Reap The Whirlwind: A Review Of Iain Macwhirter’s Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution…

Tsunami.270There can be little doubt that Iain Macwhirter is one of the most important political commentators of our historic times. You may or may not agree with his editorial stance, but there are few  who share the breadth of knowledge and understanding of his subject. This allows him to put Scotland’s politics into clear context which, when married to a sense of perspective and a winning  writing style, makes his work accessible to all.

Macwhirter’s 2013 book Road to Referendum looked at the historic and cultural background to 2014’s historic vote, and his follow-up Disunited Kingdom was one of the more thoughtful and insightful reactions to the Scottish Independence Referendum, the ‘No’ result and the underlying political trends. When all around him were losing their heads, Macwhirter managed to give a detailed account of the key events in the immediate run up to the Referendum and make it engaging despite readers being all too aware of how that particular book ends.

Now, with Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution, he attempts to contextualise the astonishing events surrounding the 2015 General Election; the all-conquering SNP, the demise and near death of Scottish Labour, and what the future is likely to hold for Scotland as its people and politicians react to such a seismic shift in the political landscape. You may feel you already know this story with it being so recent, but Macwhirter gets behind the scenes while remaining apart. He is a political journalist who, while never hiding his own point of view, is able to see all sides, particularly when it comes to the illogical or hypocritical. This is already borne out in his regular Herald and Sunday Herald columns, and those earlier books I mentioned, but it seems to me that Tsunami: Scotland’s Democratic Revolution sees him relax as a writer and allow his personality to come through more than it has previously.

Continue reading

We Have Lift-Off: A Preview Of The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015…

image.phpFor the past decade or so, I’ve been counting down my years in Edinburgh Book Festivals rather than birthdays. It’s a much less painful system, it means over two weeks of celebration, and the real birthday is in there somewhere for traditionalists.

While the Fringe rages all around it, this festival is an oasis of bookish bonhomie populated by like-minded folk, all obsessed with the written word. The festival team know they have a formula which works, so don’t overly tinker with it. The secret of that success? Invite the best writers available and get them to talk about their books all in the one place. What could be better?

This year it all happens between the 15th – 31st August, and, as usual, there’s far too much of the good stuff to mention it all here. I suggest reading the whole programme at edbookfest.co.uk, but not before you’ve read Scots Whay Hae’s preview of this year’s festival.

Scotland’s greatest writers are out in force, with  Ali Smith and John Burnside leading the way on the opening weekend. If you have to beg, borrow and steal to see those two (and you may have to) then no jury in the land would convict you. Janice Galloway has a new collection of short stories, Jellyfish, which I highly recommend and she is always worth listening to.  Others include previous SWH! podcast guests Louise Welsh, James Robertson, and Karen Campbell whose latest novel Rise is one of the best of the year so far. Michel Faber appears on the 29th, the author of Under the Skin and last year’s unforgettable The Book of Strange New Things.  The day before, the equally charismatic Andrew O’Hagan will be talking about the inspiration behind his latest novel The Illuminations.

Continue reading