On Monday, 30 November (St Andrews Day), the Scottish Year of Homecoming is coming to a close, with a host of events, the BBC reports. However, a number of those events have had to be scaled down due to lack of money. Personally, I have seen very little of the Homecoming. Most of the events appear to have taken place in major population centres, like Edinburgh, Glasgow or Inverness. It all started on Burns Night, 25 January. The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been a keen protagonist of the Homecoming. It is supposed to have been good for tourism - something that accommodation providers can't seem to agree with. Particularly here in the islands, there has been a 30% increase in visitor numbers, for a number of reasons.
1. A reduction (up to 50%) in ferry fares
2. An exchange rate with the Euro which discouraged European travel
3. The recession, also discouraging expensive foreign holidays
Nobody I came across ever mentioned the Homecoming. In fact, I haven't seen an American visitor all summer, and they are supposed to have come flocking back to the Old Country in droves. Well, they sure didn't come here.
Yes, you correctly detected a huge degree of sarcasm. OK, I'm not a born Scot, but having lived in the Western Isles for 5 years, I'd like to think that I have a fair idea what Scotland is about, in the first decade of the 21st century. And it's not all about Robbie Burns, however good a writer and poet he was. It's not all about clans, claymores and that eternal fool and historical disaster Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Scotland in the 21st century is a country that is indeed acutely aware of its history, which is in parts bloody, tragic and full of oppression. However, we no longer live in 1746, thank goodness. This is the year 2009 AD, and Scotland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. As a lone entity, it would have a severe struggle to keep afloat in an economical sense. England and Scotland have fought together, without distinguishing between either home country, in two world wars and many other conflicts since. I will go so far as to say that a stronger Scottish Parliament, with more powers devolved from London to Edinburgh would be a good thing. It certainly would be better if the current frosty relationship between Downing Street and Bute House (the respective seats of Prime and First Minister) were to thaw and improve to a decent level of cordiality with a normal flow of communication.
Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, is leader of the Scottish National Party, whose stated aim is a fully independent Scotland. He will not be the man to bring about the aforementioned improvement in relations, as that (in his mind) will not lead to an independent Scotland. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is not able to effect this change either, as he has way too much on his hands, keeping his premiership alive until the next elections, in May 2010.
There are indications that the Conservative Party under David Cameron, could take office after the next general elections in 2010. After the last elections, in 2005, exactly one Scottish Conservative MP was returned to Westminster, a trend not likely to be reversed anytime soon. If there is a Conservative Prime Minister, working with an SNP administration in Edinburgh and a host of Labour MPs, we don't need to hold our breath for the onset of improved relations between London and Edinburgh either.