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I remember a time when many English shops could get pretty stroppy at the sight of a Scottish bank note. I once went down to London from Inverness and forgot to change my money. I was in one place and handed over a Scottish tenner in payment. The woman behind the counter announced in a loud voice "Oh, your from Bonnie Scotland then" and guys started coming out of the back shop carrying meat cleavers. I basically said either they took the note or they took the goods back. They took the note. Scottish notes are just as valid in England as Bank of England notes. Except that they are not legal tender. Legal tender is actually a technical term for a form of cash payment which cannot be refused when offered in payment of debt. No bank notes are legal tender in Scotland - only coins. But to get to my point. Scottish people often bitched about English shopkeepers turning their nose up at Scottish notes, but try to get a Scottish shopkeeper to touch an fiver from Ulster Bank. I didn't have much luck but the note was just as valid as any issued by Bank of Scotland, the Clydesdale or the Royal Bank of Scotland. I think there was a chip shop in Larne that not only accepted all the notes issued by British banks but also took Irish punts which were valued at 90 British pence to the pound. So, a £1 bag of ships cost one punt and tenpence. The other point I wanted to make is the English are maybe the worst people in the United Kingdom at being British. And that spills over into making folk in other parts of the country ignorant of what is happening in their own neck of the woods. I remember when the 12th juror was chosen at the High Court in Inverness everyone else called for jury service got up to leave. But there are 15 people on a Scottish jury. However, as nearly every courtroom drama on so called national television is English, you can see why so many Scots didn't know how many of them are needed for a jury. Just over 16% of the United Kingdom's population don't live in England but you'd never know it if you relied on the country's supposedly national broadcasters. 

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I was recently reading an American edition of a British book. This is always an irritating experience because I have to constantly remind myself that that's not how labour, colour or centre are spelt. But that's what I get for reading the American edition. What annoys me was when a piece of writing by a British person is quoted and their spelling is Americanized in the book. Look, the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor and the Saudis the World Trade Center. But there is no British Labor Party and no British person would write that there was. The spelling of proper nouns has to be respected. If for example, an organisation chooses to call itself "The Britush  Carporation for the Improvment of Speling", then that is how the name has to be rendered. The thing about putting something in quotes is that what has been said is exactly replicated. You have to put what the person said not what you think they should have said. The same is true when it comes to the written word. Changing the spelling strikes the same false note as quoting a London banker as though he talks like a New York docker, or longshoreman if you prefer. 

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A while back I had ago at Scotland's General Ian Hamilton for sneering at the 8th Scottish Rifles because it recruited heavily in the slums of Glasgow. Then it turned out that it was Seaforth Highlander Granville Egerton, whose 52nd Lowland Division included the battalion, who reported that while it was recruited from "the lowest slums of Glasgow" as it had good officers could be expected to fight well. Now military historian and author David Raw has been in touch to tell me that I've got Major General Egerton all wrong and no slight on battalion or slum dwellers was intended. And Mr Raw should know, he has done an exhaustive study of Egerton's diary and other papers and has a book coming out on the General's experiences in Gallipoli with the 52nd Division in 1915. The Egerton of the diaries turns out to be a warm hearted, kindly and compassionate man. Apparently in September 1915, Egerton even declared the 8th Scottish Rifles his "favourite battalion, what is left of them;recruited from the lowest slums of Glasgow, many of them awful little ruffians, just ‘Glasgow Keellies’, but cheery game fellows". My take on the "lowest slums of Glasgow" remark was that thanks to the high quality of the officers this handicap could be overcome. Was I being too harsh with that interpretation? Was I guilty of jumping to the conclusion that an upper class and socially well connected officer would disdain and disparage the urban poor? Should Egerton be given the benefit of the doubt? The answer to that last question has to be "Yes". I retract my "Big Boo" to Granville Egerton. By the way, Egerton's "what is left of them" refers to the fact that the 8th Scottish Rifles had pretty much been wiped out on the 28th of June in four battalion attack on Turkish trenches that made the First Day on the Somme look like the handiwork of a military genius. 

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Never, never, attempt to answer a hypothetical question. Here's one. If a medical charity like Medicin Sans Frontieres had existed in 1945 and Hitler turned up at their tent flap wounded - would they have treated him? Then what would they have done? And if the British or Americans found out that Hitler was in the tent hospital, would they have been justified in bombing it? There are those who suggest that aid charities actually prolong conflicts and that without the food and other humanitarian supplies they provide, one side in a conflict would be forced to surrender sooner and the killing would end earlier. There are even those who say that sending out rescue ships to look for sinking migrant ships in the Mediterranean does not reduce the number of drownings. The argument goes that a greater number of people take to the seas in leaky rafts, dinghies and derelict fishing boats in the belief that they will be rescued if things go pear-shaped. And therefore, so the argument continues, a greater number of ships sink and despite the efforts of the rescue ships, a record number of people are being drowned in the Mediterranean. What do you think? I think we have to think carefully about the full consequences of the things we do in our attempts to help.  

 

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There was a time when most British Army regimental museums occupied only one or two rooms. And half of the space was taken up the display cabinets was containing medals. There was also at least one cigarette case or bible that had taken a bullet. The regimental museums have come a long way since then. So, it's ironic that more and more of them are coming under threat as the Ministry of Defence cuts their funding. The bean-counting bureaucrats at the MoD have always found the regimental system a baffling irritant - more so these days when so few civil servants have any idea what life in the military about. The MoD has decreed that it will only give financial help to one museum per regiment in the British Army. Among the latest victims of the cuts is the Gordon Highlanders museum in Aberdeen; which is expected to survive for the time being at least without the government funding. The Gordons merged with the Queen's Own Highlanders in 1994 and the combined unit is the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, rather unimaginatively known as The Highlanders. The QoHldrs was itself a 1961 shotgun marriage between the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders and the Seaforth Highlanders. The Highlanders museum is at Fort George, the one time depot of the Seaforths and for the moment the home station for the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (whose museum is in Perth). Now I seriously doubt if many of the new recruits to the RRoS walked out of their local regimental museum straight to the nearest army recruiting office. And I know that many Scottish school teachers would fight tooth and nail against a class trip to the local regimental museum. But these museums, if some thought is put into what is shown, play an important role in what used to be known as KAPE, Keep the Army in the Public Eye, which was intended to encourage local awareness and understanding of what the Army is all about. The Army, and for that matter the Ministry of Defence, goes to war every year. But that "war" is the fight is between government departments for taxpayer money. Few people are prepared to shell out for something they know very little about and what they do know they mainly learnt from Hollywood films. It might be one thing if the museums were being sacrificed so that present day soldiers are better equipped - but that's not going to happen.  

 

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