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Books by Lesley Riddoch


The Freedom To Flourish

Why won’t Scots simmer down?

Why batter on about independence when folk voted no a decade back?

After all. Scotland is not as populated as Yorkshire. Nor as wealthy as London.

But it’s also not as Conservative. Nor as suspicious of Europeans, keen on Brexit or willing to flog off public assets to the ruling party’s pals.

Put simply - and with or without Nicola Sturgeon at the helm - Scotland is a social democracy stuck in a Conservative state with no legal way out. A progressive North Atlantic nation steered by a Westminster government that’s preoccupied with regaining its lost imperial status.

Scotland is a former state with its own laws, education, universities, languages, welfare system, history and hang-ups - in short, another country.
And the British Isles will work better together when Scotland is governed by the folk who call it home. In Thrive, Lesley Riddoch makes an impassioned case for independence, weaving academic evidence with story, international comparison with anecdote, to explain why Scotland is ready to step forward as the world’s newest state.

‘Let’s cast aside pre-conceptions. Whichever way you voted in 2014 – if you were able – the world has changed, Europe has changed, the UK has changed (not in a good way) and now Scots need the freedom to change too.


A place beyond

Victorian visitors had shooting lodges – Scots had trips doon the watter.
Norwegian families got a hytte for life – Scots got a week in Butlins.

Why have locals in one of Europe's prime tourist destinations been elbowed off the land and exiled from nature for so long?

I’ve been pondering this since I rented a hill-top ex-shepherd’s bothy in the late 1980s and spent every other weekend heading for Aberdeenshire to find my ‘place beyond’ the world of work, noise and money, without running water, electricity or plumbing. Of course, I looked pretty weird in the eyes of most ‘modern’ Scots - but perfectly normal in Norway. After visiting hytte from the islands of Inner Oslo Fjord to the snowfields of the Arctic, I realised huts have shaped Norway into an outdoors, active, nature-oriented and healthy society. While the near total absence of huts in Scotland - uniquely for a country at our wooded latitude - has kept kids distant from nature, Scots cooped up in cities and modest wee holiday homes beyond the means of the average family. This book, traces my journey as an eccentric eighties lone hutter in Scotland, a hytte hopper in Norway and finally a researcher and huts activist on both sides of the North Sea. What I discovered surprised me. Scotland’s inter-war generations were actually hutting-daft and cycling, camping and socialism-crazy. Huts didn’t fail to be built in Scotland. They just failed to survive. That’s not just a shame. With modest wee country hideaways becoming highly sought-after refuges in our Covid-dominated future, the huts-free state of Scotland is a total scandal. 


What post-Brexit Scotland can learn from the Nordics

The late Paddy Bort was absolutely right. A few months after the European referendum in 2016, the Edinburgh University academic and Nordic Horizons stalwart predicted that Brexit would spark a renewed interest in Scotland’s small, successful wee neighbours.

Westminster has insisted that all British nations must leave together. But the Nordic countries and their devolved territories enjoy a veritable smorgasbord of relationships with the EU - doubtless there’s an arrangement in there that might suit Scotland too.

Would an independent Scotland need the support and shelter of full EU membership - or could the nation better stand at a distance or outside the EU altogether?

These questions have been faced and resolved by five Nordic nations and their autonomous territories within the last 40 years. Clearly, there's something for Scotland to learn.

So, our Nordic Horizons policy group organised a conference two months after the referendum with speakers from almost every Nordic nation - some like the Faroes are outside the EU, others like Norway are in the EEA ‘halfway house’ and others like Finland, are enthusiastic members of both the EU and its single currency. But would the wider Scottish public really be interested in what they had to say?

Paddy - ever the optimist - was certain that a book written by ‘our Nordic friends,’ and lightly edited by ourselves, would be popular. So, it proved, though Paddy died before publication.

We hope the combination of personal experience and expert insights give this book a hands-on feel that’s pragmatic and thought-provoking, challenging and instructive, full of amazing stories and useful comparisons - to enrich the debate about Scotland's post-Brexit future as a Nordic neighbour.


What Scotland needs to flourish

Blossom's message - Scots are not the sick men and women of Europe because of some innate, collective failing but because we inhabit Europe’s most centralised, top-down and unequal society and have not yet chosen to transform it.

Blossom's content - stories about the extraordinary people and communities who spent their lives trying to fix their wee corner of Scotland, in full knowledge that it'll be one step forward & three steps back. Until we tackle the big stuff.


  • Inspiring, galvanising analysis of the untapped potential of Scottish people power. Get a copy of BLOSSOM.

    Karine Polwart Singer songwriter
  • A brilliant, moving, well written, informative, important and valuable piece of work- just went online and bought a dozen copies to send out to pals and telling everyone about it

    Elaine C Smith, actress, comedian, and political activist
  • Reading Lesley Riddoch's Blossom is like inhaling fjord air after being trapped in a sweaty backroom. Just brilliant.

    Pat Kane, singer and columnist
  • To all undecideds in Scotland, and all progressives - just to everyone... read Lesley Riddoch's 'Blossom'. She just gets it.

    David Greig, playwright.
  • Blossom confirms Lesley Riddoch’s reputation as one of our top campaigning journalists

    Paul Hutcheon, Herald
  • It’s brilliant – every politician in the land should be made to read the chapter on inequality. I love the human stories in the book, but it’s rich with evidence too. The most engaging social policy book I’ve read in ages (ever?)

    Jenny Kemp, Zero Tolerance Campaign

Riddoch on the Outer Hebrides

Cycling up the Hebrides in the summer of 2006, to record a 13-part series for BBC Radio Scotland called “On the Bike,” I had modest aims -- to stretch my legs and spend some time away from mobile phones, emails, and deadlines.

I experienced that - and so much more.

Hermetically sealed in a car the visitor moves too fast from A to B, and is underwhelmed at either end. No serendipity, no downhill descents into dodgy sheep-grids, no conversations at bus shelters, no skirling bagpipes wafting from island games. Above all no release from driving -- the normal daily habit that keeps curious minds in the vice-like grip of normal, everyday behaviour.

Instead, on the bike, I spent weeks in touch with two great natural phenomena. The sea, never more than a few miles distant. And the people, repositories of Scotland’s collective psyche.

I landed on Barra, in June, with my transit-driving companion Maxwell MacLeod. The plan was that the van would carry heavy editing equipment and extra bikes, while leap-frogging up the “Long Island” from Barra to the Butt of Lewis, I would interview folk with skills, insights and stories – the sort of people who fascinate but cannot be coaxed into a studio. So, the great and good are not featured in this book – but the characters who let me glimpse their fascinating Hebridean world are the reason I still head back every year.