Alison Phipps is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow and Convener of Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network. @alison_phipps

I’M on holiday in the Highlands. The weather is stunning and I’m visiting the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore (if you haven’t been, go). Smoke from a peat fire curls up through the heather-thatched roof of a reconstructed black house. It’s busy. And everyone around me is speaking German.

Unlike some (mentioning no names, Mr Farage), I love hearing the sounds of the world speaking to Scotland, the way the acoustic space widens to allow for more music and ways of exclaiming in wonder. With German, though, it’s different as it’s a language I, like MP Angus Robertson, speak fluently and understand right down to its regional roots.

Simply put, and statistics back this up, the Germans love Scotland. Over the last 15 years, since I’ve been researching this phenomenon, Germans and Americans have been in the top two nationalities providing the most visitors to Scotland, and also the most spend per capita.

As much as 45 per cent of all visits to the UK are made for holidays by Germans, 68 per cent of which are to Scotland. In 2014, Germany was Scotland’s second largest market, by number of nights and by expenditure and by number of visits, according to VisitScotland.

Statistics only tell one story, however, and in the context of Brexit and the “materially changed circumstances” faced now by Scotland, it’s worth asking what lies behind this particular set of figures and also what implications it may have for the way politics flows between peoples.

In many ways it’s a one-way love affair. As nation states form, they look outside of themselves for literatures and cultures around which to construct their future narratives. We saw Scotland in 2014 looking outwards to Scandinavia, for models of local government, for example. As Germany was moving from a series of tiny principalities to towards a nation state under Bismarck in the 19th century its Romantic culture-makers looked outwards to Scotland for inspiration.

Mendelssohn wrote the Hebridean Suite, a piece of music still sending Germans on several ferry rides to take the boat trip from Iona pier to Fingal’s Cave and the extraordinary basalt rocks which inspired this music. Theodor Fontane, the 19th century German novelist, wrote a popular book called Jenseits des Tweeds – On the Other Side of the Tweed. Already in 1732, as the first stirrings of German folklore were catching light, Macbeth was translated by Wieland into a German that was far more accessible to modern ears than the now- distancing “thees” and “thous” of the original. Today, as a result, alongside Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, The Scottish Play is read by more Germans (in the original as well as in German) than UK residents – it is, of course, a set text in schools in Germany.

On the Isle of Skye, undertaking a research project which essentially involves observing German tourists on holiday, I find myself, anthropologically, in conversation with a young German woman. It’s another rare, glorious day and she evokes Macbeth. “I wanted to walk through the misty landscape of Scotland,” she says, “And look – I’m almost disappointed.” In a café named The Macbeth Experience I overhear a party of Germans wielding a plastic knife over a scone and exclaiming “Is this a dagger I see before me?”

Add to this the runaway success of Scottish folk and folk-rock music in Germany (Runrig, to name but one) and TV series set in Scotland such as Outlander, not to mention the movie industry’s ability to generate tourism to Scotland all the way from Braveheart to Bond, and you have a cultural recipe for tourism to Scotland.

It goes deeper though, for Scotland is – to the fractured and painful story that is German nationalism

– a counter example, a nation that is not a nation, and more recently one which aspires to nationhood with inclusive models of nationalism. It is everything which Germany’s history of brutality is not (and we are no angels).

Other nations imprint themselves through history, music and culture on to the formation of other nations – and often remain, as most of us do in Scotland, utterly oblivious to the love that has stirred.

And so they come to Scotland, the Germans, year in, year out.

They travel widely (the world’s second-largest tourist group) but Scotland still stands out statistically.

What might this mean for the politics of Brexit? Well, every astute leader knows not to mess with people’s holidays. Stranded en masse after a volcano in Iceland erupts, the stories of how governments failed, or didn’t fail, to look after their tourists are still being told.

Angela Merkel will know this. She will know this not least as a former East German, as when the Wall fell East Germans came, in greater numbers proportionately than anywhere else, to Scotland once they had their freedom to travel. And everyone told everyone what it was like when they returned home. It’s what we do after travelling. We pay our dues to those left behind with stories which send others on the journey in subsequent years.

Those Germans – nine per cent of them every year if we trust the stats – are electorally significant, as are their holidays. And that Angus Robertson can appear speaking flawless German on the TV stations of Germany and Austria further cements the reasons for trust and warmth. It matters, too, that our Scottish politicians can speak in surprising ways to a culture that wishes us well.

But there is a reason that is less frivolous than the protection of ease of travel to a beloved holiday destination. There are only two leaders in Europe who have embraced a “culture of welcome” – “Wilkommenskultur” – and actively lead with a responsible discourse on refugees and on migration. Nicola Sturgeon said of EU migrants “you have honoured us by making Scotland your home”.

Germany is transformed, under Merkel’s leadership, by the every-day, ordinary and practical stories of the no-fuss and calm approach to its work of integration of 800,000 refugees.

If ever there were two nations and two national leaders – women – who know how to keep calm and carry on and who need each other to do so in the face of runaway xenophobia in Europe, they are Scotland and Germany, Sturgeon and Merkel.

This, I would argue, is crucial to doing the politics of Brexit or Remain. This, Macbeth and tourists.