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And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson

Taking four years to research, Robinson has produced a political saga interwoven and interpreted by a huge array of characters representing all walks of life stretching throughout the latter half of 20th century Scottish politics from the end of the Second World War to Scottish devolution. This will be familiar ground for Scots who lived through the events, maybe with fierce passions on both sides, but those who didn’t experience them at first hand, such as myself sitting in London, may be constantly driven to forays into Google – a lazy but satisfying introduction to, or revision of, recent Scottish politics. Remember the rise and fall of Winnie Ewing, Margo Macdonald, the closing of Ravenscraig, history of the theft and return of the Stone of Destiny, the poetry and political affiliation of Hugh MacDiarmid.

This isn’t the picturesque ‘Monarch of the Glen’ Scotland of lochs and grouse moors. Rather it is centred on the urban belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow, severely hit by the decline in traditional Scottish industries, particularly mining.

The history is experienced by a large cast of characters – the criminal, partly redeemed by a stint in the armed forces; the extreme political activist unable to maintain a relationship; the honest, hardworking, decent Burmese war veteran; the kilted Belgian school teacher turned Scottish romantic; the stereotypical landowning Scottish Tory MP with the fatal flaw of a foot fetish, ultimately betrayed by his vengeful daughter but retaining a certain dignity in his downfall; the alcoholic Scottish journalist spook recruited by M15 to report on political events.

Don’t be put off by the length of the book – over 600 pages – or any overtly political message. It is a good and satisfying read whatever your political persuasions and maybe particularly appropriate now with an election looming in the context of the Salmond/Sturgeon fracas.

Reviewed by a Library member. We have a copy of this in the Library.