I had a discussion recently at work about whether Edinburgh or Glasgow should be the capital of Scotland. Being born and bred in the east but now dwelling in the west means I have split loyalties. I argued that both cities have their merits but Edinburgh is geographically more central and it houses the Scottish Parliament, the courts and the national institutions. Therefore it should remain our capital. Glasgow is a brilliant city and I am proud to live there. It is home to most of this country’s media and much of our economy depends on the greater Glasgow conurbation. Glasgow is the third city of the Empire so why should it need to be the capital city too? Edinburgh just looks the part. It has the sea and seven hills like Rome, to quote the Proclaimers. Glasgow is a place of infinite variety, not quite a ‘mad god’s dream’ as Hugh MacDiarmid said of Edinburgh, but is more like New York than a Washington, a Liverpool than a London. It’s a centre in of itself and that’s just fine.
I know lots of people who have strong views on which they prefer of Edinburgh and Glasgow, not which one should be the capital but of their merits as places. I often describe Glasgow as the greatest city in the world and it’s because after four years of living there, I am still excited by what I find there. Edinburgh is a stunning city but I know it too well to be excited by it any more. Just this morning I went to a new Sainsbury’s across the way from Central Station and as I headed away from the checkout I turned my head and saw the beautiful frontage of the station, the glass canopy with the Grand Central Hotel above. I was awestruck, despite the countless times I’ve bustled along Gordon Street into Central and home. I go about Glasgow and I’m curious. I like where I am. Working in Renfrew now means I see less of the city than I used to so what opportunities I have can’t be missed.
That’s not to say Edinburgh doesn’t have its charms. It doesn’t have the bigotry and sectarianism, or as much of it as Glasgow. Our capital houses the National Library and the National Museum, respectively home to our nation’s only legal deposit library (they can request a copy of any book published in the UK and Ireland) and the Millennium Clock that graces NMS with its beguiling, downright weirdness. Edinburgh also has the Scottish Poetry Library, which sadly I haven’t been to in ages, and the various National Galleries, including my personal favourite, the Portrait Gallery in all its red sandstone finery. There is the matter of such fine words as ‘shan’, ‘barry’, ‘braw’ and of course ‘ken’, which are far superior to the equivalents along the M8. And that’s before we mention salt and sauce.
In a fine fudge, I won’t say which one I prefer. I like them both too much to choose. I’m of the east but I live in the west. For anyone who hasn’t been to either one, go to both and choose. Those convinced should spend time in the other and I bet you’ll be less certain. One’s barry, the other pure dead brilliant. Both are braw.