Unlike the English, Welsh or Irish, we've got a proper Saint. Mentioned in the Bible. No harm to the Welsh and the Irish but although their patron Saints were clearly real, and Godly, people, their Sanctitude clearly depends on the endorsement of the Church of Rome. As for the English: well, let's be honest, who has ever actually seen a dragon?
But St Andrew is a proper Saint. Undisputed before or after 1560. Brother of St Peter (and although no doubt Eck would assert the more distinguished brother, most of us would settle for simply brother). One of the Disciples. As I say, a proper Saint.
I do, however, accept that he may not actually have been born on 30th November. Good though the Romans were at record keeping it is probably unrealistic to hope that this could ever be conclusively be established.
I'm also reasonably certain that he never set foot on Scottish soil. Having been born in the Mediterranean, and benefiting from Divine Guidance, for him to have ended up in Fife would have marked Him out not as a Saint but as an idiot.
Now, how can I write all of the above, I hope at least, reasonably wittily.
Because personal history is important. What you learn through it, but also how you learn from it. So. as someone brought up (baptised but not confirmed) in the Church of Scotland, I can pick up the distinction between undisputed Saints and.......others. Pick that up even while I recognise that the most Presbyterian of Ministers will never have referred to (merely) Francis of Assisi.
Religion remains important in much more significant and potentially embarrassing terms than we care to acknowledge.
When I first set up my own business my relationship manager at the Royal Bank (whom henceforward I will call "Shug" provided me with a great deal of assistance. I'd never really worked for myself; being a partner in a larger Firm didn't really count. So. getting the balance right between an initial, and repayable, capital loan and a working overdraft was uncharted territory and Shug undoubtedly helped me to negotiate my way through it.
So, when five years later, Shug told me he was leaving the Bank to set up his own business and asked for my help with the legal work I was only too happy to assist.
At Christmas each year my Firm sends, I suppose somewhat cynically, Christmas Cards to our most valued clients. Or at least to those not currently in Barlinnie.
But there was a problem with Shug. Because that wasn't (as you'll already have guessed) his real name. It was, and even now I hesitate to confess this, possible to conclude from his real name (and more reprehensibly still, his skin colour) that he was unlikely to be of a Christian confession. Almost as certainly as it was possible to conclude that Patrick O'Donnell from Croy was unlikely to be unhappy when his Christmas card dropped through the door. Particularly if Our Lady featured prominently.
So, shame on me, Shug's contentious card sat on my desk until Christmas Eve. When we received one from him.
Now, in the West of Scotland, the word "bastard" has a much more complex entymology than a mere reference to the legitimacy of one's parentage. Or even to an actual insult. And it was in that context that I looked at this particular Christmas card. Thinking that I had no opportunity to reciprocrate. Bastard.
So today is Scotland's day. St Andrew's day. And you don't have to a believer to think that. But you also don't need to dismiss the sentiment/history/theology behind it.
So, as a self professed agnostic....
God bless Scotland.
And God bless St Andrew, our Patron Saint.