August 28, 2013
Despite all the impressive examples of local people taking charge of their own affairs and tackling some of the most pressing problems in society, as a country we continue to be blighted by chronic ill health, obesity and wealth inequalities. What in the system is wrong? What seems to be holding us back? In her new book, Blossom : What Scotland Needs To Flourish, Lesley Riddoch seeks answers to these questions and more by drawing on some of the most inspirational stories from around the community sector.
This book should be of interest to folk in housing, rural housing and community development, the women’s movement, nature and hutting, culture, language and health – there are chapters on housing, land, access to natural resources, language, women, culture and local life. Here’s a wee extract;
“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?
“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.
Devolved or independent, Scotland must belong to its people – to have, hold, inhabit, farm, walk, plant, hunt, develop, mine, explore and even accidentally damage – not to small, self-selecting social groups. The bad news is that such change runs counter to some inherited outlooks. The good news is that it can be done.”
Blossom describes the pioneering community buyout on Eigg; the brave decision by West Whitlawburn tenants to take over their crumbling hi-rise estate; the 20 year project by Perthshire ecologists to prove arid, sporting estates can become verdant woodland, the unconventional methods used by obstetrician Mary Hepburn to reach Scotland’s sickest, drug-using mothers, the story behind the Scotswoman & Harpies and Quines and much more. Weaving in comparisons with the Nordic nations, I’m trying to show that ordinary Scots have demonstrated their capacity to run their own lives time after time – yet Scotland remains a remarkably elitist, top-down, centralised, “stand there till we fix you” sort of society.
The book’s official launch is Sept 4th, Jam House, Queen St, Edinburgh – tickets are free via http://riddochblossom.eventbrite.co.uk/ and there is a bar and (modest) swally.
Do come along if you can and let others know.
I’d be very grateful.