a packed crowd yesterday listened, rapt, to one of Scotland's most lauded writers and artists read for the first time from his eagerly awaited new tome on Scottish independence.
Introduced as "perhaps the greatest living writer in this archipelago today", Alasdair Gray, writer of Lanark and painter of portraits and murals, read from a just-written chapter from Independence: The Argument For Scottish Form of It, a book published in June by Canongate.
Slightly ruefully, the writer, whose book of memoirs, Of Me and Others, is also due to be released by Cargo publishers of Glasgow, said his completed manuscript for the book - a mix of history, theory, recollection and opinion - is due on Monday and he is working "very fast" to have it completed. He answered questions and expressed the opinion that England was "overwhelmingly Tory in its outlook" (a debatable point which was challenged from the floor), and that he hoped an independent Scotland would immediately address social and land reform, and get rid of nuclear weapons.
He also addressed his view of English "colonists and settlers" in cultural Scotland, on which his views remain largely unchanged, although he praised Vicky Featherstone, former leader of the National Theatre of Scotland and Simon Groom, director of the National Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. The venue, Bar Gandolfi in the Merchant City, was full to the brim for the final Literary Lunch arranged by Christopher Agee, the poet and current Literary Fellow of the University of Strathclyde.
Gray read a chapter on the discovery of oil in the North Sea, the Margaret Thatcher era, Nationalist campaigning for "Scotland's Oil", as well as the 1979 devolution vote, Donald Dewar, and the need for Scotland to establish its own oil fund.
Tackled on what Scotland leaving the UK could mean for the left or socialists in England, he said: "I have to be a bit of a localist. I really want a Scotland that joins something like the Northern League [the Nordic Council], the Scandinavian model."
Gray also expressed a desire for the referendum debate to move away from aggressive rhetoric. He said: "My own notion is that instead of going in for the Project Fear rhetoric … the Better Together folk should be urging for a new Act of Union between the Scottish and London parliaments.
"This new union could argue for better terms but not be broken."