My sense of humour failure over Brexit has helped clear Scotch mist
PUBLISHED: 14:39 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:39 14 August 2017
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I don't blame the Scots if Brexit leads them to want another shot at independence
I have a bit of a confession to make; I very nearly didn’t get this article in on time. I’d like to pretend that this was because I was engaged on urgent business; swept away on some vital errand of mercy or secret mission, but the sad fact is that I forgot what day it was.
I’m up in my adopted home town of Edinburgh, you see, performing at this year’s Festival Fringe (every day at 2.50pm at The Stand 6, since you ask). Edinburgh, a somewhat less than entirely believable environment at the best of times with its fairytale vistas and entirely unique climate (seriously; one fine, warm, spring morning many years ago I set out in shirt sleeves only to be snowed on at around 2pm) becomes, during the Festival, a hermetically sealed bubble universe upon which the outside world seems to have little bearing or influence. A magical place, to be sure, but maybe not one conducive to producing barbed missives about current affairs.
My show, like those of many of my fellow comedians, includes a brief rant on the topic of Brexit. Brief by necessity in my case since, as you will have become aware if you’ve been following these columns, I’m suffering from almost complete sense of humour failure where Brexit is concerned. I’ve also composed a song for the show on the subject of how it’s almost impossible to write up-to-the-minute satirical jokes at the moment, as the sheer rapidity of change renders all such material passé before it’s even been performed (indeed, the politics-based comedian Matt Forde has titled his own Fringe show “Hastily Re-Written In The Light Of Recent Events”). Meanwhile, more purely (ie audibly) Scots comedians than myself are including passages referring to the ongoing – indeed, unending – debate about Scottish independence, and whether last year’s EU referendum voids the result of the 2014 independence vote and, as such, justifies calls for a new one. It is fair to say, I think, that when the Scots (barely) voted to remain in the United Kingdom three years ago, it was a UK still very much inside the EU that they believed to be on offer.
I think I have a more objective take on the whole England Vs Scotland thing than most people, given that I am, by birth, half and half, and have spent formative sections of my life both north and south of the border. I do still meet English people who have literally no idea what the Scots’ problem is. I usually reply by asking them to consider two things: firstly, as an English person living in England, how many times a day do you think about Scotland? When something happens in the world, at what point do you think to yourself “Uh oh, I wonder how the Scots are going to react to this?” I’d suspect that in most cases the answers to those questions would be “almost never” and “never” respectively. But if you’re a Scot living in Scotland, you have to think about England ALL THE TIME. The welfare of Scotland is still, to a great degree, dependent on the will and indeed whim of the English and even in these days of the Holyrood parliament, there’s not much the Scots can do about it.
The second thing I always used to ask “Why are the Scots still whingeing 700 years after Bannockburn”-type English people was this: suppose I could demonstrate to you that we as a country would be considerably better off if we dissolved Parliament, removed our own government and submitted to direct rule from Paris... would you be okay with that? Even if we were all richer as a result, would you be fine being governed from the capital of a foreign country?
A bit of hyperbole there on my part, I know, as even before the creation of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish voters were able, to a limited degree, to influence the make up of Westminster by voting for their own MPs. And it’s interesting to note that my question has almost been answered; even the relatively minor influence of Brussels on our way of life has turned out to be unacceptable to a lot of people in Britain, even if – as is increasingly clear – we will indeed be considerably worse off without it.
On the other hand...
I hated every minute of the build up to the last ‘Indyref’ in 2014. As someone who’s split right down the middle in terms of loyalty and DNA between the two countries it was like being a small child watching his parents go through an acrimonious divorce. I may well be opening myself up to the kind of hate mail JK Rowling’s been getting these last three years when I say that I was immensely relieved by the result. As I explained at the time to my (largely bitterly disappointed) Scottish pals; if you regard your home country as SCOTLAND, then your home country is still there. It hasn’t got everything that some of its people want in terms of autonomy but its flag still flies, its culture still flourishes, its history still stands. It’s still there.
If you were to ask me the name of my homeland, I wouldn’t say England; I’d say Britain. It’s all my country; Glasgow and Liverpool, Edinburgh and London, Glencoe and the Peak District, it’s all home as far as I’m concerned. If that referendum had gone the other way, MY country would have ceased to exist. And I didn’t even have a vote.
I don’t blame the Scots if Brexit leads them to want another shot at independence and I really wouldn’t blame them if the vote next time is a resounding Aye. In fact, should this come to pass, I reckon I’ll do what all my friends with one European grandparent are currently doing and apply for dual citizenship. Scotland might just come to my aid one last time.
Who knew the last civilised place in the realm would be North Of The Wall?