Wednesday, 6 May 2015

living in Scotland: 10 reasons why we put up with the weather

This week on the gratitude challenge I'm supposed to be talking about being grateful for the weather.

I've waited all week to be grateful for the weather, and it's still not happened. We've had rain, wind, hail, snow, more rain, and although I can see sun on the hilltops from my window right now, it is merely illuminating a brown soggy mess from all the rain. The sheep have more sense than to be up there right now.

I suggested to my husband that he get a job in France again this morning. He laughed at me and told me it wasn't going to happen. Mainly because he can't speak French, but I must also admit that I like living in Scotland.

So, with all this weather, all at once, why on earth do I think Scotland is a good place to live?

Here, in no particular order, are ten good reasons:

1. Och aye the noo. I love all that tartan and tablet nonsense. Tartan and tweed are brilliant (and practical as well), and easy to wear. Kilts are awesome, and everyone in the world who fancies men, fancies a man in a kilt. Tablet is nice too, and sickly enough that you won't eat it all in one go. Probably. My brother came to visit once and went clay pigeon shooting. He got soaked to the skin and borrowed a dry pair of trousers from a chap called Donald. He was tickled that he had so many opportunities to sing that song.

2. Food. Scotland makes some great stuff (including much of the tartan mentioned above). Vegetarian haggis is delicious (I've not tried the other stuff I'm afraid). Irn Bru makes a smashing float (put ice cream in the top), and Tunnocks tea cakes are yummy, and a shout out to the person who designed the Tunnocks packaging, because it is awesome. Scotland is also pretty awesome at building ships and bridges.

3. Music. There's songs like the delightfully twee(d) Wild Mountain Thyme (Silencer's version below with lots of nice Scottish imagery), musicians like the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (below, covering Avicii), and lots of great bands: the Proclaimers, Glasvegas, Biffy Clyro, Primal Scream, Franz Ferdinand... the list goes on. 

4. Dancing. BC (before children) Kenny and I lived in Edinburgh, close to the Caledonian brewery, where we would go dancing at a ceilidh on a Saturday night. There's a slight risk of getting burled into a pillar, but it's such a laugh. We were lucky enough to have Last Tram Tae Auchenshuggle do the ceilidh at our wedding. Grin.

We had a Scottish wedding. Lots of kilts, lots
of booze, a ceilidh, and hardly any fights.
5. Government. Now the serious stuff. I moved to Scotland to work for the Scottish government. I don't work for them any more, but I do love the way they work. Most politicians seem to want to do their best for the people of Scotland, although they come at it in different ways. The Westminster politicians just seem to want to tell us what their opponents are doing wrong, so I'm glad that most powers are devolved. Our government is more discursive than adversarial, and because of our electoral system, minority parties get some representation which helps to avoid the race to the right we can see in Westminster just now. 

6. Politics. I am told that the idea that Scotland is more liberal than the rest of the UK is a myth. If you ask people across the UK about their views on various topics, we all come out kind of similar. Hmm. Even though I was at the sharp end of a lot of anti-English feeling last September, I'm glad to be in Scotland, where UKIP get booed out of town, and the Green party is taken seriously.  I am proud that Scotland is supportive of immigration, welcoming those who choose to come here. There is also distate here for the concept of the poor being blamed for their predicament. Our Scottish government wants more power over benefits and taxes so that they can do more to help the needy. You don't pay for prescriptions in Scotland, and old people don't pay for the care they need - because you shouldn't have to.The Scottish NHS is recognised for the vital and good work it does helping people stay well, and the hospitals are clean. No system is perfect, but at least you get the impression they're trying here.

7. Engineering and design. I love the Scottish government building, which was incredibly controversial, but which sits well in the landscape, and which encourages people to talk; not shout. Scotland is famous for its engineers and designers, which we export all around the world. And the Scottish people are rightly proud of their heritage. That said, the Scottish parliament was designed by a Spanish architect, chosen by the Scottish civil service. It was expensive, and the budget could have been managed better, but as a parliament building it has a lot of important stuff to do. Stuff which hadn't really been worked out when it was started. It is well worth a visit.

8. Education. Scotland has a great education system. Kids start school at about 5 years old, but can defer it if they're not ready. At the other end, they go to university for four years, and don't pay tuition fees. We have some marvellous universities, beca including St Andrew's where Will met Kate.

9. People. People make Scotland. People from lots of backgrounds, and with lots of different things to offer. Scotland believes in people. 16 year olds can vote here, and I've already talked about the attitude to immigration. Scotland may be late to the party sometimes (as we were with gay marriage), but when we get there we know how to party.

10. Scotland is gorgeous. No really, behind those clouds, it's just amazing. There's majestic deer, monsterific lochs, wild mountain thyme and all sorts. It's worth getting out there, just don't forget your waterproof troosers.

So I guess I'm staying, and I can even see some blue sky. What do you like about Scotland?