Edinburgh: Look what I stole for us, Darling

If Glasgow is Milan, Edinburgh is Rome. I know of no city with more beauty, atmosphere or dramatic topography┬áin the British Isles and it is a delight to visit. There’s a wonderful ying/yang in the contrast between the dingy winding alleys of the Old Town and the celestial triumph that is the planned New Town. Dividing the two halves are the station and Princes St Gardens, and at the top of that vertical mass of jagged volcanic rock -nature’s own skyscraper- Edinburgh Castle surveys its domains from far above. Proper old castles are fearsome instruments of power. Many of the hilltop towns in Umbria have a papal fortress sitting at the summit to remind them who’s boss and this is similar. We’re not dealing with fairytale castles; in the middle ages, a castle was simply the prerogative of the guys with the biggest swords and clubs. Those days are long gone but the castle still lords it over Edinburgh; wherever you are in the city you can usually see it, and its otherness looms larger still in the imagination. It could stand in for Kafka’s castle.

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Glasgow: You could have it so much better

Glasgow is a city with which I have a slightly ambivalent relationship. It’s an elegant city which has a more cohesive look than most in Britain; I’ve always found it welcoming, upbeat, on-trend, buzzing with ideas. It is the home of Rangers F.C. and for a Shankill man, taking in a game at Ibrox is an elemental spectacle akin to a Muslim visiting Mecca. Recently it has become the citadel of the Scottish independence movement. Northern Ireland often seems a 50/50 split between creationist lunatics and people who think civilians fair game for murder, and as a mainland-living Protestant I cling to my British identity like a drowning man thrown a rubber ring. The impending dissolution of Britain makes me feel very sad and troubled. Ulster Prods being far closer to the Scots than the English, Scottish independence will make our place in the world even more precarious than it was already.

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