The Scots have a word for appallingly dismal weather – well they would have to by now wouldn’t they?
Feel the quality of that word dripping down the back of your neck and it incrementally racks up the misery index.
It was indeed a dreech day last week when I travelled with my son from the East End of Glasgow, where I was visiting my mother, to travel to the country’s capital.
When I was my son’s age in the 1970s Edinburgh wasn’t really the capital of anything.
Today it feels like a capital city. In a cautious canny way Auld Reekie is edging towards being a power centre. When we alighted from the fast commuter train at Edinburgh Waverley the deluge was such that even the street performers of the Edinburgh Fringe were absent.
I have, like most Glaswegians, a basic understanding of Edinburgh’s street layout. I was told that the destination I was heading to was at the bottom of the Royal Mile.
Even in a dreech day it is an impressively venerable thoroughfare. The facade is late medieval and is the urban ravine that would have been thronged with the Highland rabble that had Britain in crisis in 1745.Today the tartans that were banned after that failed rebellion are on sale everywhere.
We had trudged and splashed a remarkably short distance when I thought we might be at the destination. The building we were going to was an animal of report. I asked the lady at a bus shelter -a “wee wifey” from central casting-where the Scottish parliament building was? She dismissively gestured straight in front of her.
We had arrived. The story of Scotland’s first tentative steps towards self-government three hundred years after being annexed into the Westminster state started with this controversial and hugely expensive building.
Our guide for the day was the Herald’s Chief Scottish political correspondent Robbie Dinwoodie. Robbie and I had first met when he was covering the SNP’s unorthodox campaign in the 1987 general election in Glasgow Shettleston. We have been friends ever since.
After passing through the airport style security scanner we were finally inside the much criticised, much over budget parliament building.
I claim no special insights into architecture or what buildings “mean2 or what a pile of concrete, wood and glass can “say”. I just know that the building is, to my untrained eye, Impressive, innovatiebve and human friendly.
Robbie was the ideal guide with his backstage pass and the political nouse to know what to show my son and I and where to take us.
The debating chamber itself send a message of openness and modernity. There is a fully staffed crèche for MSP’s all staff and even day visitors to the building. This is not the gentleman’s club on the Thames.
The MSP’s offices are, like the rest of the building innovative and different. I was especially taken with the “think pod”. The leather chair built into the back wall of the MSP’s office. The architect senor Morales thought that the most important task of a public representative was to be able to think. The electorate makes the choice, but he created the space.
While we were on the top floor among the SNP offices we met with professor Chris Harvie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Harvie
Professor Harvie MSP is the author of the seminal No Gods and Precious Few Heroes: Twentieth-century Scotland, Blackwell (3rd Edition), 1998.
Our chat was illuminating especially in the light of the Glasgow East by-lection and the journey that had been embarked upon in that constituency from Labour stronghold to SNP gain. Chris harvie would puncture anyone’s preconception’s about Scottish nationalism. Chris is an eminent historian and would be the first to admit that history makes fools out of all of us.
However, as I went back into the deluge across from the British Queen’s official; Scottish residence I would not wager that one of these garden parties in Holyrood she, or her floppy eared son, will be the monarch of an independent Scotland.
It was a thought that made a dreech day in Edinburgh enjoyable.