Wed 30 Nov, 2022

Accents are an amazing thing. They can spark conversation from out of nowhere or bring a misty moment of nostalgia, pride, or, in the worst instances, prejudice. But even when the vowels soften or the tones evolve, our accents remain as much a part of us as anything.

It’s one of the things I loved the most when I first arrived in Scotland. I’d bought a one-way ticket to Glasgow around graduation with heady thoughts of travelling to Europe. Yet now, almost 23 years later, it is where I’ve grown to call home.

My Canadian voice remains, even if the Calgary lilt is more Leith these days. But as a new Scot it is occasions such as St Andrews Day when I get to see my new home at its best, united in the pride of a nation, no matter where in the world we may be.

We’ve all probably been in a café or a restaurant somewhere in the world and recognised instantly the sound of our native or adopted homelands. That’s the beauty of travel.

What we are now discovering is the significant loss to our culture, our economy and our lives as the full impacts of Brexit on people’s freedom of movement are finally brought into the light.

Of how much harder it will be to explore or be explored as a nation, with barriers to Europe erected especially for our young people where so recently there were none.

Or by those who would rather turn away those in need, on tiny boats or humanitarian flights, because of the political optics. 

What would St Andrew, the traveller and adopted Saint of many nations beyond Scotland, have made of it all? 

Of how the bonds that so often bind us, being used by others to try and keep us apart. 

Or of how our cacophony of voices, loud and free and true, face being silenced by authoritarian regimes. 

No matter the accent, it is the voices and acts of kindness in these challenging times that we should focus on. In how we help those new to our shores, those born and bred, or simply travelling through.

From the challenges surrounding the cost of living, to democratic choice; from the climate crisis faced by communities to wondering what is happening hundreds of miles away; we can all help each other by being prepared to listen, to be kind and to use our voice for good.

So this St Andrews Day, let's be wise, let’s inspire, let’s listen and let’s choose our words wisely, whatever accent we have.

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