Cap in hand?

So polls show that most Scots and most English would like to see an independent Scotland. Freakin’ right, I say.

If you don’t have your independence and a right to a national identity, what do you have? I’ve admired Ireland forever, well before the whole Celtic Tiger phenomenon. The Irish were proud enough to fight for their independence, and they won it. They paid dearly through 60-odd years of economic squalor, but a happier and prouder race you’d never meet, money or no.

My Dad was a card-carrying Scots Nationalist (even though he didn’t live there and was way more Russian than Scottish). When I went to Stirling University for a year in the 1980s and was disappointed to find there wasn’t a local chapter of St. Louis Cardinals supporters, I of course signed up with the University SNP Club.

Bizarrely, within a few meetings they tried to draft me as President. I shite you not. It was then that I decided I could use the time better practicing pipes not politics, so I quietly stopped attending meetings and all the whistful student reminiscing about the time the Queen was pelted with eggs when she visited Stirling Uni in 1972.

I still believe in Scottish independence. I also believe that, economically, it would bring a lot of problems. But some things you just have to stand up for on principle, dang the consequences.

Fareweel to a’ our Scottish fame,
Fareweel our ancient glory!
Fareweel ev’n to the Scottish name.
Sae famed in martial story!
Now Sark rins over Salway sands,
An’ Tweed rins to the ocean,
To mark where England’s province stands —
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

Depth of vision

The December issue of Piping Today, the quarterly print magazine of the National Piping Centre, arrived today. It’s by far the best publication that comes out of Scotland. (Price is $9.25 per issue for Canadians.)

In it is a puff piece about the Competing Pipers Association and its president, Simon McKerrell. Simon’s a really smart person, a lovely piper and a nice guy, but he says something that caught my attention. Talking about the always contentious selection process for the Northern Meeting and Argyllshire Gathering. The contentiousness usually revolves around non-UK pipers not getting in to the big events.

“Major prizes from overseas are taken into account,” McKerrell says in the article, “but the depth of field in Scotland ensures that the emphasis is placed on the Scottish track record. The depth of field in the other countries is just not great enough.”

To generalize that the Scottish games circuit is better than those of British Columbia or Ontario is, in a word, uninformed. I’m not sure if Simon has ever competed in these places, but I believe he has not. A quick browse of some of the Scottish games results from last year, and one will quickly see that the “depth of field” at most events is not that great. And the judging can be mysterious, if not downright laughable.

Scotland has no system for judging. Scotland has no unified grading system for competitors. Scotland has no set requirements from one competition to the next. Scotland does not even provide formal feedback to competitors. And from this rather haphazard approach comes superiority?

Simon’s sweeping statement essentially says that where you live has a great deal to do with whether you get to play at the big events (which, by the way, have become much bigger than they ever could have been exactly because of the interest of foreign players).

You only have to look at the rapid popularity and sound organization of events like Winter Storm to see that other non-Scottish options to Oban and Aviemore will be a reality quicker than these places may realize. But strangely, it seems that many of the Scottish events would be fine with that.

Just thinking . . .

. . . since the new Triumph Street band is looking for a sponsor, they should approach “The Donald.”

It’s a perfect fit: he loves building things, has no trouble getting rid of things he doesn’t like (“SFU: you’re fired!”), and won’t mind currying favour with a few judges along the way.

Call it “Trump Street.”