The not so great Scots

Gerald Warner:

'It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine," observed P G Wodehouse. Today, however, the situation has been dramatically reversed. For the first time in history the Scots, whose cultivation of grievance has sustained them for centuries, are disturbed to find themselves on the receiving end of embittered reproaches from across the world.

The release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, by Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has outraged world opinion. MacAskill's invoking of "humanity", modestly described by him as "a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people" (but not, presumably, of other people – least of all the English), grated on one's nerves. Scottish churches may be sparsely attended nowadays, but the Calvinist self-righteousness of John Knox persists.

Scotland is the only part of the UK, probably of Europe, where someone can solemnly intone that the Scots are "more moral" and be greeted not with belly-laughs but with head-nodding agreement. From the start of the devolution agitation in the 1980s such moral superiority was as much an axiom of Scottish politics as Margaret Thatcher's responsibility for the Highland Clearances.

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Ever since the inestimable gift of devolution was conferred on Scotland by Mr Blair there has been a nervous apprehension among the educated or just plain sensible classes north of the Border that the "wee pretendy parliament", as Billy Connolly termed it, would one day drop us in the deepest doo-doo. Those fears have been realised. At its first meeting, the members of the parliament (MSPs) awarded themselves medals. This was done on the same precautionary principle that motivates Scots to conduct lavish celebrations at the start of the football World Cup tournament, in the realistic anticipation that there will not be a lot to celebrate at its conclusion.

No forum in the world brings more passion to the debate on dog-fouling or the hazards of children's trampolines than the Wee Scotch Senate. Its finest hour came when, having reached the committee stage of a Bill to ban fur-farming in Scotland, MSPs were informed that there were no fur farms in Scotland. Defiantly, our legislators persevered and completed the expensive processing of the statute; some of us felt they should have included bull-fighting among its provisions. The chief consequence of setting up the Holyrood parliament has been that 129 Scottish villages are missing their idiots.

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The population of Scotland is about the same as Harris County, Texas which has done a better job of making itself look silly. I find it interesting that the population of Scotland is so small. There are probably many times more people of Scot origin in the US. It could be that many of the smart ones left. Those that remain are doing a good job of holding liberalism up for ridicule.

BTW, my maternal grandfather was Scots Irish, which means his ancestors lingered in Ireland for a few years before they finally showed up in America. He married a beautiful German woman who gave him 11 kids. The one in the middle was my Mom.

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