Things I love about Scotland

Prompted by Ms Mac’s Things I Love about Switzerland, I thought I’d do the same thing about Scotland.

1. Space.

We’ve got lots of leg room in Scotland: we’ve around half the population of London, and an entire country to spread out in. As a result we tend to have fairly roomy towns and streets, and while there are certainly a few ugly bits we don’t really suffer from the urban sprawl you find elsewhere. I tend to feel quite claustrophobic when I’m in some bits of England, and I’ve noticed that the places in the UK and Ireland I tend to like are the ones with Georgian architecture – which is all about space and status, rather than the industrial revolution “let’s cram a thousand people into a few terraces” red-brick that to me typifies a lot of English towns.

2. Scale

We call them cities, but the rest of the world would call them towns.

3. Architecture

Not all of Scots architecture is attractive, but almost all of it’s interesting. A quick wander round Glasgow demonstrates that: impossibly detailed Victorian buildings, giant sandstone mansions, 1930s housing with strong art deco influences, some brutal tower blocks and identikit glass and chrome office blocks. In the space of two or three streets you can explore two centuries of styles, and while it’s a cliche if you’re ever in the centre of Glasgow you should look up: you’ll see all kinds of mad things, from gargoyles to ridiculous flourishes. Thanks to rising house prices there are a lot more indentikit commuter boxes springing up in gap sites (and the waterfront is starting to resemble any other city’s riverside), but there’s still plenty to feast your eyes on.

4. Scenery

It’s something we tend to take for granted, but no matter where you live in Scotland you’re never more than half an hour away from some jaw-dropping scenery, whether it’s the rolling hills of the borders or the alien landscapes of parts of the highlands.

5. Tourists

Well, tourists unless they’re in front of me when I’m driving somewhere in a hurry. Although this also ties in with one of the things I hate about Scotland: our tendency to screw tourists out of as much cash as possible, whether it’s excessive admission prices to tatty tourist attractions or silly money for a cup of tea in a nearby cafe.

6. Attitude

We’re funny buggers in Scotland: there’s a definite dour, fatalistic side to us, but it’s laced with the sort of dark humour that means everyone’s a comedian. Which ties in with…

7. William McGonagall

McGonagall was a poet, although I use the term loosely: he was rubbish – do a google for his Tay Bridge Disaster poem for some terrifying proof. Naturally, his very rubbishness made him something of a national hero. “Fans” used to organise readings for the sheer pleasure of taking the piss out of him, and as Billy Connolly points out, he was deeply eccentric: for example, he hated publicans on the grounds that “the first man to hit me in the face with a plate of peas was a publican”. Not “a publican hit me in the face with a plate of peas”, but a publican was the first to do it. Which of course suggests that hitting McGonagall in the face with a plate of peas was a pastime for many Scots.

8. Cost of living

It’s a cheap place to live. Even the bits of Scotland that seem desperately expensive – bits of Glasgow, most of Edinburgh – pale into insignificance when you look at the price of a house or the price of a pint in southern England.

9. The Tom Morton show

Tom Morton broadcasts weekday afternoons on BBC Radio Scotland, and he’s a national treasure: his show plays anything and everything, whether it’s musty old rock or electro-pop from up-and-coming Scots bands. Imagine a Scots John Peel with a less abrasive taste in music and you’ll get the idea. He’s all the more remarkable when you flick through the dial and realise that Scots commercial radio stations (with the honourable exception of Beat 106 when Jim Gellatly’s on) are even worse than their English counterparts.

10. Folk music

Good folk music, that is: there’s plenty of maudlin crap and jiggy nonsense. But decent Scots traditional music is fantastic stuff, especially when it’s performed by a bunch of drunks to an audience consisting of a bunch of drunks.

6 thoughts on “Things I love about Scotland

  1. david says:

    Compare with the North of England

    1+3 Since you repeated yourself. Northern England is a really big place with not many people in it (compared to the south). There is a fair variety of architecture down here. If anything Glasgow is a bit horrible in that respect. Ignoring dodgy local authority housing in both places, Glasgow housing is a bit of an anonymous mass of identikit tenement flats and more recently, glass and steel designer shoeboxes.

    I think everywhere has its own quirky stuff if you look for it.

    Admittedly there is a lot of terrace stuff round these parts though.

    2. The biggest town in England is this one, Huddersfield. The region has about 130,000 people but that includes all the little villages surrounding it. Aberdeen is bigger. You forget that Glasgow is still one of the most populous cities in the UK (I’m not sure if Leeds and Manchester are bigger yet – they’ve started giving figures as “greater” – i.e. all the surrounding area which in the case of Manchester includes Bolton and Salford (Salford is technically a city I think)

    If you were to go to america they tend to call everything a city.

    4. Again, Northern England isn’t bad for that. Scotland tends to go for the more violent beauty than elsewhere. Some of the North is nice – the dales, peak district, lake district and so on. Tends to be a bit more gentle though.

    5. Tourists are fleeced wherever they go. Thats why they aren’t called “people”.

    6. The north is quite dry as well. Tend to be a bit tight though. ;-D

    7. If I remember, McGonnagal was a bit shit.

    8. I agree with the south. Unfortunately Scotland is playing catch-up with a vengeance. Average house prices are still increasing, while england is on the slide. Average house prices are starting to level out. Pub prices are comparable to the north too.

    Strangely enough I don’t really miss it.

    I think there is a lot more in common between Northern England and Scotland than there is between the south and the north of England. And everyone here hates everyone from the home counties.

    Given the choice again I think I’d stay here.

  2. Gary says:

    I wasn’t trying to start an argument, y’know ;-)

    > I think there is a lot more in common between Northern England and Scotland than there is between the south and the north of England.

    I think so too.

  3. Squander Two says:

    In some ways, yes. In others, no. There is something essentially English about the English. Buggered if I can quite put my finger on what it is, though.

    Everyone with any sense hates the Home Counties. I’m from the Home Counties, and I hate the Home Counties.

  4. ms. mac says:

    I love your list!

    The things I miss about Scotland are 1. The funny people. My brother and some of my cousins are the funniest people I know. 2. The sense of history. Switzerland and certainly Australia just didn’t ever offer that kind of atmosphere. Every little town or village in Scotland has some historic claim to fame. And 3. The baked potato shops. Prawn cocktail on a Spud-U-Like? Yumm!

    mr. mac loves the fact that when we go back to Dunfermline if you go into an ethnic restaurant the waiter who may be Chinese, Indian, whatever will speak with a Fife accent. Never fails to amuse him!

  5. Gary says:

    > . Every little town or village in Scotland has some historic claim to fame.

    Usually a tenuous one, which is something else I like. For example, the sleepy Ayrshire town of Prestwick (where Glasgow Prestwick airport is located, despite being a million miles away from Glasgow) is obsessed with Elvis after the great man, er, landed there and stayed for about 30 seconds in the fifties. Has that stopped Prestwick from going on about it ever since? Has it buggery.

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