It’s difficult to be entirely dispassionate about something that has been in my family for centuries. So, full disclosure: Throughout the do-we-go, do-we-stay debate on Scottish independence, I’ve been on the side of staying the course with the U.K.
My family blood runs deep tartan and has seen its share of uprisings—none that have proved to advance the cause of a free Scotland.
I’m half Scot, and celebrate great occasions wearing my ancestral MacPherson kilt and regalia. I’m a descendent of Cluny MacPherson, who was chief of the Clan Chattan at the time of the 1745 Jacobite uprising and a confederate of its leader Bonnie Prince Charlie. I spent a year with another Charles—the current prince—at a boarding school near the Scottish north coast town of Elgin, deep in whisky country and close to Forres, where Shakespeare set parts of Macbeth.
So I come to this place with a fealty and appreciation that predates Outlander.
And I am relieved that Scottish pride and the knee-jerk, up-yours attitude that once resulted in moors sodden with ill-spent blood spilled by the English gave way to what the Scottish are born to—a calculating practicality that eventually wins the day. Scotland is a place of fierce spirit, an unbroken history of remarkable originality and inventiveness, and unparalleled land holdings.
From a traveler’s perspective you sense its distinctive brew of swagger and sweetness the moment you leave England. A vote for independence would have hurled a spanner into the economy and, I think, confused and spooked tourists. Scotland doesn’t need legislation to signify independence. It already has it. It has gained the respect it deserves, and will soar higher on everyone’s must-visit list. Already, travel bookings to Scotland are up.
It makes me want to be there now.
Keith Bellows is editor in chief of National Geographic Traveler magazine. Follow him on Twitter @KeithBellowsNG.