AFTER last week’s extended militaristic junketings, it struck me as a valid question to ask whether the UK, having cast off its most important European connections, will find a substitute for them in a new belligerence. Boris Johnson could even be its ideal leader.

Already, and by a long way, the most warlike country in our quarter of the globe, we seemed to be mentally preparing a crucial part of the population for one traditional answer to idleness – that is, for putting men (nowadays even women) under arms.

Remembrance Sunday, with its symbolic parades and fanfares, as well as two minutes of public silence, holds its place in the calendar just because it can never be a working day. In the early years after the First World War, if November 11 fell on a Tuesday, then everybody took it off.

But this was also an era of reconstruction in the UK economy, and some of the capitalist class thought productive opportunities were being wasted. Others believed a commemoration would always be more dignified if it fell on a Sunday. This is why we dreamed up the present system.

In the 21st century, the tradition is all the same fading because so few people regard a Sunday as in any way a sacred, or even idle, day. If they are not, like me, self-employed and so spend some part of every day working, then it is rather a time for secular enjoyments, or even for sins such as gluttony and drunkenness.

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All the odder then that, having established the sanctity of Remembrance Sunday, we should in the 21st century once again start celebrating November 11 too, even if it does not fall on a Sunday. That was what happened this year when a service was held to celebrate 100 years of the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall, which had been first unveiled on November 11, 1920.

Since in itself this was unlikely to attract many members of the public in lockdown London, the congregation consisted largely of members of the royal family exhibiting their own solidarity in military discipline.

The austerity of the Cenotaph had in any case never been intended as a crowd-pleaser, a concept too vulgar for the UK establishment at that period (which from its horse-drawn carriages did not wave back when cheered by the multitude).

Yet it is interesting that, even 100 years ago, a different sort of sentiment took root for elegiac purposes in Scotland. During recent years scholarly researches have shown the Scottish casualties of the First World War were especially heavy, heavier than those of any victorious nation, indeed heavier than the casualties of most defeated nations, except for Serbia and Turkey that were actually invaded and conquered.

This was why the Whitehall Cenotaph never seemed absolutely right to the Scots. These qualms prompted the thought that we really ought to have our own way of satisfying sentiment about martial mortality and its meaning. Here was the origin of the solemn and beautiful war memorial by Sir Robert Lorimer erected in 1927 inside Edinburgh Castle. It stressed the war had been a people’s war that did not need to be marked out by abstract statuary or classical allusion.

Up to this post-war point, not many in Scotland saw the fighting man as a morally dubious figure. The nation had long prided itself on its feats of arms. Right at its origins, it had preserved itself for a turbulent future through the doughty deeds of William Wallace and King Robert Bruce. After that, it needed constant defence against ceaseless English aggression. When the two quarrelsome neighbours at last began to move towards merger, it was on a tousled Scots head rather than a smooth and perfumed English pate that the joint crown first settled.

Even then, simple agreement about regal legitimacy proved to be beyond the Scots, so that we offered the English a choice between a Stewart and a Hanoverian, who had to fight it out between them.

THERE’s a Jacobite claimant family still living in Liechtenstein, but too polite to make anything of these ancient conflicts. In practice, then, the vast majority of Scottish royalists support the present monarchy, which was of mainly German blood down to the time of the present Queen’s grandfather.

Not that it really mattered, because the royal family had steadily acquired all the typical features of the English upper class, from its accent and vocabulary – completely non-Scottish – to its expensive sports and hobbies, impossible without a Scottish landscape to pursue

them in. In this adapted guise the royal family remains beloved by many Scots, perhaps by a majority. The Queen spends her summers at Balmoral, and there is no shortage of natives from every walk of life eager to go and collect their gongs at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

When princes William and Harry were students, they might spend nights clubbing in the Scottish capital in a way never possible for them in the English one. Scots could let royalty mix with ordinary people in ordinary life without making things awkward for either side. It opened up the prospect that one day an independent nation might, by its own conceptions, re-invent a monarchy better suited to its authentic character than the English one is.

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The real question is whether this new monarchy would lean towards the new nation’s military traditions or away from them? In fact, how militaristic would the new nation be? No doubt many readers of The National would prefer it to be pacifist, but I wonder how typical they are. A future Scotland that presented itself to the outside world through kilts and tartans and bagpipes would at least be an instantly recognisable Scotland, needing no introduction for the purposes of trade or investment, let alone defence.

The same could not be said of the Serbs or Slovaks. And whether we like it or not, it is a gift of the conflict, disorder and confusion embedded beyond recall in Scottish history that this history is marked by its military aspects as much as by anything else. Yet for all the kilted common soldiers who embarked for distant continents to give them a taste of Caledonian combat, there were others who wanted no part of all this, who practised pacifism by staying at home, even at the high cost of prosecution and imprisonment. These, too, have found admirers in popular tradition.

As with most public debates in Scotland, we will no doubt find coming to a consensus not easy. Indeed, militarism is the sort of subject that will bring out the passionate nature of the nation at its strongest. Do not, then, expect an early agreement.