A country in transition.

It’s good to talk.

That is the main message I took away from a great week end in Ullapool.

Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart MSP have been running the “Changin Scotland” weekends for the last nine years.

This was my first time at one of these events.

Gerry Hassan is THE complete Scottish politics junkie with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the dialogues and debates around the Scottish question.


His cerebral database on Scottish politics is matched by his energy and enthusiasm. You ask him a question, any question, and watch him go!

He’s great company.

Jean Urquhart is a list MSP for the SNP in the Highlands. She has a quiet presence and doesn’t miss much. It is an awful cliche in politics that people go into it to “make a difference.”  It is easy to believe in Jean’s case that  it is actually true.


The venue for the event was her “Ceilidh Place” hotel.


A quick name check  and thanks to Effie, Emmett, Fiona and the rest of the staff.

Great people.

Gerry had invited me to speak on the subject of being second generation Irish in Scotland.

The week end started with a spirited debate between Elaine C Smith and Alan Cochrane of the Daily Telegraph with the latter putting the case for Scotland remaining within the union.

There was a wide range of opinions represented from unionists to those in favour of full independence for Scotland.

The week end was  finished off by Douglas Fraser of the BBC, journalist Joyce McMillan and Kirk Torrance, the young and brilliant the social media adviser to the SNP,  who all contributed to an excellent discussion on “the state of the Scottish media.”

My own offering was on the existential challenges of being Second Generation Irish in Scotland. It was part personal testimony part sociological analysis of the situation of Scotland’s oldest ethnic minority.

My settled view is that Scotland is changing.

Joyce McMillan and I discussed over lunch the entire Famine song controversy and the sub-culture that produced this racist ditty.

Joyce‘s view is that deep down these chaps in the cheap seta at Ibrox knew “that they are on the wrong side of history.”

As I was giving my talk in Ullapool there was a demonstration going on at the BBC offices at Pacific Quay in Glasgow by a group of Rangers supporters claiming that the corporation was biased against their club.

Ah bless…

A modern, outward looking, confident Scotland, multi-cultural and welcoming to all cannot shelter the sentiments contained within the “Famine song.”

I am increasingly convinced that Scotland is a’ changin.

The new Scotland has the possibility to be a very different one to the country I was born in 53 years ago.

That gave me a good feeling as a fiery sun was setting over An Teallach as we left Ullapool yesterday.

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