Fired for the fray

March 21, 1997

The outcome of the recent Oxford Union debate, which voted not to give the Scots or Welsh their own parliaments, came as no surprise to Allan Macartney, the Scottish National Party MEP who has just become rector of Aberdeen University. "I vividly recall as a young and very nervous student, second year, speaking in the university union, in another place, at a mock election," Dr Macartney said in his installation address.

"When I stood up to speak as president of the university nationalist club, an Old Etonian accent shouted down from the gallery the immortal put-down: 'Haggis! Wee Frees!' I do wonder if there has been any progression of thinking these past 40 years on the playing fields of Eton."

The vote of thanks was given by Rhona Flin, who had her own theory as to why she had been chosen. "Given that the university's 500-year history documents previous rectorial installations as rowdy affairs characterised by the throwing of peas, fireworks and old boots (students could afford fireworks, peas and old boots in 1881), then I could only assume that my selection for this task was sealed when the senate discovered that my specialist subject is the psychology of emergency command," she said.

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