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What day is it?

The good folks at Google are marking St Andrew’s Day today with one of their celebrated Doodles.

Although most commonly associated with Scotland, Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople [wherever that might be!?]

There are some very strange customs that are associated with this day, including:

  • If an unwed girl prays honestly to St Andrew the night before (29th November), she will be granted a good and caring husband
  • At exactly midnight, unwed girls should throw a shoe at the exit of the house.  If the tip of the shoe is pointing towards the exit then she will marry a noble and caring person and will leave her house within one year
  • Unwed girls should also peel an apple in one piece and then throw the peel backwards.  The letter which the peel has formed will be the first letter of the name of her future husband
  • It was traditional to eat a single sheep’s head on St Andrew’s Day
  • In Romania the women don’t just pray for husbands, they put 41 grains of wheat under their pillow.  If they dream someone will steal the grains, it apparently means they’ll get married the following year.

The Scottish flag, the Saltire, has the white diagonal ‘cross of St. Andrew’ on a blue background and is widely flown in Scotland. It would be natural to suppose therefore that Scots would celebrate St Andrew’s Day on November 30th in a big way.   THEY DON’T.   TV and radio mention the fact that it IS St. Andrew’s Day but that is about as far as it goes for most Scots.

However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St. Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007, which designated the Day as an official bank holiday. If November 30 falls on a weekend, the next Monday is a bank holiday instead. Although that day is a bank holiday under that act, banks are not required to close (and don’t) and other employers are not required to give their employees the day off as a holiday. So it is more of a “voluntary public holiday” rather than a proper bank holiday. So far, few companies have negotiated the day as a staff holiday, though staff in Scottish government departments and a few local government authorities happily get an extra day off.

As every Scot knows, the time to celebrate Scottishness is Burns Night, January 25th. The poet Rabbie Burns holds a place of affection in the minds of Scots all over the world and perhaps this is why St Andrew’s Day passes with relatively little to mark it.

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Eligibility to vote

They really haven’t thought this whole referendum thing through!

Mr Salmond and his cronies in the SNP continue to tell us that Independence is what the people of Scotland want.  But let’s have a look at the population and who actually are “the people of Scotland”.

When the referendum is held in the autumn of 2014, only residents of Scotland will be eligible to vote.  As a result, almost 400,000 living north of the border but born in other parts of the UK will get to take part, while 800,000 Scots living in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will not.   Given that Scotland has a population of just five million, 800,000 is a huge number.

In protest at being disenfranchised, James Wallace, a 23-year-old Dumfries native turned London resident, has launched a petition demanding that expat Scots in other parts of the UK be allowed to participate in the referendum.  Scots ministers say this simply would not be practical.   And, indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how an electoral register of everyone who considered themselves a Scot might be drawn up.   Who, after all, is Scottish? Those born in Scotland? People with Scottish ancestry? Anyone who is partial to Haggis and the Proclaimers?

For James Mitchell, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, residency is the only logical definition of Scottishness in terms of political representation. If you want a say over Scotland’s constitutional status he believes you should move back there.  “It would be absurd to allow anyone who claimed to be Scottish a vote,” Mitchell says.

So Mr Salmond, after reducing the voting age to 16, perhaps you should now try winning the hearts and minds of those of us who live in Scotland but come from different parts of the UK and are eligible to vote if you are to stand any chance of realising your dream – you’re not achieving this at the moment sunshine!

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