Hebrideans have long been “othered”, mainly from within Scotland. The island of Lewis, where I live, has been particularly susceptible because it is also identified as the last bastion of Presbyterianism. And what could be more “other” than that?
Last weekend, there was a small Gay Pride march in Stornoway. Hardly anyone locally batted an eyelid. Live and let live is a more common sentiment than fire and brimstone. There will always be a quotable dog-collar if you look hard enough but that is true anywhere.
A conversation I had with a Lewis woman whose son was coming home last weekend could have happened anywhere in Scotland. He wanted to be there to “bring closure to the bullying I suffered at school”.
Yet the media coverage was staggering in proportion to the event’s significance. The “others”, yet again, had to be scrutinised for the curiosity of metropolitan smarties. The worst example was the Andrew Marr Show under the guise of a newspaper review.
The host marveled at such happenings on a “Free Presbyterian island”. (Not much research there). Defrocked Nationalist MP, John Nicolson, went into patronising overdrive. “Tartan Taliban ... dour Presbyterians ... tinged with intolerance”. We had the same drivel recently when a mosque opened with a warmer welcome than would have been available in most places.
If such commentators are so interested in islands, maybe they could pay the same attention to issues like depopulation, transport, the fight for a culture. Or perhaps the real “other” are in the studios. Normality is closer to home.