Leading article: Monster myths

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Thank goodness, you might say, it was in the 1930s, long before Scottish devolution had – to coin a phrase – reared its head. The sight of another head, reared periodically in a Scottish lake, was causing a stir, with Scots more inclined than London officials to believe that it was attached to a mysterious creature of the deep.

But the most touching revelation to emerge from the official Loch Ness monster archive is the protective instinct of the Scots. Reports that a dastardly London couple, armed with a special harpoon gun, had recruited a posse to hunt it down, were met by a plea from the local police chief to the Scottish Office for support in ensuring its preservation. The result was a gentle warning to the monster-hunters of London about "the desirability of having the creature left alone".

Imagine a similar situation today. Nessie would be the ultimate test of devolved power. Would the Scots be left to protect their own, or would there be an unseemly scramble between Westminster departments – Scotland, Environment, Defence, Tourism – for the honour? Then picture the combined force of animal rights campaigners and SNP provisionals patrolling the shores of the Loch. And the Sassenach posse on the march. As we say, it's a good thing the myth was busted in 1994. Or was it?

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