Blossom is an account of Scotland at the grassroots through the stories of people I’ve had the good fortune to know – the most stubborn, talented and resilient people on the planet. They’ve had to be. Some have transformed their parts of Scotland. Some have tried and failed. But all have something in common – they know what it takes for Scotland to blossom. We should know too. So this book poses a question as important as the one Scots must answer on 18 September 2014. Why is Scotland still the most unequal society and sickest man (and woman) of Europe despite an abundance of natural resources and a long history of human capacity? Facts and figures are a vital part of any story. But they don’t bring Scotland’s dilemma alive. They don’t explain why people with choices act as if they had none. They don’t explain why Scots over the centuries have put on weight, not democratic muscle. They don’t explain why cash and socialist tradition have failed to shift poverty. They don’t explain why some Scots trash Scotland while others tiptoe round the place like it’s only rented for the weekend. Why don’t ordinary Scots behave like the permanent, responsible owners of this beautiful country? Is it because we are not the owners – and never have been?
For all the talk about being Jock Tamson’s bairns, Scotland is a surprisingly elitist society where a relatively small number of people own land, run businesses, own wealth, stand for election and run government. The result is a deep-seated belief that ordinary Scots cannot own and run things, don’t want to own and run things and indeed that it hardly matters who does. It matters. It matters so much that talented folk still leave Scotland instead of pushing for fundamental change. Well-intentioned public servants scour the universe for an explanation of the Scottish Effect (where Scots health is consistently worse than English counterparts in areas with similar levels of deprivation). Perhaps the answer is simple. Perhaps the sheer stultifying burden of disempowerment has finally caught up with us all.
Imagine Scottish culture as a beautifully-knitted, warmth-providing, well-constructed and substantial jumper snagged on a bit of barbed wire. Its wearer tries to move forward – but cannot. A pause is needed to lift the garment clear. Scotland is thus snagged. And no amount of pulling away at the problem will get us off this stubborn, progress-inhibiting hook …
To hear more and meet the author, come to Riddle’s Court, Thursday, August 22nd: book here.
Join the banter with one of the most outspoken writers in the world of independent Scottish writing. Debates and discussions with Luath author Lesley Riddoch (Blossom: What Scotland Needs To Flourish). The Royal Mile Book Fringe captures lively voices and stimulates debate.