Are you dunroamin’?
As the advertisement for Homecoming makes its way across the pond, writer Alan Bissett ponders its content
The last time I heard Dougie McLean’s whisky-tinged ‘Caledonia’ was on the banks of the River Thames, an impromptu, late-night rendition by McLean himself, leading a ragged band of Scots exiles like the Pied Piper. My eyes were as moist as everyone else’s, and I was only away for a weekend.
The new Homecoming Scotland advert uses the song to harvest this diaspora. It gently tempts them back, an eye-balm of majestic scenery and crooning celebs. Home-based Scots might feel a mild stirring of, well, something, as Sandi Thom, Brian Cox, Chris Hoy, Amy Macdonald, Lulu and Sir Sean Connery do rote nostalgia.
As Billy Connolly once remarked, Scots love singing about being far from home from the comfort of their own sofas. Transplant that sofa to JFK airport when you’ve been away for five years and you – yes, even you – would be asking the barman for a tissue. And a Glenfiddich.
The exiled Scotsman feels a strange mix of pride and hatred for the motherland. Ask the ex-pat his reasons for leaving in the first place, and he’ll mutter clichés about the Scottish ‘chip on the shoulder’ and how they (they!) hate ‘ambition’ and ‘success’. This usually just means, ‘I can make more money abroad.’
Give him a little time and whisky however, and he’ll start reminiscing about black pudding, The Broons and ‘ootdoor cludgies’. These closet romantics are precisely who the Homecoming is hoping to target, and it knows them well. We can make all the indie-poses we like but no-one feels nostalgic about Franz Ferdinand or cries watching Morvern Callar.
Scots abroad are too far away from the source to ‘get’ subtle nods and winks about Irn-Bru and deep-fried Mars Bars. They want to feel drama and power and siren-song. Absence makes the heart grow resistant to corporate gloss; instead they just want to feel the burn. Why do you think Braveheart won an Oscar?
Ach, gon yersel.