Sheena McDonald considers Scotland's unconventional History

Well, were you ithere?

Just as splinters Vi from the True l Cross abound in = reliquaries throughout Christendom in sufficient number to build a Southfork condo that all the turbine-injected vulpine huffing and puffing in the world could not shift so the numbers ofScots and observers who attended the first meeting ofthe Scottish Constitutional Convention in the home of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (no. no. I don‘t know what the words mean I just like the polysyllabic rumble and cadence ofit all. . .) will, as time passes and memories fade, assume dimensions which would have had them clinging to the rafters as thick as lice in trenches on that historic Thursday morning.

They weren‘t, ofcourse. There was plenty ofroom for niorc. both Convention members and interested journalists and citizens. Amongst the select 400 or so who did take the morning off was a wise and mature philosopher who took his grandson along. The treat was a success. The grandson spent a happy four hours celebrity-spotting. ‘celebrity’ in this instance meaning ‘as seen on television‘. . . (‘Lookl look! there‘s Ozymandias!‘)

That wasn’t the point, ofcourse.

‘He‘ll be able to say to his grandchildren‘. explained indulgent grandpappy. ‘I was there. I was there whenitall . . .‘

He paused. assessing my Prince-Amang-the Heather factor. and decided I was up to the bitter truth.

‘. . . when it all stopped.‘

But it‘s only just started, I obligingly fed.

‘No, no, it‘ll be a damp squib. this one. And that‘ll be it. The last chance. The Scots know when they‘re well off. They‘re not going to go through the pother ofsetting up a parliament or assembly or whatever. There‘s men in Edinburgh rich men they wouldn‘t let it happen. And if it did, they‘d be off! Leave Scotland a banana republic - except we‘ve got no bananas. I think ofsouthern Ireland. . .‘

I thought ofsouthern Ireland. It didn‘t take long I‘ve never been there. and my prejudices wouldn‘t make a handful. Wet. green. Catholic potatoes. EC subsidies and independent enough to host Mikhail and Raisa.

2 The List 7 20 April 1989

Well. Peter Brook‘s coming back to Glasgow without any unilateral declaration of independence issuing out ofGeorge Square. Perhaps my wise old friend is right. Scotland has the best of both worlds all the vivacity of nationhood, without the responsibility ofstatehood.

But it sounds like a pretty hollow compromise. after all. and a shamefully unScottish determination for the middle way.

It‘s understandable. ofcourse. Centuries ofsloth and fear have produced an apparent lack of

confidence in the Scot which we wear

like a battle-honour.

‘The floo‘ers o' the forest are a‘ wede awa‘.‘ we agree. with gloomy satisfaction. with the out-and-out Eeyores among us pointing to Flodden as the beginning ofthe end. ‘0 Flower ofScotland!‘ we belt out. with the self-satisfied fervour ofthe paid-up underdog. Want to take the wheel? Sit in the driving seat? Pilot the big bird alone? Na, na I‘m fine where I am. sniffing the little white rose of Scotland ‘that smells sharp and sweet and breaks the heart‘.

And while the heartbreak-junkies carol into their pint glasses, the inheritors ofthe Enlightenment ditch patriotic valour for pragmatic discretion and threaten to cut offthe electronic umbilical plait from Charlotte Square to the City or Wall Street or Zurich and who. at this point. would blame them?

The historic failures of princes and politicians to deliver the crooned-for people‘s parliament has not yet been upstaged by a clear demonstrtaion by the people that they want it enough. And when Malcolm Rifkind flashes the lining ofhis coat and hints that we might yet see it turned again ifonly the popular will were strong and united enough. it sounds less like a knockback and more like an increasingly wistful challenge.

Ifthe well-mannered Constitutional Convention and its brave Claim of Right are going to have more effect than the forerunners of 1979. 1947, 1842 eral, it will be not because the right people were there on Day One but because the important people the inhabitants of this little nation have abandoned the timid sloth of centuries. and swapped the little white rose for something more substantial.

It may or may not be a red red rose. It will certainly have thorns. And right now. it‘s there for the graSping.

Want a splinter?

_ p.


s. ‘I .i' It only won one Oscar out of its several nominations. but Working Girl co-star Harrison Ford cantake some consolation from the film's box office popularity inthe US. Audiences here have their chance to assess Mike Nichols' comedy from April 14. See Film and feature.


Celebrating the Science Festival, the Scottish Post Office has a new set of postcards to add to their collection. Last yearthey published a group of six Scottish Cathedrals, the year before that they celebrated the Crofters Centenary with a commission from artist Archie McAllister. After seeing Stephen Conroy on Scottish Television last year, John Martin of Forth Studios

suggested this young Glasgow artist for

the 1989 pack of six.

Despite the much-publicised impending court case of Conroy versus his gallery, he was delighted to accept the commission. ‘John Logie Baird is one of his folk heroes and he wanted to pay homage to him,’ says Martin. illustrated here, Logie Baird, looking

rather like Conroy himself, is indeed one of the most enigmatic portraits.

This remarkable depiction olan iguana sellerina Mexican food market is just one of the photographs in the current exhibition at Edinburgh’s Stills Gallery. ‘Salt and sauce, son?‘ ‘Aye, and a pickled onion too please'. See Art.

Your guide to the next fourteen days starts here . . .

. :{~_. {'3‘ I, s ..- y! I, :3: k a” . 5.415 in"; ‘3‘?“ if iixé‘w’iw; "go -.3 The designer who realised the paintings into postcards, Martinis well pleased with the results, though

i wistfully talks of Conroy’s deep red

oxides and brilliant mustards that got lost in the four colour printing process. ‘The postcards are very good, but the paintings are even better. The Post Office realises that they now own a set of very fine paintings and will hopefully exhibit them as much as possible.’

In commercial terms, artists' fees are