Is it a changing Scotland where bamboo reigns?

Aah! It’s holiday time. And yes if I had any sense I would have braved the airport and been lying on a sunny beach somewhere with a glass of chilled white wine and a bowl of exotic fruit beside me.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon

But I’m not. I’m on our annual sailing venture, sheltering from the howling force 8 raging outside with a cup of coffee to keep warm as I write this column.

Every so often the wind decides to take a mad fit as though it wants to shake the boat with me inside, just to let me know it is still there, not intending to go anywhere soon. In over four decades of cruising this is the worst weather we’ve ever encountered. Beside us another sailor decided to hang out his laundry only to retrieve it within five minutes as the wind threatened to whip it in the direction of Glasgow. Other sailors are lying low and the fact that the Lifeboat – the Earnest and Mary Shaw – has been called out since we arrived means all sailors are lying low `til this horror of a storm blows itself out. Four days on and it seems inclined to want to stay.

So far we’ve managed just one day ashore but its good to see that the port of Campbeltown is thriving despite the recession, Covid and the loss of some businesses. Politically all is not so well in Scotland as a whole though. It’s leader Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the ruling SNP party, lost a referendum eight years ago for the country’s independence from the UK.

Nicola hasn’t given up and plans another soon even though she’s been told often enough the Scots don’t hanker after independence and she won’t win another referendum. There is much `internal bickering’ Boris is running short of patience on her independence demands and two SNP members have caused the party embarrassment. This story has some distance to run and I expect that by the time I return next year Ms Sturgeon will still not have the independence she craves. But will Boris still be in power?

Scots here seem more worried about Covid or a super strain of it known as BA,2.12.1 which `exploded’ in New York and New Jersey in April and is now one of three which have taken a grip on Scotland as one expert declared this week. People feeling under the weather are being advised via the newspapers to think again if they plan a summer holiday. Over 15,000 cases have been recorded since June 19 – just in time for my arrival here. So what should we and other holiday makers do?

Are we a bit safer by the sea or should we get the masks out again? Maybe we should avoid the shops which would be a pity as there are lots of crafts made by local artists and I was already eyeing it up for Christmas presents.

Yet we managed to find one quiet day of weather which we grabbed to take us away from the tourist areas and the marinas and up into the hills and valleys where Scotland hides its best secrets - the Castles costing a fortune to run, the little villages that grew around them and the scenery. I found it hard to tear myself away from the mesmeric view that is the Paps of Jura. How long will this ancient beauty last? Already the hardware is there to dig up the ground to make way for wind farms and other forms of energy still on the drawing boards. We must produce a greener, safer world but at what price? In 50 years time what will these beautiful, ancient backdrops to Scotland’s many towns and villages look like? I won’t be around to see them but tourists like me should see them while they can.

This bleak weather has made this holiday difficult and I’ve had to resort to keeping warm so in one of Campbeltown’s shops I spied socks. Ah, the very thing so I bought two pairs. When I returned to the boat and closely inspected them – they were lovely – I discovered my nifty new socks were a concoction of fabrics 50% of which was bamboo. I know Scotland is rich in local natural fabrics – think of all the kilts, long socks, capes, coats and hats – but bamboo? Her Majesty the Queen who regards Scotland as her second home and who never misses an opportunity to wear the various tartans of the country might wonder about this bamboo. And how would a Scots man or woman pronounce it?