What if climate change and good marketing persuaded overheated Brits to settle in Scotland?

By Florence Walker

February 13 2023

Americans do not realise that everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line is already or about to become a sauna, battered by hurricanes, cursed with crop failures, and inundated by overflowing rivers infested with crocodiles. And so every year 300,000 Americans settle in Florida. The state’s marketeers have got it right; against all odds they persuade people not only to visit the South from the North, but to stay there.

The Scottish Tourist Board surely has an easier task. At the present rate of temperature increase, it will take 200 years before Edinburgh swelters as London does now. It should be easy to persuade Southerners that their future will be assured by moving across the border. Not so. Some Englishmen have understood the looming menace of heatwaves better than the Americans – but not many. Net migration from England to Scotland has been only 7,000 a year for the last 20 years.

Seeking inspiration, the Scots have turned to Denmark which, as anybody who has visited its countryside will recall, bears an eerie resemblance to large parts of Eastern England. It has winding lanes, rivers fringed by willows, enormous clouds, and the familiarity of the Danish character – an Englishman unburdened by a history of Empire, straightforward, unpretentious, and a little loose at the edges. Not much in common with the Scots, then, who all appear to come from Norway and Sweden, where it is colder and people make love with their clothes on.

Net migration from England to Scotland has been only 7,000 a year for the last 20 years.
Net migration from England to Scotland has been only 7,000 a year for the last 20 years

Against all odds, the Scots have been captured by the Danish (and, I fear, English) concept of hygge – a noun that denotes cosiness – an atmosphere of warmth, wellbeing, togetherness, and contentment. Suddenly the Danish preoccupation with scented candles, bath salts, Christmas lights, cinnamon cakes, blankets with tassels, cutlery with spindly handles, and socks knitted from some kind of soft rope makes sense. How soporific. And boring.

The Scots have come up with their own version: Cosagach (pronounced kos-ag-loch). It is not clear how well the folks at VisitScotland are steeped in their own culture; to an unlettered Sassenach it sounds like a Gaelic word meaning “wee nook in a rock face where small animals live”. Alternatively, it could relate to a word meaning “mossy damp patch”. VisitScotland claims that it is the same thing as hygge but involves kilts, haggis, and long walks.

I fear that this is false advertising. The Scots, unlike the Danes, are not quiet. (Bagpipes.) The Danes fell their forests to make toys and flat-pack furniture. The Scots use tree trunks as hand-thrown projectiles for fun. The Danes go for tea-lights; the Scots prefer bonfires. The Danes enjoy eating healthily; the Scots refuse anything that has not been deep-fried, including, notoriously, Mars bars. When the Scot calls you “pal” he means it ironically. The Danes do not have a word for irony. The Danes are fond of lager but do not, like the Scots, believe that alcohol is one of the four major food groups. And things come more quickly to a climax with whisky than they do with beer. When you think of Denmark you think of an oasis of calm between the economic powerhouse of Germany and the tense, socially disciplined Scandinavians. When you think of Scotland you think of a nation built of mountains, threatening castles, a wilful disregard of underwear, and the constant imminence of a punch-up.

Scots and Danes are quite different. The Danes are, of all things, like the mild and pastel-coloured English. Those seeking hygge are, let us be honest, not likely to find it north of the border.

But the idea of a strange word to capture what is essentially Scottish might be helpful in attracting the crowds. I suggest cruinneachadh (no idea how to pronounce it). It means, more or less, crushing everyone together. Whatever the Scots are, they are not moody individualists – when it comes to a party they know what to do. First, ensure a steady and copious supply of calorific food and strong drink. Next, dress up in brightly coloured clothing. Then, dance madly to very loud, tuneless music. I doubt even this will convert the pale and thoughtful English. And I cannot see it turning on the Danes.