Running down the back of Scotland’s Parliament building, at a perpendicular angle between the bottom of the Royal Mile and Holyrood Road, is a pedestrian laneway called Reid’s Close. It is an interesting turn to take if you want to get a more rounded view of Scotland’s modern Parliament building – yes, that very modern one that divides public opinion. (Not that it matters, but I’m firmly in the ‘like’ camp.) From Reid’s Close you can get an uninterrupted view of the Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) ‘think pods’. These are their office hideaways where they can escape the clamour of the chamber, time out to ponder. The pods protrude from the exterior wall like pieces of a puzzle that haven’t been properly pushed back into place. Fashioned from steel, they hang out over the monochrome grey granite exterior wall. Placed like shields over the windows of the think-pods are bars of oak beams. I wonder if this feature doesn’t sometimes make them feel like prisoners in a gaol. To my eye, the pods are shaped a little like a profile of a chicken, so, as I walk past, I look up and think of the politicians cooped up, clucking, incubating ideas, making decisions and formulating policy.
Staring up from ground level, it is hard to know what the view from the pods would be like. They face directly onto an apartment block that is closely abutted to them. However, I think if someone seated in a pod were to rotate southwards, the sitter would then command a longer view out onto the magnificence of the Salisbury Crags in Holyrood Park. The Crags are a long rupture of land cliffs, formed well after the volcanic eruptions that created their more elevated neighbour – Arthur’s Seat. The Crags comprise a single sheet of tough dolerite rock, which is about 325 million years old; it will be there long after all of the MSPs have moved on.
It’s very tempting not to take the long view in life. To get caught up in what gets us through: from day to day, and week to week, to go for the quick fixes. Politicians might make decisions and deliver on a manifesto that they imagine will win them votes, keep their seat at all cost. Of course, it makes sense to act upon the will of the people who have voted you in. There will be times, though, when taking the long view is unpopular but is the right thing to do. I hope those ruling Scotland are inspired by their daily view out onto a natural phenomenon that is millions of years old. I hope it gives them, and all of us, a sense of perspective and realisation that our passage through life is quick, but, with a strong will to do the right thing, the difference we make can be profound.
‘Ulysses’, by Alfred Lord Tennyson
“We are not now that strength that in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”