Monday, July 03, 2006

Bob Boothby

Bob Boothby is a colourful figure in Scottish political history but now largely forgotten. He was promiscuously sexual (and not fussy when it came to gender) and even fathered a child with Harold Macmillan's wife Dorothy. In later life he kept rather careless company with London 'characters' like the Kray twins. But he was also a romantic and wrote several books, one of which was given to me by my flatmate this weekend. One passage from My Yesterday, Your Tomorrow (which is dedicated to the students of the University of St. Andrews) gives some sense of his peculiar take on Scottish politics:

A political revival is urgently required. I believe it can be achieved with the material at present available. We need a greater conceit of ourselves; and a less parochial outlook. If I had ever been offered the Scottish Office - and at one moment, long ago, it was conceivable – I should have asked for an official residence in Edinburgh; and with the assistance of my old friend Sir Compton Mackenzie, striven to revive the pristine glories of a society which once commanded the attention of Europe. I should have driven round Scotland in an enormous black car, with the rampant lion flying proudly in the wind, and – if possible – outriders on motorcycles. I should have steamed round her coast every year in the fishery cruiser, rechristened a yacht for the purpose, with more flags. And all this not for the purpose of self-aggrandisement; but just to show that the Secretary of State for Scotland is, in his own right, a tremendous political figure whose presence at the British Cabinet table must be counted an honour to them. The offer would, of course, have been precipitatedly withdrawn when I made my terms. But something very real, and very necessary, lies behind them. Without Scotland the English would be sunk.

Boothby wrote this in 1957. He was prone to hyperbole but writes colourfully. I wonder what he would have made of relations between Scotland and England nearly 50 years later?


Post a Comment

<< Home