuse I’ve received for my columns, and the conversations I’ve seen on social media, and I remember the Scottish nationalist marches and the flags and the people uncritically accepting nationalism in exactly the same way as those happy campers did in 1953 and I get a little depressed again. We’ve changed so much and we’ve changed so little.

Perhaps the best thing we can do is try to maintain a critical outlook even though it can be hard at times when royalists are waving union jacks in your face and Scottish nationalists are doing the same with saltires. I do not remember exactly what I was thinking when I watched the Queen in Aberdeen in 1977 but I know what I think of it now. It’s a spectacle. And it can be exciting. And it can get the blood of certain people bubbling. But any kind of national spectacle also hides dangers. Do not take it too seriously. Do not think everyone thinks the same way. And for God’s sake, do not think it’s all about you.

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