Apr 252013

Every country in the world has its own unique qualities, but I’ve always felt that in terms of character, some aspects of the culture and rugged scenic splendour, New Zealand is the nearest thing you’ll find to Scotland outside of our own shores.

Having lived in New Zealand for a couple of years, I generally find your average Kiwi to be amazingly Scot-like in his demeanour and mien – a bit dour and remote until you got to know him, but then funny, engaging, loyal and fiercely patriotic.

That initial crabbiness could well be – like ours – a result of having a larger, more confident nation as neighbours (in their case Australia, in ours, of course, Wales), a neighbour what’s more, who constantly delights in making cheap stereotypical jokes at the expense of the poor old put upon Kiwi or Scot.

I can guarantee you that every New Zealander who’s ever spent time in Oz will endure – on a daily, possibly even hourly basis – jibes, gags and assorted quips about sheepsha**ing. An Aussie’s idea of humour is usually based on repetition anyway, so they see it is a nationalistic obligation to crack out the tired old jokes about ovine amour anytime a Kiwi is within hailing distance.

The New Zealand National Anthem? It Had To Be Ewe. Etc, etc.

It’s ridiculous of course; a crass example of offensive typecasting but nevertheless something a New Zealander has to put up ad infinitum if he wishes to reside or even set foot in Australia for any length of time.

It’d get on your wick. It gets on theirs.Little wonder they’ve got a chip on their shoulder bigger than a McCain Crispy Oven Bake.

Given this apparent – or illusory – backwardness, it is interesting that last week the New Zealand parliament voted to legalise same sex marriage, though as far as I know getting spliced to dear old Dolly the Sheep remains resolutely forbidden.

Though no huge fan of wedlock – of any sort – the issue of gay marriage is, to me, a no-brainer. If two people want to make a public/legal proclamation of their affection for each other, what in the name of the wee man (or woman) has it got to do with anyone else?

Surely the only person who could have a problem with it would be of a fanatical religious persuasion – and even then, such opposition would be so derisory and idiotic as to sway any would-be fence sitters firmly on the side of legalisation.

Which appears to be how the situation developed in New Zealand. Under a right wing government not especially given to broad-minded policies, the Bill duly passed comfortably, with a substantial majority of essentially conservative and conventional Kiwis recognising and accepting the logic, morality – not to say inevitability – of the argument.

Now, as I‘ve said before, I’m no great supporter of Scottish independence – I’m not against it either, I just think it’s basically meaningless – but if a Scottish parliament was to pass commonsense libertarian legislation such as this, I might be a whole lot more enthusiastic. A draft Bill to legalise same sex marriage was launched in Scotland in December of last year, but since then it seems the trail has gone cold.

What’s more, you don’t have to be a political strategist to realise that same sex marriage is a vote magnet. Any reasonable person knows it’s the right thing to do – aside from the God bothering nutters everyone is for it, even – especially – lawyers who’ll no doubt be rubbing their hands at the increased revenue in divorce work as many of the marriages, predictably go bad. (Cynical, or what?)

There’s votes in it – lots of them.

Weddings are always good fun. Who doesn’t like a good wedding – the elation, the carousing, the punch-ups?

I’ve played in many wedding bands in my time and even did one last weekend, so from a purely personal point of view, I might even get a few gigs out of it; it’s a win for everyone.

So what’s the hold up? Naturally the churches oppose it, but since religion of every possible hue is increasingly becoming irrelevant in Scotland – and everywhere else, with the possible exception of Tora-Bora – it’s hard to accept that could be the reason for the hold up.

Though I’m not holding my breath – and don’t expect to personally benefit from it, the odd wedding gig here or there notwithstanding – it’s absolutely only a matter of time, for a few reasons.

It’s right and proper and firmly in the category of common sense, integrity and free-thinking. But more significantly, when lawyers realise there’s a right few quid for them in it, it’ll happen in the wink of an eye.




Gary Johnston

Why Scotland should follow New Zealand’s lead on gay marriage | Herald Scotland