This was one of our cities in February 2007 and we were here again for a few days this week. We had particluar pleasure this time visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens just near to the hotel where we were staying. There were only the first signs of the many plants (a lot filched from Chinese mountains apparently) but the bare limbs of the varied trees standing out from the perfectly kept green grass looked splendid.We were impressed with the John Hope building dedicated to energy saving principles.

We did some of the usual sight-seeing visits to Holyrood Palace (not my sort of place) built against what had been a monastery with fascinating remains; St.

Giles where I felt more at home despite the glowering figure of John  Knox; the Castle; the Georgian house; the Scottish National Gallery, but also found some unusual places such the Makers Court and the Writers Gallery just off the Royal Mile Road. We noticed there a quote from R.L.Stevenson. The Scot ‘stands in an attitude towards the past unthinkable to Englishmen, and remembers and cherishes the memory of his forbearers, good and bad; and there burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation’.

Scottish identity with the forthcoming Autumn vote on independence is a key issue just now, and I raised it with several people during our visit.

The young man who looked after us very well at the hotel said that he had initially thought he would vote in favour but the uncertain economics had made him change his mind. Another young man where we had our evening meal wanted ‘to keep the pound’ and if that was guaranteed he would be in favlour of independence. A young woman guarding us at the castle wasn’t Scotish and wasn’t supposed to share her opinions with us, but was clearly in favour. So, I suspect was the imposing kilted older man at the Palace who said he served the Queen, but had his ‘own opinion’.

The owners of the hotel where we were staying – she a Scot, he a Londoner – had been very formal in their manner, but once the matter was raised they became animated, excited even at the possibility of a new sense of nationhood.

We had coffee at the John  Hope centre and got in conversation with  an older couple who were looking  after their little grandson. They had been Labour voters for much of their life but had become disaffected and for some years had been enthusiastic members of the Scottish National Party. They would certainly be voting in  favour, and envisaged that if Scotland became a self-governing country it could have a good influence south of its borders, so that the remaining U.K. might become more socially democratic. They had an evangelistic commitment that made their case very convincing. If I was Scottish I would agree.