Scots whae hae wi Wallace- goan aff wur?
I get a bit irritated listening to BBC Scotland's satruday Outdoor magazine. Firstly it is based in Aberdeen, a long way from anything other than dog walks and golfing to do with the outdoors which really is otherwise the essence of so much of Scotchlandshire- the great escape, the get away from it all. Secondly it is a pair of old duffers who now run the show, and are rather more keen on motorised transport than anything involved sweat and exposure. Thridly, as with their partner in crime Helen, there are rather a lot of English accents where ever they go and talk to people either running small enterprises or managing charitable activities or nature conservation.
This is not a qausi nationalist or racist chant about the English. Nor is it a nasty rant about 'white-settlers' taking jobs and decent housing from rural Scots....although that is worthy of a bit of an economic analysis with posion ink....no, this is a cry to Scots themselves!! Where are you all when it concerns our natural heritage, our extreme sports, our leisure opportunities, our hipster craft breweries with hand made sausage suppers?
But first the clearances....the clearances of the Highlands were not all a bad thing in some ways - the most optimistic of the folk took up their kilt hems and ran onto boats bound for the Americas, where they built themselves often farming or mining empires. In fact quite a few who were not evicted or not even crofters joined them on the passage to New Foundland in particular, because life was really a scraped existence in the soggy, wind swept western isles. in The late 18th early 19th C, it was just as easy to get to Halifax as it was to get to Glasgow from Stornoway, when a direct ship could offer you passage o'er the pond.
Did those who chose to flee to Canada and the USA take with them all the optimism, the risk taking and the bravery? Did we the 'damp, deep fried wee' who were left then also get landed with all the negative genetics, trapped in a dour gene pool for generations to come? What of those who said, "naw, it's Gleschu for me"- did they not take a dourness, pessimism and cowardly streak to the fledgling city and central belt?
When I hear about the jobs and enterprises run in Scotland by sasenachs, it gets my hackles up a bit because there are so very many of them on the radio and TV compared to Scots. It seems the majority of Scottish National Heritage's field staff and contractors are from 'up north, down south' while those running quad bike bungee rafting and heather gin nano distilleries have a well recognisable soggy biscuit-school dipthong set or Londinium south bank drawl.
Where are youse, wi Wallce bled?
Well I have to look at myself and my pals. We were instilled with the 1980s get the hell on in life and probably get out of Scotland or get your head above water with a proper career and education caus it isnae gettin ony better..... public service careers in things like conservation in the late 80s looked like a sure fire area for the Thatcherite axe to fall on. Also running a small, craft business just isn't something our dour, cautious paretns would fund by remortgaging their houses. Other businesses, like those damp hotels with a coal fire, flat old beer and home made scones could be snapped up for little or no money - if you were selling up your two-up-two-down in Surbiton or Mill Hill. That is to say we got a whole set of good lifers who made their capital gains in the 80s on their hooses doon sooth and wandered up to run hotels, cafes, restaurants and so on.
...and all the better the heelan's have been for it. Gone now is that suspicious, sniffy look from the plump barmaid and bald bar manager when you turned up in a goretex jacket rather than fishing tweeds at the local hotel bar. Gone is fish and chips you could play cricket with, and rump steak you could use for repair car tyres. In came venison hot pot, rod caught salmon, aberdeen angus burgers, langoustines.....
White settlers have probably done more for the highland economy in the last twenty years than the HIDB did in the preceeding two decades. They have seen the untapped market for decent grub, decent beer, full booking at reasonable room prices and a warm welcome despite the Surrey Set accent. Gone is that 'white russian' local who disapproved of hillwalking and mountain bikers because they once a month got a £20 tip from a rich huntin-fishin-shootin guest from up the lodge. Gone is having to drive half a day to get a decent meal, or cafes being shut most of the year and in the late afternoon.
However Edina (fowl pretender to the throne of 'capital' ) and the posher bits of Glesga have also had their massive cap-gains for in fact my generation and those a wee bit older who are in the prime of life and ready to go-it-alone, turn on, tune-in, drop-out, seek the goodlife....buy a dilapitaded hotel in westerross and start organic tofu farming with yoga classes. But naw. By in large it is the spunked gingersnap slant you hear of the owner proprietor of said whale hugging tours Ltd or tartan themed vegan hotel.
I think the central belt have two issues here. One, we are materialistic bastards so we seek better paid jobs at lower risk to our consumer cedit all the time, while wanting bigger hooses and mortgages all the time. Secondly we look upon the highlands as a nice place to visit for a day or maybe a dirty weekend at Inveraray or Tobermory. Holiday wise, midges rain and traffic queus behind caravans. Our parents may have taken us once or twice to Torrelominos, but often it was 'let's experience our own wonderful, beautiful country and its sour and dour landladies and barstaff". We got eaten alive ande boiled in the bag of cheap oilskin jackets while our bare legs and faces were pummelled with ice cold, horizontal rain. Nah, heelan's for a jaunt when there is a good wether forecast, out of midge and english caravaner season thank you. Munro bagging and a pint and pie by an open log fire, then piss off back doon the A82 hame.
Heelan'ers are just as bad about their own front yard. Ever since I have been going to the western highlands, the yokals are usually the ruddest barstaff. The fact is that 'service jobs' are below many of their expectations. They want to be in fishun, offshore or self employed forrestry so they can drive round in a twin turbo WRX type shitty korean car with a 12 inch exhaust muzzle and fluffy dice they keep up to taunt the local polis, who keep tellin them to take them doon. Many locals in wester ross, oban and locahber used to hate tourism and didnae like the look o' me mutch. There was nae money in tourism, just the misery of winters on the dole livin in a caravan on at yer maws' hoose. Tourists, especially 'lallan' Scots, were interlopers, perpetuating the circle of shitty lives for chubby wee waitresses who bunked school all the ime.
Since the White Settlers began to untapp those guilders and marks all those years ago now, by actually offering tourists a scottish experience beyond Birdseye, Bells, Walkers Shortbread and Fray Bentos, the whole thing took off with tourists spending more and more cash. Weekend domestic tourism became an all round phenomemnon, as mentioned above, and hillwalking overtook huntin-shootin-fishin as a source of income for the heelands by the late 1990s.
I just don't think that central belters, the vast majority of Scots, set a big enough price on the highlands as much more than a place for short visits. In fact it is often seen as a bit naff having anything to do with the Bens and the Lochs, when compared to clubbin', fitba or the best cappucino in Candleriggs. Renton and co said it all by wanting to get out into the heelan's to take in the breathtaking beauty only to conclude it is shite being scottish if you are scum - even though you have been to RADA ya big poof Ewan.
We just don't see the point in risking our necks in business ventures in somewhere even soggier and colder than Glesga or Edina. My generation are also about ten years behind our paretns at least in terms of size of property we own now, so we don't quite feel we have made it yet, and therefore are not bored enough to become good-lifers on said pine cone tofu farm. In terms of jobs too, Eagle minder, upland recreation officer or wetlands gaurdian type careers just seem silly to us. Not something that will pay the bills, and something likely to get cut back or privatised down to minimum wage.
Well the trick la'lan' Scots are missing is more than enthusiastically taken up by folk who come from really grim places, like Bolton, Basingstoke or Milton Keynes who do want to breath in bracing air and will not dissolve in all day rain. And for those with good equity release, fuck it, why try to run a pub in Croyden when you can sell up in Cranford and buy a hotel with a view of Cruachan?
Coming from the Central Belt of Scotland is a major handicap for optimism it seems. We are just too pessimisteic and cynical to give up graffiti, used needles and broken buckfast bottles for a life in the heelands. Also we maybe are a bit patronising about Teutchters and dont get a warm cosey feeling back from them either.
My own solution would have been Inverness, a town claiming to be a city, but wrapped or even smothered in beatiful highland scenery within easy reach and lots of activities, plus ok pubs last time I was there. I lived there a a summer, 1993 it was, and loved it. But what the Eff would I do there to progress my sidewaysly mobile urban proffessional career? Hee Haw, without working in the public sector. HIDB was still on the go then, but I never did get to play ball in the Scottish Enterprise croquet team.
I have an old class mate who live there now, bought an old forrester's gaff oot in the woods somewhere between Dores and Nairn, he won't quite elaborate for fear I descend on him no doubt. Works in Ardersheir I think in a high tech siesmic analysis company, probably going bust as I write with these ooil prices.
Retirement plans now loom for me, with only twenty odd years left in work. A meagre inheritance when the olds pop said cloggs. Perhaps I should look at the heelans for a good life in retirement with a wee business reelin it in? Or will I still see the place as nice to visit, but noh tae luv in?