Scottish Makar calls for People’s Honours system in Scotland
SCOTLAND’S national poet, the Makar Jackie Kay, says Scotland should have “People’s Honours” as an alternative to the UK system. Her idea of a People’s Honours was that “it should differ dramatically from the other [UK] system”. Instead, she said, Scotland could do “something really democratic and really inspiring, a kind of people power honour system” that rewards ordinary people for extraordinary endeavour. “I think,” said Kay in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald, “there should be more ways of recognising the contributions that ordinary people make, in whatever walks of life. There are these people everywhere, and these are the people who keep places going. They are the heart and soul of places. People like that, I would want an awards system for them. Hospital porters and people like that.”
Kay herself accepted an MBE, but she recalls her parents, communists John and Helen Kay, refused to attend the ceremony. “Mum said, ‘I’m no going to Buckingham Palace to sook up to the Queen.’ I like the fact she did that.”
Others have proposed alternatives to the UK Honours before. Journalist and broadcaster Ruth Wishart, in her speech for the 80th anniversary of the Saltire Society last year, proposed a Scottish Honours system that would be an extension of the Saltire Awards.
Actor Elaine C Smith also backed the idea of a system that is “more democratic” and peoplecentred. “The problem with the UK system is it’s about patronage, it’s about politics and what party you support,” she said.
But not everyone supports the idea. Author James Robertson, a supporter in the past, is now against it on the grounds that “successfully setting up any such system while Scotland remains a part of the UK would be difficult, if not impossible”.
He said: “I would prefer a system of recognising individual citizens and their contributions to society that has none of the trappings of Empire or indeed of an archaic constitutional system based on the monarchy.”
Kay maintains her Makarship has differed from that of her predecessors by, in her words, taking “poetry to the people”, and travelling the length and breadth of the country to events. The people behind the power: Page 20 Leader: Page 40