THERE are three things that you should never do: you should never say a baby is ugly; you should never say a bride is fat; and you should never, ever slag off your home town.
Quite a few people think that Scotland’s finest actor, Kevin McKidd, has committed sin number three on that list, so he’s taken to Twitter to apologise. However, I don’t believe he needs to.
This is the story so far: Elgin-born McKidd stars in the US television hit show Gray’s Anatomy and the extras accompanying the show’s latest DVD release include a short film about McKidd, his roots and his passions.
A Journey Home with Kevin McKidd is an excellent wee video. He talks lovingly about Elgin and his family, which still lives happily in the area of Bishopmill. He says he “yearns” for the town of his birth and that he has “fond memories” of growing up in a place that still has great “resonance” for him. We see him supporting local causes, such as the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company for youngsters with learning difficulties, and recording The Speyside Sessions, “a love letter to Scotland” in the shape of a wonderful album of Scottish music, in aid of Save the Children. He even gives the local whisky distillery a plug.
So, the man can do no wrong, right? Wrong.
While making an affectionate tour of his primary school, poor Kevin just happens to say the fatal words: “We’re from a pretty rough area of Elgin.”
That’s right. The worst he has to say about Elgin is that the part his family came from was “pretty rough”, but for that, he’s been accused of “slurring” his home town. The outcry has driven him to make a public apology, but should he have to?
As the seat of the Earl of Elgin, of marbles-stealing fame, you might say that Elgin has a historical reputation for criminal activity, but it’s only fair to point out that the 7th Earl was born in Fife. Besides, every town in the world has an armpit, but some are worse than others. What constitutes “rough” can only ever be subjective. I’m sure there are people out there who would say: “I’m from the really scuzzy bit of Morningside.” By Elgin’s impeccable standards, perhaps the area of Bishopmill is slightly less salubrious than the rest. Maybe, on the mean streets of Bishopmill, the boys put cement in their conkers; or maybe some of the houses are only semi-detached?
I don’t know, but I’m amazed that such a great ambassador for Scotland is being so roundly criticised for saying such an innocuous thing. It’s an example of good old Scottish negativity (warning, anti-Scottish moment coming up, with no apology to follow), where we’ve managed to look at something good and wilfully dwell on one, tiny flaw.
That is, if honesty is a flaw. Kevin thinks his bit of Elgin is rough and since he lived there throughout his formative years, he has every right to say so, without being pushed to say sorry. For instance, if you come from Cambuslang, do you have to say it’s great? Can’t you say: “It’s a bit of a dump, but I love it?”
People have said far worse things about their home towns. Billy Connolly declared: “The great thing about Glasgow now is that if there is a nuclear attack, it’ll look exactly the same afterwards”. Being Billy, he got away with it. Craig Ferguson was less lucky. Earlier this year, he was called a “traitor” for saying, among other things: “There’s only one problem with Scotland – Cumbernauld.” All of which rather puts McKidd’s bit of “rough” in the shade.
If Kevin exaggerated the toughness of his childhood, so what? Lots of people do it and, who knows, considering the DVD will be available all over the world, he may have given Elgin some real, international street-cred.
McKidd’s latest role is in the animated film Brave, and it looks like that’s what you have to be if you dare to say that your home town is even slightly less than perfect. Especially if you’re a Scot.