The doors of Scotland's first Parliament in almost 300 years open for business on 1 July 1999. To celebrate this historic occasion, Edinburgh goes wild with a series of gigs and live events. Top of the bill is Garbage, whose frontwoman SHIRLEY MANSON took time out on tour in Barcelona to speak to The List about her home country and its new parliament. Words: Miles Fielder


IT'S NO SUPRISE TO HEAR A CELEBRITY spout forth on the subject of politics. But Edinburgh-born Shirley Manson, lead singer with Garbage and due in town for a gig celebrating the opening of the Scottish Parliament, is passionate about her home country’s political future.

‘I think it’s really exciting and long overdue, something I personally welcome,’ she says. ‘We have to proceed with caution, obviously. I certainly don’t think it’s just going to be the answer to our prayers overnight. I would, however, like to be positive about it.’

The opening of Scotland’s Parliament has also generated some negativity. As Manson points out, this is rooted largely in a more general disillusionment with politics. ‘It’s not just negativity, it’s also disinterest. Through the Thatcher years, people began to believe it didn’t matter what they voted they were going to get screwed anyway. That discouraged a lot of people from using their vote, and that’s the very reason I’m excited about the new Parliament, because God forbid anything like the P011 Tax should happen again.

‘When you talk in terms of any government, for me personally, you have to look at the broad view,’ suggests Manson. ‘Everyone has their own secular interests, and there are a lot of people who don’t give a

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damn about the arts, a lot of people who don’t give a damn about education. Everyone’s political interests tend to lie solely in themselves. You have to think beyond yourself, you have to think about the bigger picture.’

For many, the new Parliament signals a growing confidence in the nation. For Manson, confidence is an attribute that underpins the Scottish arts scene. ‘What’s made Scotland so rich in the arts is that there’s this constant desire to struggle and be heard, because, geographically, we are such a small country. I think there’s a certain determination that exists within the culture that has made artists incredibly resilient and strong. So by the time they come to the world’s attention, they are fine, hardy examples of our culture.’

Now that Garbage are international stars, Manson herself might well be described as a hardy example of Scottish culture, so it’s appropriate that the band should be involved in the celebrations. How did she and the band feel about being invited to headline the first rock concert under a Scottish Parliament?

‘All the clichés spring to mind, but obviously they are fitting,’ she responds. ‘I was excited beyond belief when we got asked. It’s very rare as a band that you are invited to participate in anything that’s even vaguely historical, let alone something that’s of personal importance to me and my country.’

In fact, this is Garbage’s first ever show in Manson’s home town. It’s also the band’s last UK show on the touring cycle for their current album, Version 2.0. ‘We are determined to make it a great night,’ says Manson. ‘I’m sure there’ll be a few little surprises tucked up our sleeves.’ The special guests, perhaps? Manson keeps her comments cryptic. ‘For our fans, it’ll be things they haven’t seen in the past and, for the general observer, there’ll be some visual candy treats.’

Garbage’s extensive touring schedule has kept Manson away from Scotland for some considerable time. Speaking from her hotel in Barcelona, she explains: ‘Whenever you move away from a country for any amount of time, it changes your perspective. When you have a bird’s eye view of your country, you start to see the wonderful things it has that are unique within the world. There’s nowhere like Scotland and I probably never realised that before. It’s wonderful. I think that’s why a lot of travellers or ex-pats get emotional about their homeland. I’m lucky in that I’m only temporarily absent, because my home is in Edinburgh. I’m very proud of my own country.’

The feeling among her fellow Scots is, no doubt, reciprocal.

Garbage play at The Garden Party, West Princes Street Gardens, Thu 1 Jul.