Let’s get this straight from the start. Homecoming Scotland 2009 is not an SNP idea. I can’t blame the current Scottish Government for that. It was dreamed up by the previous lot. And it’s not even a bad idea, if it’s done right. But it’s not right. That’s why so many people appear to cringe whenever it’s mentioned.
First off, it’s being badged as a celebration of all that’s best about Scotland. Along 5 main themes: Whisky, Golf, Great Scots thinkers, "Ancestry", and Rrrrrabbie Burns. Basically, everything that Queen Victoria loved about Scotland. It’s the 21st century people. Can we not try something a little more forward thinking? Heaven knows I’m not advocating a 12 month festival of deep fried Mars bars, but come on. Is it not possible for us to at least acknowledge some of what Scotland is about today?
Second, is the fact that so much of the hype is just that. And thinly veiled hype aimed at the home market, at that. If this is about "Homecoming" – if this is about inviting the Scottish diaspora to return to "the old country" (I hate myself for even typing that phrase), should we not actually be telling THEM about it. Might we not do a bit of proper promotion in parts foreign, as opposed to blowing much of the media budget on a diabolical singalong with Sir Sean and KT, which then gets peddled to the people who are already here? Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?
And thirdly, having decided to go ahead with the entire farrago, let’s at least have a few proper events around the country which are really about the Homecoming. Yes, yes, I know there is "The Gathering" later this month – although what Christopher Lambert has to say about it all is another matter. Actually, the Gathering appears to be a seriously overpriced Highland Games in the normally free Holyrood Park in Edinburgh. If you really have loadsamoney you can also march with the clans (sigh) up the equally normally free Royal Mile.
But what I really object to (and this is the point of today’s epistle) is the blatant rebranding of pre-existing events in order to make the whole thing look somehow respectable. And so, dear fellow British people living in Scotland, we are (and I’m quoting the official website here) "invited to over 200 Homecoming events during 2009". Events such as:
- the Homecoming Scottish Cup – ignoring the fact that the oldest football trophy in the world has been doing perfectly fine since 1873
- Homecoming wildlife – (website again) "Sea eagles, ospreys and red kites have come home to Scotland after years of absence." No they haven’t. They’ve been here for years. Somehow claiming that the Boat of Garten ospreys have suddenly discovered a penchant for the stanzas of Rrrrrabbie Burns is just preposterous.
- The Edinburgh Mela – no, no no! The Mela has been going since 1995 and (I’m quoting again here) is all about those with a "demonstrable interest in black, ethnic minority arts, culture and community groups". Unless Rrrrrabbie was given to blacking up and belting out the occasional chorus of "Mammy" I think we are stretching a point too far here.
Just stop it! Cultural diversity is a fabulous thing and enriches our country in the 21st century. Ospreys, other wildlife and Scotland’s incredible scenery can hold their own against any other part of the world. I can even understand why some people would enjoy watching or even (shudder) playing soccer. But we should not allow these things to be hijacked by the Braw Leader.
Ask yourselves this: if Whisky, Golf and Rrrrrabbie Burns are so blummin’ great, why did the whole blummin’ diaspora leave in the first place?