We like music do us Scots. But we have an extra special affection for Scottish music. Kenny McColl of the Tartan Specials tackles one of the fundamental questions facing Scottish music fans : Rod Stewart, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, AC/DC, Men at Work – are they really Scottish? Film of AC/DC at the Apollo below.

As Scots, we seem to have trouble accepting anybody as Scottish unless they were born within five miles of a haggis supper. We believe that being born outside Scotland is an affront to our national identity, and by cutting them off we will exact our revenge on their parents for leaving God’s country.  Other countries have no such qualms about celebrating descendents no matter how many generations have gone by (well… some countries more than others, but let’s not name names).

In a hands-over-the-border kind of spirit, let’s examine some of the bands and artists whose Scottishness has been disputed.  Who cares?  Well, obviously we do, as you can barely mention Rod Stewart without the topic coming up.  And let’s face it, we don’t apply the same strict standards to non-scots — does anybody seriously not think of Shane MacGowan as Irish? Or Joe Strummer as English?*

So here goes…. my are-they-really-Scottish list.

I should start by explaining the complex criteria on which the artists are being judged.  There are two rules:

1. Does the artist believe themselves to be Scottish?

2. Failing that, do I believe that they should be considered Scottish for any reason I feel like?

1. Rod Stewart

Okay let’s tackle the big one first. Well, he clearly passes rule number 1.  I know there are a lot of ex-pats out there reading Dear Scotland, and let’s be honest, if your offspring chose to turn up to Scotland games instead of supporting your adopted country, you’d be happily buying them tartan scarves for Christmas every year as well.  Okay, so he might have been born in North London to an English mother, but his faither was a Leither and he has two Scottish sisters. None of this matters – he feels Scottish. End of discussion.

Verdict: Scottish

2. Franz Ferdinand.

It is an inconvenient truth for many Scots that three quarters of one of the most talented bands to come out of Glasgow in years are English. But it would be hard to deny that the band are Scottish. They say it themselves (it doesn’t even sound that odd in Alex Kapranos’ part-mackem accent).  The band still call Glasgow home, they certainly do their bit for the Scottish music scene and their Myspace page used to list tunes such as “Take me oot” and “Come on Hame”

Verdict: Scottish

3. Snow Patrol.

On the face of it, Snow Patrol should fall into exactly the same category as Franz Ferdinand: formed and still based in Scotland, but with 3/5 of the band from Northern Ireland.  Gary Lightbody formed The Reindeer Section with some of the brightest lights from the Scottish music scene, so they do their bit locally as well.  But I think it’s also fair to say that they consider themselves Northern Irish.  The press, nervous of offending anybody, always refer to them as “Scotland based Northern Irish band…” or “Northern Irish/Scottish band…”.

Verdict: Northern Irish (Shiner informs me that Snow Patrol happily performed under the banner of the infamous “Scottish Invasion” at SXSW in Austin in 2004, along with Franz Ferdinand so apparently they do consider themselves Scottish after all. )

Verdict: Scottish

4. AC/DC

Fact: 60% of the original band were born in Scotland

Fact: 75% of the surviving band founders were born in Scotland

Fact: The lead guitarist’s name is Angus

Fact: They just played a massive “homecoming” gig at Hampden

Fact: Claiming AC/DC as Scottish is one of the quickest techniques to wind up an Australian

Verdict: Scottish

5. Men At Work

This might seem a stretch for the band that penned the unofficial Australian anthem Down Under, but main man Colin Hay didn’t move to Oz until he was a teenager and couldn’t be more Scottish if he were deep fried. Wikipedia might waffle in describing him as “Scottish-Australian”. but I once spotted him in the crowd at a Billy Connolly gig which is surely conclusive proof.

However, the beauty of this one is that it’s a wonderful knockout blow to follow the AC/DC jab when in the pub with an Australian. For the record, we lay absolutely no claims on The Wiggles.

Verdict: Scottish

There you have it.  I’ll be back with a less controversial topic next time.

*Joe Strummer was born in Turkey to a teuchter mother. Had he been any good at football, he would certainly have qualified to play for Scotland under FIFA rules. R.I.P. Joe, you made some magic music. The future is indeed unwritten.

The Wee Man will be back next week.


  1. Not that long ago I attended a concert performed by this band at Madison Square Gardens where the audience unquestionably regarded them as an Irish band. If there is any place in the world you can count on zero ambiguity on cultural heritage – particularly between the Scots and Irish – it’s in New York City.

    Verdict: As Northern Irish as Black Puddings

  2. Snow Patrol get round it by calling themselves Celts if they get put on the spot. Although 3 of the band were born in Northern Ireland, if you include Richard Colburn who is now out playing with them, then they also have 3 band members born in Scotland. 4 of the 6 of them have also bought houses in Scotland (including Gary). All 6 of them have lived in Glasgow, but only 3 of them have lived in Belfast and they formed in Scotland too – Dundee to be precise. Just to back up your argument!

  3. “If there is any place in the world you can count on zero ambiguity on cultural heritage – particularly between the Scots and Irish – it’s in New York City.”

    I have to say I think the exact opposite is true – there’s a lot of ambiguity in NYC as much as anywhere. Many Irish-Americans of a generation or two’s remove from the old country wouldn’t know the difference between a whisky and a whiskey, and would assume that Scottish bars are Irish.

  4. i agree with keren. nice facts. especially about the houses. and i agree with anonymous. some new yorkers think that there is a country called scotch-ireland ffs.

  5. AC/DC and Men at Work…spot on about winding up Aussies. Jimmy Barnes, a huge name in Oz is another candidate?

  6. ‘he might have been born in North London to an English mother, but his faither was a Leither and he has two Scottish sisters’
    Rod also had two brothers born in Scotland to add to that and spoke with a Scottish accent until a few years ago… now more a mid-Atlantic accent… Rod is as Scottish as he wants to be and qualifies through his family anyway… wouldn’t dream of saying Sir Cliff Richard was Indian, but that’s where he was born in an English family.

  7. Ever seen Colin Hay play live? I did last year and not only is he as Scottish as they get (think he grew up in Irvine), but his show’s alot like a Billy Conelly gig – same sense of humour, delivery, mannerisms and an hour & a half of great songs and anecodotes.

    Verdict: Very Scottish.

  8. Scots are one of history’s widely dispersed nations. Just like the Jews. Much of the dispersal was involuntary and done by forced atrocity, too. With a disapora of 20 million, 80% of all Scots were born in exile. Nationhood has had no correlation with birthplace since BC, since all the deportations and captivities of the Old testament period, like the Jews in Babylon. Birthplace racism is genocide, because it defines most of a dispersed nation out of existence and makes atrocities win. Every birthplace racist commits genocide of the Jews, simple as that, and genocide of the Scots too.

  9. Yes, what about the average white band? all of the original members were from Scotland. Of course the present band that is touring can’t possibly lay claim to being Scots except Onnie (Mair) McIntyre (Lennoxtown) and Alan Gorrie (Perth). The band these days has lost it’s original tongue-in-cheek meaning.

  10. But weren’t the Scotti and Irish tribe. No such thing as being Scottish then if you’re not Irish. Which means you have to claim Jedward and Bono

  11. But most of us Aussies came from Scotland/Ireland/England so what is your point?
    We all come over here on boats originally.
    The only true Australians are the indigenous.
    When Angus gets interviewed over here,he says he is Australian.
    I don’t really care either way.I love the Scots and I have some Scottish blood in me from both sides of the family as do millions of Aussies.Peace.Music is not a competition(unless it’s the Eurovision song contest lol).

  12. Most american states are bigger than the entire island that is called great britain, and some americans think england is iin scotland or vice versa, and that britain is such a small place for so many accents etc-every ‘country’ within GB or the UK has great history and culture. Appreciate that, and just dont go around waving any flags thinking your country is the best, trying to claim great celebrities are ‘your own’ by creating articles such as this, wherever you are from. LOL. Leave the flag waving patriotism and ego to the USA!

    ps everyone should trace their own family trees. Going back a hundred years or more if you can, you might be surprised as to how english, irish,scottish etc you really are. people travel far as the generations go by, as we obviously know with the british royal family having german and scottish heritage (eg the queen mother was related to king james, the king of scotland).