I ALWAYS look forward to this time of year as a time to enjoy one of Scotland’s greatest cultural events. Celtic Connections holds a special place in my heart not just because it offers the chance to catch up with some music but because it played a big part in my personal journey to Yes.

The festival has, of course, moved online this year because of the pandemic and it’s been gratifying to see how successful the transition has been. The festival has sold more than 10,000 passes and music fans in 44 countries have booked places at a plethora of online events.

It’s a different festival this year and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to profoundly missing the live experience but the concerts held so far have been widely praised and you have to admire the tenacity and ambition of the festival organisers who have reimagined the event rather than take a break.

But even without Covid-19 the festival would have faced some major challenges due to the developing fiasco of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, which is throwing up more serious problems with every day that passes. Yesterday more than 100 music stars – including big names such as Elton John, Sting, Radiohead and Nicola Benedetti, protested at the chaos surrounding post-Brexit travel permits which are threatening major tours.

It’s a stark contrast between Celtic Connections’ outward-looking, internationalist philosophy and a British Government whose suspicion of other countries is threatening our own connections with the rest of the world.

It was the festival’s inspirational nurturing of links with other countries who have influenced our own culture – and who themselves have been inspired by Scottish music – which seemed to me to represent the best of Scotland and encouraged its emergence from rather less progressive days.

When I entered my teens the portrayal of much of Scotland’s culture seemed embarrassingly stuck in the past. I still remember being appalled at The White Heather Club on BBC and its STV equivalent Thingummyjig, which offered viewers the irresistible opportunity to “waggle your wallies”.

It seemed to me a very long way from the wildly exciting world of rock ‘n’ roll which was thrilling a generation caught up in the so-called sexual revolution and seemingly intent on tearing down the pillars of the establishment.

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Jimmy Shand and Andy Stewart seemed pretty pale when compared to the pyrotechnics of Jimi Hendrix and the air of danger and sexuality surrounding the Rolling Stones. Traditional Scottish music seemed to me something your parents would listen to, at a time when such a description was perhaps the worst insult you could come up with.

It’s impossible now to conjure up the atmosphere of those days or the new, technicolour world emerging from the “swinging sixties” and its implicit rejection of pretty much everything that went before. Of course the reality was more complicated but it would be some time before the good points of the past would reassert themselves and the full impact of the Scottish cringe would become apparent.

For me, it was the music of Bob Dylan and The Band that encouraged a reappraisal of the importance of traditional music – or at least at this stage American traditional music – and some of the values of a past which the “counterculture” was too eager to thrown away.

Dylan’s reappraisal of American roots music had reverberations elsewhere and it slowly became apparent that the embarrassment I felt about my own country’s culture was a reflection of a common habit in Scotland of dismissing anything of our own as inherently second rate. Too often we need the approval of others to properly value our own culture and achievements.

Celtic Connections both provided that approval and emphasised that it was not necessary. By staging concerts by legends such as Bobby Womack, Mavis Staples and Youssou N’Dour, among others, it showed that Scotland had influenced the music of other places and it’s own music could proudly stand next to the best that the world could offer.

Celtic Connections not only celebrated Scottish traditional music it also placed it within the context of other global cultures and music. It’s a festival which values Connections as much as it does Celtic.

Of course, the festival’s purpose is not strictly to be a recruiting agent for the Yes movement but it does serve to encourage a greater self-confidence in a country only recently coming to terms with feeling good about itself. Scotland’s cultural achievements are certainly not the only reason I support independence – there are of course economic, social and moral as well as cultural reasons for believing that independence offers the best future for our country – but it is one more argument against a cultural cringe which has held us back for too long.

That cringe takes many forms. It showed itself, for example, when The National began running columns in the Scottish language, which sent some critics into paroxysms of anger. I think it’s fair to say that little in this newspaper’s history has provoked such fury.

That same vitriol has been poured on Scots language supporters such as Miss Punny Pennie and Aberdeenshire singer Iona Fyfe. Towards the end of last year Miss Punny Pennie published on Twitter a list of the insults she received in just one week, which included “trollop”, “harlot” and “pompous little minx”.

The abuse was so bad that comedian Janey Godley felt compelled to step in and record a video message of support for the two women. She said at the time: “Unionist men will not shut Scottish women down for doing poetry in the Scottish language.”

Those who abuse Scots language supporters argue that it’s not a language but a dialect. I don’t happen to agree with that view but people are quite entitled to hold it. What I don’t understand is why such a subject should provoke such unbridled anger. It’s a reminder, if one were needed, that the Scottish cringe can flare up against any suggestion that any aspect of Scottish culture has any value whatsoever.

Celtic Connections deserves our thanks and love for many great nights which celebrates Scottish music alongside that from every corner of the world. But if at least part of its legacy is helping to deal a fatal blow to the Scottish cringe it will have done a serious national service.