Like the past, Scotland is a different country. Things are done differently here. What might be thought eyebrow-raisingly inappropriate in a larger polity is considered normal here. Consider these three examples:
- In 2015, Scottish Television decided it was a good idea to make Nicola Sturgeon, together with her sister and her mother, the star of its Hogmanay broadcast. New Year with the Sturgeon’s was in turn hosted by Elaine C Smith, the comedienne who was, conveniently, also a member of Yes Scotland’s advisory board during the 2014 independence referendum.
- Earlier this month, the SNP rolled-out the first ‘baby boxes’ that will be delivered to every new-born infant in Scotland. The idea, borrowed from Finland, is to support mothers by providing a kind of starter-pack for infancy. Useful items; helpful advice and so on. Unobjectionable, even if it’s also not likely, on its own, to reduce infant mortality quite as much as its advocates would have us believe. But, also included in the boxes, is a poem written by Jackie Kay, Scotland’s equivalent of the poet laureate. The poem, titled ‘Welcome Wee One‘, is unexceptional in the extreme; its inclusion in the baby box scheme is more significant.
- This morning, the Daily Record, once Scotland’s biggest-selling daily newspaper and for decades a staunch, even mulish, supporter of the Labour party, announced it had secured the services of a new star columnist: Nicola Sturgeon.
Now, individually, none of these things are especially important; taken together, they are modestly revealing. If you doubt this, I ask you to consider the reaction if, say, ITV had made ‘New Year with the Camerons’ the centrepiece of their New Year’s Eve programme. I ask you to consider the reaction if the poet laureate agreed to write a poem celebrating – and therefore supporting – a new government policy (‘Ode to the Bedroom Tax‘ perhaps?).