Scott-Land, The Man who Invented a Nation should be on your summer reading list. Perhaps not the novel you were intending to pack, but you will not regret taking time to read it. My mother and I went to the launch of this book in the splendour of the Library at Scott’s home, Abbotsford House. It was a relatively small gathering. Amongst the guests were a number of well known politicians (I’ll leave you to guess from which party), who gathered to hear how Sir Walter Scott invented our nation. In the words of the author Stuart Kelly (who kindly autographed my book)
Almost anything we now consider culturally, even nationally, Scottish has its roots in what Scott did and wrote. From language to dress, from how others see us to how we see ourselves, from tourists to the cash they spend, is all Scott’s doing – he was the man who forced the Treasury to allow the Scottish banks to keep printing their own notes, during the financial meltdown of 1825: it’s why his face is still on Bank of Scotland tenners.
Waverley, his novel on the Jacobite uprising of 1745, is one of the fastest selling books ever. Not even JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame can match his commercial success as a writer. He is the man who invented the Gathering of the Clans, for the visit of King George 1V to Edinburgh in 1822 and made Highland Culture the shorthand for Scottish Culture. As Kelly so succinctly puts it
His writing changed the entire world’s perception of Scotland, and Scotland’s perception of itself. As the German author Theodore Fontane wrote, “What would we know of Scotland without Sir Walter Scott?”
if you want to understand modern Scotland in all its’ contradictions, then this is the book to read this summer- how one man from the Scottish Borders invented a nation. His novels are never likely to regain their popularity but his enormous influence can be seen in every advert to visit Scotland.