Borders culture ‘tied up in a tartan bow’

Alan Knowles dressed as philosopher David Hume to launch the 'think and drink' beer
Alan Knowles dressed as philosopher David Hume to launch the 'think and drink' beer

What kind of cultural identity should the Borders present to the wider world as it competes to attract visitors, businesses, inward investment and new people?

That was the question which drew contrasting contributions from two East Berwickshire councillors who were on opposite sides of last year’s independence debate - Joan Campbell (SNP) and Michael Cook (independent).

“The Borders is an area rich in Scottish culture and history,” said Councillor Campbell. “The (Scottish Government’s) Scottish Studies Working Group has recommended that Scottish culture should be at the heart of the school curriculum, giving our children the same opportunity as those in other countries of studying their national literature, history, art and music.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, executive member for education, assured her that: “Learning about Scotland should be a natural and normal part of the learning experience from early years to senior phase.”

“This approach has been taken and all schools are expected to build a curriculum which gives strong attention to the history and culture of the Borders.”

Councillor Campbell was keen to see Scottish culture shape a new and comprehensive cultural strategy for the region.

Michael Cook, a vocal supporter of the Better Together campaign, responded: “The inference here is that only culture tied up with a tartan bow is worth bothering about.

“Let’s not kid ourselves: there are some people as determined to shape our cultural landscape as they are to shape the political landscape.

“Ours is a culture of James Hogg, Thomas the Rhymer and Halidon Hill, but it is also a culture of Walter Scott, the arch Tory who invented so much of the Scottish ‘identity’ now so sacrosanct to some.

“It’s a culture of James Thomson, the author of the ‘Four Seasons’s who penned the words to Rule Britannia, and it’s a culture which embraces John Buchan, the pre-eminent novelist of the Empire, and Berwickshire’s David Hume, Scotland’s greatest philosopher who wrote ‘The History of England’.

“As soon as we tramp a path of exclusivity, one which says my culture is better than your culture and one which pettily rejects English influence, then we deserve to go to hell in our own handcart.”