For Marcus Fergusson of the London Cheese Club it has to be Hot Banana. Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall, though, swears by Hugh’s Gluttony – a relish made by her son Hugh, the celebrity chef.
For the other thousand or so condiment connoisseurs who turned up at Neidpath Castle near Peebles over the weekend, it could have been the Crazy Carrot and Ginger, the Fig and Cinnamon or even the Sweet Beetroot Blush.
Almost everyone had their favourite – but, if they didn’t before they came, they were encouraged to have one by the end.
The event was the latest in Scotland’s burgeoning calendar of boutique festivals: One World, One Chutney – a celebration of preserves, jellies, jams and chutneys by the banks of the Tweed.
Charlotte Fairbairn, one of the organisers, said the weekend fair had been partly instigated in homage to her late father, the colourful and well-known Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.
“One of the things he absolutely loved was tomatoes. He had a small greenhouse where his tomatoes never ripened, so my mother was always left trying to do something with these little hard green bullets. As a result she made really good green tomato chutney,” she said.
The idea for the festival, though, came to Ms Fairbairn while she was watching the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and trying to decide what to do with a load of extra large marrows. She turned them into a stock of decent chutney and decided Scotland should have its own chutney Olympics – or at least a festival to celebrate the autumnal tradition of preserving and storing for the winter.
Mrs Fearnley-Whittingstall, one of the arbiters who had to sit in judgement over the 110 chutneys entered in the main competition, said there was a serious message behind the festival, particularly in times of austerity when everybody had to make food go further.
“This is the sort of culture I grew up with,” she said. “You make the most of the available ingredients and any waste is criminal.”
And Mrs Fearnley-Whittingstall added: “I think it’s great that people still tend to bring a jar of chutney round when they come to visit.”
The main criterion for the judges was taste, but Mrs Fearnley-Whittingstall admitted that texture and appearance played a part, too.
“Some of them have a jewel-like quality when they are in their jars,” she said.
Mr Fergusson confesses to being something of a chutney aficionado because of the time he spends with the London Cheese Club. But even he – after tasting everything from Dark and Sticky Plum and Ginger chutney to Star Anise and Pink Peppercorn mustard as part of his judging duties – confessed he would probably abstain from preserves for a day or two.
Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall Picture: Louisa Macdonell
“There were ten of us judges but the result was pretty clear,” he said, adding that the quality of the best entries was evident from the start.
For children, there was the chance to hurl ripe tomatoes at a map of the world pinned to the wall of the 14th-century Neidpath Castle, to roll pumpkins down a steep hill, or to catapult apples over the Tweed some 200 metres away.
With more than 1,000 visitors over the course of the weekend, a significant sum expected to be raised for the Gurkha Welfare Trust and thousands of jars of chutney sold, this latest – niche – festival has already been declared an unqualified success.
“Oh, there’ll definitely be another one next year. No doubt about it,” said Ms Fairbairn.
Regardless of when the independence referendum is held, the Yes campaign is underway right now. It’s underway on the telly, online and in print. And crucially it’s underway whenever you speak to your friends and neighbours. Here are a few quick thoughts on how to win the argument.
Make the message clear
The great problem that independence has had historically is a vagueness about what it actually means. What will it look like? Will an independent Scotland be like Denmark? Or Ireland? Or Greenland? Or North Korea?
Well, an independent Scotland will look exactly like Scotland does now – but with a far greater ability to come up with local solutions to Scotland’s specific problems.
Here is the core message about independence that the Unionists fear: it’s not that big a deal. It is a tweaking of Holyrood, an evolution from devolution, an efficient relocation of key decisions from an unfocused, one-size-fits-all institution 350 miles south of the Border.
There is no divorce, secession or separation involved in the move to full nationhood. In fact, as was discussed by Hamish Macdonell in these pages, Scotland and England may share supra-national functions – the kind of cooperation common in Europe. This is being characterised as independence-lite, but that’s a misnomer as Scotland will behave in these relationships as a sovereign nation.
That last point means we can opt out of expensive follies like Trident and choose not to send Scottish soldiers off on reckless foreign adventures such as Iraq.
But we need to be specific about how these relationships will affect people’s lives: the days of “blah, blah, blah, something about oil” are long passed. The Yes campaign needs to lay out in concrete detail what independence will mean for the Scot in the street from day one.
Vagueness will kill us.
Not talking ‘bout a revolution
Let us not be distracted by the various red, white and blue herrings that will be cast in the path of independence. The head of state will remain Queen Elizabeth II. The EU will not kick out millions of citizens. You will still be able to watch Corrie. Scotland will not join the Warsaw Pact. There will be no razorwire lining the Tweed and Sark.
The only issue up for grabs at the moment is this: “Are we capable of running our own affairs, at our own expense?” Everything else is a distraction.
No third option
The Grand Unionist Alliance, which was so successful that all three of its leaders have now quit, had a chance to include a Calman-plus option in the independence referendum. They didn’t want it then. They shouldn’t get it now.
If there are more than two questions, we’ll get embroiled in some complex PR farrago because independence will have to be backed by more than 50 per cent of voters. Everyone knows what’s at stake. The choice will boil down to Yes or No. Keep it simple.
The question should be: “Do you think the powers of the Scottish parliament should be increased to cover all policy areas?”. Answer Yes or No.
Keep it joyful
You can’t get more positive than saying Yes.
Barack Obama and Bob the Builder cornered the market on “Yes, we can”. The rallying call for Scottish independence should be subtly different, more personal.
Yes, I can.
Yes, I can manage my own affairs.
Yes, I can pay my way.
Yes, I can solve my own problems.
That also means that those who oppose independence have to say “No, I can’t” – a difficult position to defend.
You don’t have to be a Nationalist to say Yes
Sorry, Braveheart fans, but banging on about “fereedem” will get us beat. This is not about patriotism. It’s about a sensible, efficient and rational reordering of the administration of the United Kingdom. You see? I put the case there without mentioning nationalism, independence or even Scotland.
Target the message
Preaching to the choir is pointless. Those in favour of independence will be very motivated to get out and vote come the day. Trying to convert those who are implacably opposed to independence is also pointless.
As with all advertising strategies, a win will come only from swaying the undecided. All messages and campaigning resources need to be targeted at them. They need to be reassured that what is being proposed is rational and straightforward.
Thanks to their incredibly integrated marketing, the SNP will have access to a vast amount of data about voting patterns. It’s harder to predict from demographics where someone stands on a single issue than on party choice, but that intelligence gives a great platform on which to build a sophisticated Yes campaign.
And the messages those voters will respond to have to be calm and sensible.
Independence is not about party politics
To win, the Yes campaign needs the backing of Labour, Lib Dem and Tory voters as well as Nats, Greens and whatever the far Left are calling themselves this week.
The Lib Dems’ desire for federalism sits well with a modern view of independence. Scottish Labour voters will be uneasy with the privatised hellhole being created by Westminster. And there are strong Conservative reasons for supporting independence: if you like small government then surely you welcome (a) the removal of two weighty tiers of it in the Houses of Commons and Lords and (b) the fiscal responsibility inherent in independence.
The Yes campaign will be backed heavily by the SNP, but to succeed it must reach to people of all political persuasions.
She’s a national treasure, use her. As the cliché runs: Alex Salmond is the biggest beast in the Scottish political jungle. But Margo MacDonald is the most loved.
Silence of the bams
The No campaign will take every opportunity to brand Indepentistas as boggle-eyed, paranoid racists obsessed with mediaeval power struggles.
And, online, some nationalists will play right into their hands. If I were a No campaign strategist, I’d crawl over every utterance of every cybernat on every bulletin board to build a picture of slavering demonic eBrownshirts waiting to usher the unpatriotic into re-education camps.
Not every pro-independence person online is a cybernat. Not every cybernat is a nutter. But every time a nutter goes off on one then we lose one, five, ten votes. So if you see someone ranting about Bannockburn, the fiery cross or John McTernan, have a word. (I like John. He’s the Neil Lennon of the Scottish political commentariat: gobby, sharp as a tack and a genius at winding up his opponents.)
On a similar note, the No campaign needs to say a quiet “No thank you” to any donations from Brian Souter. Mr Souter’s funding of a “referendum” to keep the homophobic clause 2A (aka section 28) means he is anathema to many progressives. Some 5 per cent of the Scottish population are LGBT. The Yes campaign cannot afford to alienate that many voters for the sake of a few bucks. There are many other people worldwide who will be happy to donate money to the cause of independence, just as there are many south of the Border who will fund the No campaign.
So, ca’ canny, stay calm and responsible. Treat opponents and their arguments with respect or you personally might be the Yes campaign’s “Sheffield moment”: