Books by Lesley Riddoch


A place beyond

Victorian visitors had shooting lodges – Scots had

trips doon the watter.

Norwegian citizens had hytte – Scots had 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

Some stories bear repetition. They are that important, that impactful yet weirdly, many are also that unknown. After a long involvement with the Isle of Eigg Trust I found myself describing the journey to their historic community land buyout in 1997, over and over again. It was the same with bold moves by communities like West Whitlawburn and determined individuals like Tommy Riley of the Drumchapel Men’s Health Project. Folk were fascinated by their stories, amazed they’d never heard them and keen to know more. So, Blossom was born. Rapidly, I began to see a connection between all the pioneers I’d encountered over 25 years as a journalist. All folk who’d become determined to renew and manage their own communities - even if experts ‘knew better’ and even if they ultimately failed. As the independence referendum beckoned it seemed important to get the message out there.

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 dismantle it.

  • Karine Polwart

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

    Karine Polwart singer/songwriter

  • Elaine C Smith

    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

     Elain C Smith, actress, comedian, and political activist

  • Jenny Kemp

    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

  • Paul Hutcheon

    Blossom confirms Lesley Riddoch’s reputation as one of our top campaigning journalists

    Paul Hutcheon, Herald

  • Pat Kane

    Reading Lesley Riddoch's Blossom is like inhaling fjord air after being trapped in a sweaty backroom. Just brilliant

    Pat Kane, singer and columnist

  • David Greig

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

    David Greig, playwright. 

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.



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