TRAVELLING with the blue passport has long been uncomfortable for Yessers – forced to own a visible reminder of the state identity we would rather leave behind.

But it now guarantees a mega slow, frustrating travel experience too.

Of course, the UK was never in Schengen so we already inhabited the furthest reaches of airports, showing passports where other ­Europeans didn’t need to.

And of course, Brexit happened a while ago. But for most of that period folk were in lockdown or so daunted by complex testing regimes that few travelled anywhere.

Now that’s set to change and life in the non-EU slow lane is an experience that still awaits those able to get abroad. And judging from my own time at Schiphol Airport last ­weekend – for a wee family holiday to the Netherlands – it may be a teeth-grinding and eye-watering one.

British citizens had to stand for ­almost an hour in the slow lane with other non-EU and EFTA citizens for lengthy, labour-intensive, manual passport checks, whilst folk from Italy, Germany and Ireland whizzed through the electronic gates in ­minutes – as we once did.

Now, to be fair, many non-EU ­airports – including ­Manchester and Edinburgh – also ­experienced problems. But the shift of so many travellers from electronic to ­manual passport checks combined with ­Covid-related staff ­shortages ­produced the perfect storm at Schiphol – after all, the British are the second most numerous visitors to the Netherlands, so our changing EU status means a relatively big shift for them.

Yes, in time airports may boost the number of staff performing ­physical checks or adapt their ­electronic ­systems, but given that we should be travelling by plane less – and that ­every country is struggling with its own cost-of-living crisis – ­accommodating Brexited Brits will hardly seem like a spending priority for the Dutch.

So even if you are Scottish and voted to Remain, get ready for the fact you will still be lumped in with grumpier Brits complaining that the lengthy queues are all part of an EU attempt to humiliate us for leaving. Still forced to swallow the obvious response that the “British” (viz ­English) decision to reject freedom of movement was a two-way street and meant exactly what it said on the tin. Unless you want to start a late-night rammy.

And of course, holding the blessed British passport means you must own a Prime Minister with the gall to compare “freedom-loving” Leave voters and Ukrainians ­suffering ­bombardment, terror, rape and forced removal to Russia. That’s way beyond embarrassing.

It’s shameful to see the tiny flicker in the passport stamper’s eye ­(finally) and wonder if the sight of that ­passport made Boris Johnson cross her mind and weld his deeply ­objectionable opinions onto you. Or if she is now so far past any interest in Britain, Brexit and Scotland. If all she sees now is a planeload of people who moan and tax her stretched ­customs control system to its very limits.

That’s us folks.

Perhaps we should be relieved that “our” suspicious response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis is of little interest to other Europeans. They’re too busy getting on with a constructive, progressive, humanitarian plan to transform Europe completely in the wake of Russia’s invasion – a plan to revise energy and grain ­production, commerce and European defence. A plan Scotland should be helping draft.

Instead, as members of the greedy, remote, we’re-all-right-Jack UK, our views hardly matter anymore. You can feel it.

With that blue passport in hand, you are invisible – if you’re lucky.

So, prepare for a long, exhausting and frustrating business if you are visiting a European country anytime soon.

And yet, dinnae swither. Do go.

Despite Covid, the climate crisis and being lumped in the really slow EU lane, Scots must keep visiting our nearest neighbours to see how the other half lives and thrives.

The vision of what Scotland can be beyond the UK lies across the North Sea amongst the small states of ­Europe – and we must keep ­travelling to glimpse that ­different, better ­managed, independent ­future, to see better systems of local ­democracy, ­ferry procurement and land ­ownership we could be ­deploying right now and to keep our dreams of a better, fairer Scotland alive.

By whatever mode, Scots NEED to travel for a keener sense of what we’re missing and a reminder of the higher living standards that have long been normal amongst our European neighbours.

Take transport.

The last time I visited the ­Netherlands in 2012 there was much debate about building an ­underground Metro system in ­Amsterdam to ­complement the city’s extensive tram service and widespread use of bikes. Asking a Dutch person now about the Amsterdam Metro, they roll their eyes and talk about how long it took to complete – conceding perhaps that building tunnels below sea level was a tricky engineering job. But still, at six years to complete – they’ll conclude, it took far too long.

But the same year work on ­Amsterdam’s Metro began, the ­Crossrail project in London also got underway. Four years late, and billions over budget, it still isn’t finished, but Scots taxpayers have had to shell out big style.

Same story with HS2.

That same year – 2012 – work ­finally began on a Y-shaped ­high-speed rail network to link London with ­Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.

But in 2021, the spur to connect the north of England was axed, the project was £30 billion over budget and years behind schedule and once again, Scots taxpayers have been forced to finance a white elephant that will (eventually) only super-serve southern commuters – at our expense.

And it gets even more infuriating.

Even though sterling crashed in value against the Euro after the Brexit vote, rail and tram travel in the ­Netherlands is still cheaper than back home and genuinely frequent – a ­fabulous ­service compared to our own. It seems Abellio can deliver when it’s part of the state-owned Dutch rail operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen, but not as concession-grabbing buccaneers in Scotland’s ­privatised market.

In fact, a comparison of Europe’s ­railway systems in 2015 found the Dutch ­network was the most cost-effective for its standard of ­performance, together with Finland.

Which rather suggests Britain’s “free-for-all” privatised rail industry, forced on Scots courtesy of the union – was the big problem.

You wouldn’t know if you hadn’t seen the same company do awfy well, properly regulated and owned in its own country.

It’s great to hear the ferry ­connecting Scotland with Zeebrugge is set to return this summer.

Because without it, and a high-speed rail link, Scots will be ­increasingly stuck out on a limb from a continent we must embrace and know better.


Because stuck at home, we rage, ­despair, take to social media and manage to convert restless energy into political will or go mad.

Seeing is believing.

And seeing the alternative normal of an independent Northern state adds another dimension to our politics and state of mind – a vital extra ingredient in a perpetually angry mix. And that’s the knowledge Scotland could run so much more successfully if our parliament could fully reflect the settled will of a nation that believes in good public services, not privatised Del Boy services delivered on the cheap.

So, travel.

Aye – and queue.

Thole it gracefully.

Look, listen and learn.

And come back better informed – with your indy batteries fully ­recharged.