McIndependence: Should Scotland give the UK the highland fling?

McIndependence: Should Scotland give the UK the highland fling?

Could accents, skirts for men and sugary orange beverages help Scots grab independence?

There's a lot more to Scotland than Loch Ness, ruins and bright sunshine. Scotland.

The very name conjures up images of beautiful, rugged highlands swathed in mist. Of aromatic, golden malt whiskies savored on cold winter evenings. Of a proud warrior nation steeped in a rich cultural heritage. And of an embarrassingly ordinary national soccer team.

With so much to claim as their own, it is little wonder that in 2014 the Scots will vote on whether to end their 300-year-old membership of the United Kingdom and declare full independence.

There are strong arguments for and against breaking away: if the Scots do not secede, they will forever be in thrall to those English bastards south of the border. But if they do, they risk losing one of their favorite pastimes -- moaning about those English bastards south of the border.

CNN Travel isn’t about to step into the middle of this debate. But for the purely selfish reason that we might be able to add another sovereign nation to our must-visit list, we admit we’re getting quite excited about the outcome.

And frankly, if any nation has earned the right to decide its fate, it is Scotland. Not just for its murky landscape, fragrant liquor, flame-haired citizens and poor quality goalkeeping. But for several more compelling reasons: 

1. Trump card

Balmedie Country ParkBalmedie Country Park in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. No tees but one mean sandtrap. No other country on the planet has distracted Donald Trump to the same degree as Scotland, and for this it must be saluted.

Sure we’ve all had to put up with the hamster-haired billionaire’s scattergun Twitter tirades against anyone who isn’t Donald Trump. But think how much worse it would have been if Scotland had not sacrificed some of its breathtaking coast to keep Trump busy building a golf resort.

It wasn’t as if Scotland --  birthplace of golf and home to more than 100 courses including St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Gleneagles, Muirfield, and Royal Troon -- needed another sanctuary for wonderful golf fashion, but it let Trump build one anyway.

Do tweet: At least he hasn’t combed over the dune beaches of nearby Balmedie Country Park.

Don’t tweet: The world is laughing at us.


2. Saddle scores

The greatest Olympic nation that never was? Scotland gets a lot of stick for being one of the most unhealthy nations in Europe. If you believe the bad press, the Scots have such an abiding love of the deep fat fryer that they even dip their morning muesli in batter before cooking it in a vat of grease.

But it isn’t all clogged arteries and myocardial infarction. The Scots also have a healthy streak, particularly when it comes to producing some of the world’s most dynamic cyclists.

There’s Graham Obree, a mercurial racing rider who broke the world speed record on a cycle made out of washing machine parts. Chris Hoy, an oak-thighed sprinter who is the most successful Olympic cyclist of all time. And Danny MacAskill, an agile and artistic BMX bandit whose two-wheel trickery almost makes owning a child-sized bicycle not seem silly.

Do say: How about entering next year’s Tour de Ben Nevis?

Don’t say: Bike over to the Carron Fish Bar and get me a deep fried Mars Bar.


3. Kilt in action

kilt"And mum thinks I have a nappy on..." Some Scottish inventions catch on quickly. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone seems to still be quite popular in one form or another, as does John Logie Baird’s television. Other notable Scottish innovations include steam engines, penicillin and cloned sheep.

So it is no wonder that another great Scottish idea -- skirts for men -- has taken off. Kilts were first glimpsed on the catwalk during Edinburgh’s autumn/winter fashion week of 1512. In a matter of just 500 years, the craze has spread as far as, um, Edinburgh.

But that’s not entirely fair. In the intervening years kilts have become adopted by drunk and embarrassing male relatives as a useful way of identifying themselves at weddings.

Do say: Actually, the contemporary outfits at 21st Century Kilts don’t look too bad.

Don’t say: Next season: Mini skirts for men.


4. Musical instruments

The worst thing to happen to Scottish music heritage since the bagpipes.  It’s true that Scotland gave us Rod Stewart warbling on about “Sailing.” Regrettably, and for reasons clearly lost in the mist rolling in from the sea off the country’s southwestern isles, it also true that it inspired Paul McCartney to destroy his Beatles legacy (yet again) with “Mull of Kintyre.”

Don’t hold that against the Scots though. They have more than redressed the balance by producing some of the most formidable music acts of the past three decades. Among them, Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Simple Minds and, yes, even The Proclaimers.

Scottish nationalists have vowed to abandon nuclear weapons if they get independence. This is partly because they can arm their youth with Gibson Les Pauls and three basic chords then watch the world fall at their feet. If that fails, they still have bagpipes.

Do say: How much are tickets for next year’s T In the Park music festival?

Don’t say: How much to stop McCartney from playing that song ever again?


5. Voice-activated

Anti-independence campaigners insist a sovereign Scotland would struggle to support itself, particularly since those English bastards have spent decades bleeding dry its reserves of North Sea oil.

But the Scots have another trick up their sleeves: their accents.

According to one survey, a honeyed Scottish burr -- we’re clearly talking Sean Connery here, rather than the jagged and salty dialects favored deep in the heart of Glasgow -- is associated with hard work. So much so, that they can probably get away without actually doing any.

Do say: Ah Miss Moneypenny, let me tell you the secrets of the world.

Dinnae say: Haud yer wheesht. I cannae kin ye.


6. Whisky business

This is not the national drink. You could hit Scotland’s celebrated malt whisky trail in search of the country’s national drink, but you’d be wasting your time. The real beverage of choice for most Scots is a soda whose lurid orange appearance is normally associated with some kind of appalling industrial accident.

The manufacturers of Irn Bru once bogusly claimed it had ferrous girders as a key ingredient. This hardly matters as any flavor is masked by enough sugar to rot your teeth just by staring at an unopened can.

Irn Bru’s sugary kick, along with a shot of caffeine, gives the drink a magical side effect that could help to explain its popularity among certain intemperate sections of Scottish society: it stops the morning-after shakes dead in their tracks. 

Do say: Give me a swig of Bru, I’ve got a hangover the size of Auchtermuchty.

Don’t say: I need more whisky to bring me down from the sugar rush.


7. Royalty bites

"I'm sure the invite said 'sandwiches.'" If Scotland does part company with the United Kingdom, the current plan is to keep Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. This is probably because the Scots take too much pleasure tormenting the English royals to let them go.

Instead of zipping off to Monaco like other European royalty, every July the queen and her family feel duty bound to spend their summer in Balmoral, a dour and drafty castle built in Scotland by Queen Victoria, a monarch not known for her sense of fun.

Only one species on the planet enjoys Scotland’s wet and freezing summers, and it isn’t the Windsors. The Highland midge, a tiny Scottish gnat that is only marginally less annoying than Paul McCartney, thrives in this climate. The royals, like everyone else, get eaten alive.

Do say: How do we get rid of these unwelcome parasites?

Don’t say: Sorry your majesty, I wasn’t talking about the insects.


8. Scotch mist

It might seem nonsensical to suggest that one of the best things that Scotland has given the rest of the world is Scotland, but hear us out.

Whereas the movie “Trainspotting” portrayed a bleak modern Scotland of junkies diving into excrement-filled toilets in search of their next fix, most people outside the country would prefer to think of it in cosier terms.

And so, we have the popular image of a tartan-draped Scotland where bonnie lassies eat shortbread among swathes of wild mountain heather. Where powerful men (in skirts, of course) wield claymore swords and dance jigs to the tunes of, lord help us, the bagpipes.

However, this is an idealized national image crafted mostly by Walter Scott, a 19th century Scottish novelist who repackaged his dour country’s history into exciting yarns that were lapped up by readers. Mel Gibson might also be to blame.

But without this image, lots of people in other parts of the planet wouldn’t be able to get wistful about their Scottish roots. They probably wouldn’t enjoy malt whisky quite so much and they certainly wouldn’t wear kilts and get embarrassingly drunk at weddings.

And they wouldn’t invest millions of their dollars (that could be otherwise spent on hairspray or acquiring the passport records of the U.S. president) to buy up chunks of Scotland and build golf courses that nobody needs.

Do say: I have Scottish roots.

Don’t say: And I comb them over to cover up my bald spot.

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Barry Neild is a cake-winning freelance journalist based in London. His stories and reports from around the world have been published by some of the planet’s leading newspapers and websites. 

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