During the Scottish Independence referendum, I declared that I was voting No because I loved Scotland.
It was a sentiment which some die-hard Nationalists decried as absurd, but which fair-minded ones accepted as valid. I am glad to say the latter were in the majority.
But the minority couldn’t take it. These few, but vocal, bigots just couldn’t understand how supporting Scotland being part of the United Kingdom could equate with being Scottish.
It was the old “If you’re not for us, you must be against us” mentality. The only thing balanced about such people is that they have a chip on both shoulders.
They bought the line from Alex Salmond that you could only be part of his self-styled Team Scotland if you supported separation from the rest of the UK.
I know that several very senior SNP colleagues thought Alex had gone off on one and it was a folly too far.
It was a gift to the No campaign. It was a ridiculous, Braveheart piece of nonsense on tartan-tinted stilts. The wrong kind of nationalism.
A host of Scottish Rugby internationalists rammed that home when they marched round Murrayfield as proud Scots who happened to be happy as part of the UK. These were people who had literally shed blood for their country, and in several cases donned the shirt of the British Lions with pride as well. But were no less Scottish for doing so.
I mention this because I had occasion to be in Eastern Europe last week and got round to discussing nationalism versus patriotism.
We agreed that the difference is not whether you love your country, but the form which it takes.
For my host, Nationalism had a capital N. It represented a mindset of moral and even ethnic superiority. It was a canker further East in the shape of Russia which too often brought with it a superiority complex. It was a world view which is mad, bad and dangerous.
He contrasted it with the predominant view in his country. One of live and let live – but don’t tell me how to live my life. One of tolerance and understanding and above all, one of cooperation, not confrontation. One of national pride – nationalism with a small “n” – and of patriotism.
So, as we wound our separate ways, I reflected on how, wherever you travel, the circumstances may alter and the threats may be deadlier and greater but some things never change: there are always a few who identify themselves by their closed minds, blinkered eyes and cloth ears. Those who, in their own wee world, are always right.
They are the bully boys who must be challenged and opposed.
My biding conclusion was how lucky we are here in Scotland. We can, by and large, have a rational debate. We can agree to disagree. We do not face the threat of bombs and bullets.
And we can all love our country. Equally.
The office party season was in full swing in pubs, clubs and restaurants all across the land last week. They are possibly the only time when looking as naff as possible is not just acceptable, but de rigueur. Don the most ludicrous jumper you own and be the toast of the evening.
They are an occasion for the boss to show some generosity. To treat the staff to a good time and for all involved to bond together in a sea of booze and goodwill.
But, it would seem, not goodwill to all men.
Word reaches me of a company who didn’t invite all of their workers. They didn’t discriminate on the grounds of what job they did, or on grounds of their length of service.
They decided to exclude anyone who was employed via an agency. Those banned from the party did the same job, had sometimes worked for longer and were part of the team.
Well to that company, and any others like them, bah humbug. I hope Santa was watching.
But a very Merry Christmas to you and yours.
My regular reader will know that I take an occasional pop at bad service. Last week, I told of how one airline had, probably unintentionally, suggested that you were only “sociable” if you drank alcohol on board.
I am glad to report that they are taking another look at the way they advertise their in flight menu. So a thumbs up to FlyBe.
This week, it is another carrier in my sights.
It concerns the ticket pricing for infants. BA, and I assume other companies, offer free fares for under-twos. They don’t get a seat and travel on the lap of their parent.
Which is fine and well. Except when the return trip is a few days later and a couple of days after the kid’s birthday. Then they charge for the return flight. That is the situation facing a friend who is taking her son to visit his father for Christmas in the USA.
Now I accept there has to be some cut-off point, but surely, when it is a return journey starting when the child is under two, then the round trip should all qualify?
So how about it BA, and any others who do the same? Time for a change? If you do I promise this brickbat will turn into a bouquet.