I think it’s fair to say that introductions in Cambridge have a distinct pattern: Name, College, Subject and Year all weave themselves into the first few sentences that any one of use will exchange with someone new. It’s an unenviable part of being Scottish in Cambridge that this is almost invariably followed by a fifth question, along the lines of: “So you’re Scottish, what do you think about independence?”
ScotSoc exists almost as a response to the endless questions about the impending referendum (to be debated this week at the Union – do attend). The Society was created to be an informal social grouping of Scottish people in Cambridge, people who – though of course interested in independence – realised that the vote on September 18th isn’t the only thing Scottish people think about. It was not a particularly ambitious idea when the society was born. As it was originally envisaged the society would run a few events, provide a place where Scottish students could meet one another, find travelling companions for the trek back up north at the end of each term, and hopefully have a ceilidh. The dream when we set out, to steal a phrase from another committee member, was “to make it easy to meet people who call diluting juice diluting juice, not squash.”
Our fledgling year has been great; there is a fairly large group of Scots here who really got stuck in, changing the society entirely. Politics, it turns out, is big and the independence debate has had a prominent role in our first year, despite out best intentions (even if we did mess up the flags at our debate. The Society has also begun working on Access, looking to improve the level of information available to Scottish applicants.
Importantly though, the social element remains, and this is what I want to emphasise. The society really is a very relaxed place when we hold our events and all are welcome regardless of nationality. Though – like most – we will be chilling out this term, previous terms lay a good foundation (with pub crawls, relaxed mixers, Six Nations meet-ups, discounted club nights and, of course, a Burns supper).
If there are two things that have been made clear from my involvement in the first year of ScotSoc they would be this:
1. Scots don’t think one way about anything: the independence debate is important to us – we do enjoy talking about it – but there is more to us than that and it can feel like people only really care about that aspect of our nationality.
2. Those stereotypes about Scots and drinking? Yeah, they are all true.
On an aside, ScotSoc as a whole, implore everyone to go to the Union and listen to their debate. The September vote is a massive issue for all people, even those outside the UK: its result will be a reflection on the relationship between two historic neighbours, and will shape international (particularly European) policy in the coming years.