Blossom: What Scotland Needs to Flourish

9781908373694An extract from Lesley Riddoch’s new book:

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.

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  1. Douglas says:

    The above mentioned inferiority complex runs so deep, that you have this outlandish situation at present whereby, by my rough calculation, approximately eight or nine out of every 10 of top Scottish arts jobs go to people who have never lived in Scotland and are unfamiliar with its culture. This is wrong, unfair and has a demoralising effect on the people who work in the arts in Scotland. It is insulting and totally insensitive, it’s just not right at all.

    This contrasts with places like Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia, where you need to know the local language to get a job as a secretary, let alone a top arts administrator. The Catalans don’t go running to Madrid or Mexico D.F to find somebody to run their arts institutions. Why would they do that? The Catalans have seny, which I would translate as shrewdness of maybe just common sense, whereas we Scots are just plain stupit.

    This situation has not been reversed by the first ever SNP absolute majority government, on the contrary they have perpetuated it which is truly a surprise. The SNP govt could be New Labour for all the changes they’ve made in this regard. The SNP have also launched H..M.S Creative Scotland, otherwise known as the Titanic, the biggest cultural vessel to sail the seas and one on route to the iceberg of the whole referendum campaign, which is the possible disengagement of leading Scottish artists from YES on the grounds that the SNP have completely failed them.

    The YES campaign also suffers from the same inferiority complex apparently, or that is the only conclusion to be drawn from their disowning of Alasdair Gray, an individual who has done as much as any individual has to get us where we are, and who YES should have defended through hell and high water. At the very least, somebody from YES might have read Writers Unstated and explained the context Gray made his comments in.

    And you can see the same inferiority complex about the perception of the referendum debate itself. As if Better Together were ever going to run a positive campaign! They are unable to do that, they have nothing to offer: the tail never wags the dog. But that doesn’t mean the debate isn’t good, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on around the debate.

    No doubt there is a superior debate going on in the Nordic territories, yes, no doubt we in Scotland are living in the dark ages of debating, compared to those superior Scandinavians who are probably engaging in the much sought after enhanced debate which so many hanker for here, leisurely sitting back and enjoying their superior debate while we girn and greet over here in Scotland.

  2. annie says:

    “Perhaps the sheer stultifying burden of disempowerment has finally caught up with us all.”

    Well, I very much doubt it’s that considering that most social improvements have been brought about by working class radicals (the ones who weren’t forced to leave because the establishment wouldn’t give them jobs!). I suspect the ‘Scottish Effect’ that the established order like to hold up to ‘us’ as being culturally inferior is more to do with epigenetics, which ultimately means that we were much more screwed over in the past – culturally, socially and economically than our English counterparts in areas with similar levels of deprivation.

    Maybe if we stopped listening to bullshit and lies by past/present UK governments and UK media and every other UK institution, we might wake up to the fact no one OWNS Scotland, not even small patches of it – we’re simply the caretakers of a beautiful people and her environment.

  3. jdmankj says:

    I think your criticism of the SNP douglas is a bit unfair
    when your standing so close to a behemoth its difficult to know just how vast it is and the extent to which it overwhelms all our lives, the SNP at least have taken that first step (which is all they ever could have done anyway) into another Scottish renaissance for which we should be grateful for, not criticising them for not being able to take the huge strides which we (as an independent nation ) are capable of.

    1. Douglas says:

      jdmankj, my criticism of the SNP is related to Creative Scotland and its Board of Directors, who have been providing the country with a steady supply of entertainment which the comedians of the nation can only dream of, an “unintended outcome”, shall we say.

      The same people who appointed a man as CEO of Creative Scotland who blithely confessed to knowing nothing about Scottish culture – that might have been a question for the Human Resource department to pencil in for the interviewing process – should not have been given a second chance, for all the grovelling letters they might want to write to hold onto their jobs. .

      You don´t have to be Leonardo Da Vinci to be an arts administrator you know. And I have no doubt that the Scots are a nation of no-hopers and incompetents when it comes to running the arts, who can doubt it? The question is, are the arts administrators who have been working in Scotland for years any any more incompetent and hopeless than those who know nothing at all about Scotland and haven’t even been here on holiday? I doubt that.

      In any case, once we get independence, I look forward to the first SNP applying the same “we will leave no stone unturned to get the right man for the job” philosophy to the first Scottish independent government as they do in the case of the arts in Scotland, so we can probably expect Alec Salmand to stand aside for some crack politician from the Falkland Islands, and John Swinney to make way for some financial wizard from Gibraltar or South Africa.

      As for the Law Society of Scotland, I expect they’ll start accepting Law firms who work in Russian, Chinese and Swedish law and who never even knew that Scots Law existed as such (“Scots Law? Oh, really? I thought it was just another branch of English law”)….

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