"The Scottish Nationality Test" by Cameron McPhail takes as its background the current debate in Scotland about the possibility of independence, combined with the possible (if rather unlikely) impacts on the country of global warming. Competition, it suggests, "will be fierce for a home in the New Scotland and many will unfortunately be disappointed not to secure a place in our Garden of Eden." The Scottish Nationality Test is intended to allow the Scottish Government to decide who should be admitted, and who should not.
Don't worry, what could seem to be slightly xenophobic overtones in all of this are played exclusively for laughs. What this scenario affords the author is the opportunity (or should that be opperchancity?) to explore in a new context many of the traditional stereotypes that have been staples of Scottish humour for decades, or even generations. And to add in some fascinating fresh material.
The book is divided into a series of sections, from Gender Studies and Scottish Language all the way through to Scottish Sports Studies. Within each section the reader is presented with a series of multi-choice questions. All the answers are in the appendix, and in most cases the value of the joke comes from the interplay of the questions and the often unexpected answers. This does mean a fair bit of juggling between different parts of the book, but the effect is worth it.
Author Cameron McPhail is described as "a once staid banker turned humorist", and he was employed in a senior position in the Royal Bank of Scotland before leaving after falling out with its somewhat notorious chief executive Fred Goodwin. Parts of the "Business and Banking" section of the book relate to Fred Goodwin's subsequent fall from grace, and here the book takes on a satirical edginess that will feel familiar to readers of "Private Eye." In a similar vein are questions about the views of Scots on the war in Iraq, and the 2010 General Election. It is the interweaving of this fresh material with more predictable (but essential in any book of Scottish humour) topics such as the poor showing of Scotland's football team and the tensions between the cultures of Edinburgh and Glasgow that help lift this book and mark it as a little out of the ordinary.