By Mark Mclaughlin 

A SCOTTISH author hotly tipped to take the Man Booker Prize has said his book’s success could fuel Scotland’s booming “ancestral tourism” industry.

Graeme Macrae Burnet said his novel His Bloody Project, a historical tale of murder in a Highland croft that is outselling all of the other titles on the shortlist, has resonated among the Scottish diaspora around the world.

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Burnet’s fictional characters are introduced as though they are ancestors he discovered during family research.

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An estimated 50 million people worldwide claim Scottish ancestry and more than two-thirds of tourists cite genealogy and ancestral research as their motivation for travelling to Scotland, according to Visit Scotland.

Burnet has already seen a surge in interest in his novel from around the world since he was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.

Speaking ahead of the Booker announcement, Burnet said there is a “huge appetite” for family research in Scotland.

“I did a lot of background research for my own novel into the history and way of life of the Scottish crofting communities,” he said.

“I go to some lengths at the beginning of the book to make it appear as though I have found the documents and that they are real.

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“It was a challenge to write a character and get inside the head of a 17-year-old boy from 19th century Scotland.

“The regulations that ruled the crofters’ lives were very draconian, and the conditions they lived under were really dreadful.

“Scottish people were driven off the land in the 19th century, during the Highland Clearances, and many thousands of Scots went to America and Canada.

“You have Nova Scotia because there were so many Scottish people there.

“I work regularly in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, which has a whole floor devoted to family research, and people are always delving into that, so I think there is a fascination with the past layers of family history. I think people who are interested in that will enjoy a sort of fictional representation of the kind of conditions that some of their ancestors would have lived under.

“In fact, I have had readers tell me that, people who have family from the Highlands and they feel quite emotional about the way I have described the way that their forefathers might have lived.

“In 18th and 19th century Scotland, the Central Belt was very wealthy and had the Edinburgh enlightenment with many philosophers, poets and writers. Edinburgh was the seat of learning whereas Glasgow was the industrial hub of the British Empire.

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“But the Highlands, by contrast, remained quite economically backward with a kind of feudal system.

“So there was always the kind of snobbery from the Central Belt towards the crofting population who were viewed, to some degree, almost as savages or barbarians, uneducated people.

“You only focus in your writing on the story that you’re telling, but it is interesting when people say it resonates in some way with their own society, or an aspect of history, or a class division.”

The Man Booker Prize is announced tonight.