Once upon a time when fairy tales haven’t been fixed in form by Disney, there was a First Minister of Scotland. He was very excited because soon all the people of Scotland would decide whether to become independent or remain in a union with the people of England, and Wales, and Northern Ireland. He had spent a lot of time explaining his idea and helping the people of Scotland understand what an independent Scotland would be like. “Don’t worry, Scottish citizens will still be able to watch East Enders, Dr Who and Strictly Come Dancing”, he said, “We’ll have our own passports and lots of money and no nuclear weapons”, he added.
One day he came home to discover that his wife had been to a car boot sale –“I took that set of strange foreign golf clubs you got the other day from those American people and the old umbrella stand and sold them at the East Fortune car boot sale, well it was more of a swap actually, this wee old biddy gave me a nice set of short-bread moulds and this vintage, wood shaft driver, isn’t that nice?” The poor first minster was quite taken aback, “You swapped my Titleist913D 16 adjustable driver for this”, he spluttered…. “Well, it looks more authentic doesn’t it, more St Andrews and less Orlando?” smiled his wife, who then headed off to make a bit of shortbread with the new moulds.
The First Minister wandered into the back garden, disconsolate at his loss. He swished the club at an imaginary ball and to his amazement, a great puff of magic tartan smoke trailed in the air and infront of him, fully spruced in plus fours and yellow socks, stood an ancient wee man. “This better be good, laddie”, said the ancient wee man, “I was tee-ing up the ultimate shot, the wind was behind me, the curlews were overhead and… now I’m here. You’ll maybe not know the drill – it’s a post modern derivative of an ancient Arab story usually involving a lamp and three wishes – that bit’s more or less the same, you get three wishes, but I make no guarantee of granting them, or even of coming back between wishes, so what’s your heart’s desire my man?”
“I wish,” said the First Minister, shutting his eyes to really concentrate, “I wish all Scottish people come….(he hesitated)… to understand what it would be like to have an independent Scotland”. “Done”, said the golfing wizard, and he vanished. At that moment the phone rang, it was the First Minster’s special helping assistant person who was happy to report that the call for a census was going out on all social media, billboards, broadcasts and newspapers. “What are you talking about?” wondered the First Minister who was still standing in the garden with his club.
The special helping assistant person explained, that just as the First Minister had wished, a call had gone out to all the Scottish people asking them to come to Scotland. “What?” quavered the First Minister, “I just meant those people living in Scotland”.
Over the next few days the country went crazy. Many people weren’t sure if they were Scottish – did it count if your parents had both been born in Scotland, but you hadn’t? Did it count if just one of your parents had been born in Scotland? If you were born in Scotland were you automatically Scottish – even if your parents weren’t at all. What about if you had never lived in Scotland, and nor had your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents but you all still spoke Gaelic and, deep in the core of your being you knew that you were Scottish because your family had emigrated when they were cleared off the land? There are over 4.8 million people in the USA who reckoned they were of Scottish origin in the 2000 census, only slightly more than in Canada – and once you start counting the Scots in the southern hemisphere – including Argentina, as well as places closer to hand such as Ireland, well the numbers were racing upwards – 12 million? No one really seemed quite sure. There wasn’t even a handy collective noun to describe everyone: were they Scottish, Gaels, Scotch, clans, lowlanders or highlanders?
What was great, however big the upheaval, reckoned the First Minister, was the amount of money they were spending to come back. Every but’n’ben, every self-catering castle and steading, every hotel room and camp site was being booked up.
In interview after interview the First Minister found himself talking about the once in a generation opportunity the vote on Scottish independence would be. He was so pleased to see so many famous and fabulous Scots due to come back: he imagined himself being photographed with Sean Connery, Chris Hoye, Alex Fergusson, Emelie Sande, Ms Dynamite, J.K. Rowling…. ah, he wondered was she Scottish people or people of Scotland? Because as the numbers of returning Scots grew a problem was becoming apparent. The “home-comers” felt, beyond any doubt that they were Scottish. It was a feeling, a heart-beat, a bone-knowledge within. It was part of their DNA where-ever they had been born. But however many of them there were, unless they were on the electoral role in Scotland they had no voice at all. On the other hand the people that lived in Scotland, they had a vote and would decide. And those resident Scots, 83% whom had been born in Scotland, felt the same.
During many of the interviews the First Minister found himself explaining it was nothing to do with patriotism – it was politics; politics pushing the need for change. His words seemed to fall on deaf ears. The wild, the adventurous, the romantic, the musical, the passionate Scots of the diaspora continued to pour in to be there for Scotland. And they were vocal in their passions for all the things that mattered to them: the scenery, the skies, the water, the drink, the over-weight and the poor diet, the challenging education system, the likelihood of being able to afford free childcare, the economic equation of money expected to come in to the Holyrood Exchequer and the money planning to be spent. It was, frankly, over-whelming.
Worse were the growing complaints from around the globe. The visitors to Scotland hadn’t come out of a vacuum after all – they were also part of companies, organisations and countries in other places. They reckoned there were 800,000 Scots living and working in the rest of the British Isles – and when they went they were missed. The BBC had problems juggling their broadcast schedules with so many away – the crew on Today could cover for James Naughtie, but the PM evening program struggled without Eddie Mair. Haggis sales fell in England as it turned out only Scots people really liked eating the chieftain o’ the puddin’ race. Armed forces saw regiments preparing to return to Scotland, even though, as they muttered, they mightn’t be entitled to a vote either.
In all the hullabaloo the First Minister took some time out to have a wee piece shortbread and then, old golf club in hand, headed back to the garden. He swung the club, more in hope than expectation, but with a grey plume of smoke, the ancient wee man appeared. He looked pretty annoyed, again, and a little sorrowful. “What now then?” he enquired. “This is not going well,” said the First Minister, “the Scottish people have come here – they’re fllippin’ everywhere – but they don’t really understand what I want for the people of Scotland, and they’re asking lots of difficult questions, and they’re all part of something bigger too and it’s like they’re woven through the patterns of everywhere else…. you’ll be hoping I say like Scotland and the United Kingdom, but I’m not going to – I really believe in Scotland’s independence, but I wish it was back to the way it had been”. “Pretty lame wish, First Minister”, sneered the wee man, “but it’s up to you. And, while I’m here anyway, what might your final wish be?” “Oh”, sighed the First Minister, “I wish for a super-perfect round of golf… just like I would have after I’d finished all that practising on my desert island…” his voice trailed off as he imagined the fine days of yore. “Done” said the wee man.
Later that day the wee man was sitting in the bar at the Old Course Hotel nursing a dram. He’d been sharing the story with the other wee golf men.
“So did you give the First Minister his wishes?” they asked.
“Oh yes indeed, as you know we golf-genies are obliged to play by the ancient rules.”
“But how could you reward him with perfect golf at such a time?”
*The Scottish national motto: No one provokes me with impunity