HERE in Scotland, we take pride in being a part of a wider international community. Being a small part of a larger world shapes our identity, and somewhere this is especially evident are in the links we share with the 188 sister towns and twin cities around the globe. 

But what are the stories behind some of these? We’ve taken a delve into a select few to find out…

Dundee - Nablus, Palestine 

The ties between Dundee and Nablus were established in 1980 when the then Mayor of Nablus, Bassam Shaka’a traveled to the UK for surgery after his car was booby-trapped. According to the Dundee-Nablus twinning association, there had been trade union links between Dundee and Palestine for a while which set precedent to the move which was officially formalised in 1996. In 2015, a Dundee street – Nablus Avenue – was named in recognition of this twinning. Referred to by some as the “uncrowned Queen of Palestine”, Nablus is a city rich with history and culture - a very fitting pairing for Scotland’s “City of Discovery” indeed. 

The National: CITY: The sunset over Rafidiya, the most modern area of Nablus.

East Dunbartonshire - ​​Yoichi, Japan

One of the oldest twinning links in the UK, this twinning was formalised in 1988 and involves a tale of romance, chance – and whisky.

Masataka Taketsuru – a Japanese chemist and businessman – first came to Glasgow as a student in 1918, studying organic chemistry and distilling. Training in various distilleries across the Highlands, he met and fell in love with Rita Cowan from Kirkintilloch, and they married in 1920 against many of their family members’ wishes.

In 1921, the lovers moved to Japan, and in 1934 they moved from the mainland to Yoichi where together they constructed a Scottish-style whisky distillery. The company formed from this – Nikka Whisky Distilling Company – is one of the largest producers of whisky in Japan today.

Rita passed away in 1961, and Masataka in 1979. Although they have passed on, their story is kept alive in the unlikely twinning relationship between the two towns.

The National: Rita Cowan created one of Japan’s most successful and best-known whisky distilleries

Glasgow Havana, Cuba

From the dreich skies of Glasgow to the palm trees of Havana, these two cities have more than you may expect in common – from shared rich cultural and arts scenes, to the engaged political consciousness which characterizes both locales. The pairing was established in 2002. The relationship is ongoing some 20 years later – in 2014, the Havana Glasgow Film Festival (HGFF) was borne, which continues to showcase and celebrate Cuban film and culture for new and old audiences alike in Glasgow to this day.

The National:

Edinburgh - San Diego, California

For those unaware, Greyfriars Bobby has a twin: San Diego’s “vagabond dog”, Bum. Bum was San Diego’s “town dog” after stowing away on a ship to the sandy shores of San Diego back in 1886. 

The next time you’re in Edinburgh, make sure to visit the statue of Bum in West Princes Street Gardens, gifted by the people of San Diego through the twinning association established back in 1977. And in turn, if you ever find yourself in California, in downtown San Diego at the Gaslamp Quarter you’ll find a Greyfriars Bobby statue in homage of our own canine hero.

The National: Greyfriars Bobby declared Scottish capital’s most-loved object