The downside of not being in my native Scotland for New Year’s Eve, or Hogmanay as we Scots like to call it, is missing out on being with wider family and old friends. There are some upsides to being in England, however. Scots are trained to feel such an exceptional weight of expectation about Hogmanay that the whole business can become wearing. In your twenties you are dogged by the sense that someone, somewhere is at a better party than you, having a much better time. Lots of people feel this, and it is accentuated by the national pressure to get “blootered” and stay up all night, and then repeat on the 1st of January and possibly the 2nd. In England, it’s all much simpler. Have friends round for dinner, stay in, drink wine, chat, watch “the bells”, turn off television, go to bed, wake up feeling fine, continue life.
Another reason not to miss Scotland at this time of year is the New Year’s Eve TV. It’s never been any good, no matter how much the BBC or STV throw at it, from the tartan travesty that was the old Andy Stewart nonsense filmed in a studio in Cowcaddens in September, to Tom O’Connor bombing at Gleneagles in the 1980s (not literally bombing Gleneagles Hotel, I mean his jokes bombed), to endless forced jollity live from Edinburgh since the millennium, when Scotland decided that the entire world is watching Scotland at Hogmanay (it isn’t BTW). This state of affairs is baffling, considering how much in other respects Scotland has given to civilisation, in the form of the Scottish Enlightenment, tarmac, the novels of Allan Massie, square sausage, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, malt whisky and market economics (Adam Smith). But there you go.
This year, the TV producers have somehow contrived to outdo themselves. Viewers tuning into STV, the Scottish version of ITV, will be treated to a Hogmanay special hosted by the talented (if politically misguided) actress Elaine C. Smith, who will present from a replica of her parents 1970s living room. This is not a wind-up; it is true. Smith is a raving Scottish Nationalist, but this does not make her unusual and political affiliations should be no bar to presenting couthy television shows. What is deeply weird though is the choice of guests on the show. The SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her mother and her sister are the main attraction. The other guest is a pro-SNP “comedian”.
Any SNP supporter who cannot see that this initiative is mildly disturbing, that it has an almost Peronist flavour, needs to consider how bizarre it would look if ITV in England put on an “at home with the Camerons” special on Christmas Day. It simply wouldn’t happen. Cameron would refuse. No television executive alive in London would consider asking anyway. The broadcasting regulators, mindful of bias, would have a heart attack if anyone tried. Yet, in SNP-controlled Scotland this is the new normal.
Incidentally, Nicola Sturgeon is a good person and much better adjusted than Alex Salmond. I’m also sure Nicola’s mother is lovely. But what kind of messed-up country puts its political leaders and their families in the spotlight on New Year’s Eve when people just want to forget and give thanks for friendship and family?
Sensible Scots (the majority) must have hoped that at least this time of year the Nationalists’ politicking might stop, if just for an hour or two. But no. Everything, absolutely everything, must bow to the omnipresent domination of the mighty SNP machine. In SNPland, now even Hogmanay is to be appropriated. Is there no aspect of Scottish life that the SNP cannot make worse? Answers by letter, or scratched on a shortbread tin lid, please. Happy New Year.