LUIKIN for a fresh stairt in 2019? Here’s hou it’s duin. Auld lang syne, the fowk o the Gaza Strip landit a haunfu o bawbies tae spend on buildin up their war-torn, cut-aff wasteland o a hame. Bandersnatch this: whit’s the first thing ye’d build, when ye’re stairtin fae naethin? A hospital, mebbe? A jile, a schuil, a fire station? It’s SimCity 101 – a fankle o pouer lines, a couple o roads tae jyne thaim aw up, an bingo bango, ye’ve got yersel a kintrae.

Or ye could gang the ither wey. Pit yersel thegither an airmy, fling doon a couple o tanks an a hantle o fowk tae drive thaim. A chiel up front tae wave the flag, a laddie ahint tae drum the anthem. There’s mair than wan wey tae skin a cat.

Weel, the fowk o Gaza had ither notions. Aye tae the early days o a better nation, aye tae settin oot yer stall. But they had nae time for guns or butter. Their wey o lettin the warld ken that Palestine wis unner new management wisnae a wee lick o paint or a fresh front gate. Ye widnae put a hoose up wioot daein a sketch or twa first. An sae, the Palestinian shortcut tae buildin a nation wis this; tae build a national theatre.

Mental, eh. But the idea o art as the keystane o a kintrae soon spreid tae Palestine’s less-cultured neeburs. Fact, jist last year, Israel peyed the ultimate compliment tae the impact o the Said al-Mishal Culture Centre on the ettlins o the Palestinian people. Efter their planes had flattened the five-storey buildin, which hosted a library as weel as sindry ither community groups an arts bodies, this wis the Israeli Aye-But; that the theatre wis a weel-kent base o operations for local terrorist organisations.

Ah dout we’ll ever ken whether Hamas had infiltratit the local Gilbert an Sullivan society, richt eneuch. But that’s no really the pynt. Whit maitters is, the Israelis were richt on the money – bi their ain definitions o terrorism, onygates. The ongauns in the studio spaces an rehearsal rooms o the Said al-Mishal were a greater threit tae Israeli interests in the Middle East than ony nummer o suicide bombers or twelve-year-auld laddies flingin stanes.

Let’s nip in the bud the idea that there are parallels tae be drawn here. The lang strauchle o the Palestinians taewarts self-determination maks oor ain travails luik like a romantic misunnerstaunin in a late-run episode o Frasier. Tae compare oorsels tae the deid o Gaza wad be a barbarity. But sae wad takkin tent o their strauchles an lairnin naethin frae thaim.

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The reformation o the Scots Pairliament has takken on, in 21st century Scotland, wee smidgens o the myth-like origin story o the Said al-Mishal. Ah’m as bad as onybody when it cams tae this. Ah routinely think o Holyrood as the smithy for the forging o the conscience o a nation, the proscenium arch aneath which we stage oor national psychodramas. The Emerald City whaur we’ll airt oor herts oot an, wan o these days, find oor wey hame.

The National:

But the difficulty o modern government is sib tae that o ony mirage – the closer it seems, the faurer awa ye see it really is. Oor freemium democracy, whaur hauf the options are permanently greyed-oot, isnae aboot tae chynge massively, nae maitter hou mony times we vote that it should. Inside o the UK or ootwith it, we still face the micro-transactional grind o limitit options leadin tae limitit progress. An we’re in for a nasty surprise on Day Wan o a ‘free’ Scotland if we wake up thinkin the warld is oor oyster, when the reality is that if oor new-stairt o a nation disnae toe the Nato line pronto Tonto we’re liable tae get This-is-Sparta’d richt back ower it.

If freedom includes the freedom tae tell it like it is – an hou can it no? – this is a truth we’ve got tae stairt comin tae terms wi richt noo. Let’s no gie it aw the too wee, too poor, too stupit bit – we ARE wee, we ARE poor, an if we’re no stupit, gonnae no act as if we are. The viability o Scotland as a nation isnae aboot geography or politics or even the economy. The Palestinians kent whit maitters, an sae dae we.

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Three years syne, Willie McIlvanney died. Ah’m no the anely yin wha felt that loss as keenly as the calamity o 2014. McIlvanney’s buiks had been better faithers tae me than ma ain da – manifestos in hou tae be a person in the warld. Wioot The Big Man, wioot Docherty, wioot The Kiln, it’d hiv been hee-haw odds tae me whether ah wis bidin in an independent Scotland or a locked Portakabin doon Glesga docks. Aw the personal an political freedom at ma disposal – it wis as much uise tae me as a Ferrari tae a collie dug. Until Willie McIlvanney cam alang an asked me whit the hell ah thocht ah wis playin at.

The Scottish Government annoonced last month that, for the centenary o Muriel Spark’s birth, they’d be donatin copies o aw her buiks tae ilka library in the kintrae.

That’s braw, but oor government haundin oot The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie isnae whit will mak us free. Us readin it is. In 2119, there’ll be anither centenary o anither birth, an it’s up tae us richt noo wha it’ll be – whether the first bairn born efter the bells turns oot as Muriel Spark or Margaret Thatcher. That’s the fecht that’ll maitter a hunner years fae noo. That’s the fecht we can win.

Caw it something better than eeksy-peeksy that a bairn born in Glesga in 2019 will see a sovereign Scotland. The same bairn born in Gaza has aboot as much chance o dyin in a firestorm than livin in a truly independent Palestine.

That wean cannae affuird tae wait for a stairter’s pistol afore he sets oot tae be free. He’s got tae hit the grund rinnin. Whaur he’s gaun, the anely roads are the roads he maks himsel.

Nae gods an precious few heroes, sang the man; there’s nae theatre yet in Holyrood, nae library, an naethin much tae live by but this quote on the Canongate Waw: “If a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation”.

The buik o statutes is braw, but it’s buiks o anither kind that tell us hou tae live. Teach a man tae fish, they say, an he can feed himsel for a lifetime. But whit wad happen insteid, ah wunner, if ye taucht him hou tae sing?

Onybody up for findin oot?