Restless Land: A people’s narrative of Scottish history


RESTLESS NATIVES: co-author Alan McCombes with Pat Kane at Restless Land’s launch at the STUC in Glasgow

coverBook launch: Restless Land by Alan McCombes and Roz Paterson, published by Calton Books and distributed by AK Press by Frances Curran It was a book launch but not as we know it. A hot night in Glasgow for a start, a full house in the middle of the ‘Glesga fair’. No agents, no critics, just a collection of people there to welcome a book which is long overdue. A book that leaves the kings and queens and lairds on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, staring down from high places – this is a history of Scotland with a people’s narrative. The book is Restless Land by Alan McCombes and Roz Paterson. 

Unusual times, the room is full of people, political activists and campaigners, old friends and new, who have come not to clash but to collaborate. A fund of good will hangs over the room, those speaking and who have read the book taking ownership of parts of this untold narrative, a radical history of this land – Scotland. I was touched by Jeanne Freeman’s comments, I could identify with her initial take, she was a city dweller and although, yeah she cares about ‘the land’ it was in an abstract way. In reading Restless Land she said the land and its history is important, that what happened to our land all that time ago matters and it matters because it tells us who we are. I heard echoes of how displaced African friends have talked of their land.

Natalie McGarry enthused me to read Restless Land as she described a journey through school and university which omitted or perhaps hid this untold story of our history, especially the history of our sisters – the women who made this history. I have come to know Jeanne and Natalie through Women for Indy. Normally our political activism would have continued along tram lines never meeting, this space for tolerant and encouraging collaboration of ideas, not always in agreement, but with a genuine intent to debate not posture is making a new politics, I hope! Roz couldn’t be there but sent a message encapsulating not the past but the future and the possibilities for our children to learn from our past, ownership of our history, but to make a new future, a Scotland inclusive, equal, benefiting all her people.

Rosie Kane and brothers Tam and Andy provided the entertainment. Rosie’s parody of I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Vote No (Oklahoma) was hilarious but you’ll just have to book her for your meeting/event to hear it for yourself! Alan McCombes my long, long time friend and collaborator is so self-effacing; the whole purpose of how and why he writes is to make socialist ideas accessible. From a leaflet to a book, he wants ordinary people to be able to get it. Politics and academia have a language to keep people out Alan’s writing intends and succeeds in bringing people in.

He addressed a few questions put to him by Pat Kane, are we really a mongrel nation, Bannockburn – did it matter for the ordinary people and their fate wasn’t it just one king fighting another king, isn’t it the case that the Act of Union was progressive for Scotland, otherwise we would have been left a backward nation economically and politically? If you want the answers, read the book or the review in the next issue. I did have to have a wry smile to myself though watching Pat Kane trying to keep Alan’s answers to time. We socialists, women campaigners, lefties and general progressive types need more of this sort of thing. Good humour, good camaraderie, inspiring ideas and engaging insights. Oh, and a book. Cava and canapés were available. If it wasn’t for the DIY publishing of radical bookshop Calton Books, none of this would have been possible. A huge thanks to Robert Rae and Brian Lewis.

• The next Voice will carry a review of Restless Land – available now for Kindle, at Amazon, via and from Calton Books, 159 London Road, Glasgow

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