BETWEEN the result of the EU referendum, and Donald Trump’s election to the White House, my partner and I decided to move to Scotland. We arrived from England as Trump took power and have now been here for two and a half years.

I came for positive reasons: a life-long love of the country, and ancestral links (my father’s middle name was McKenzie, and so is mine), but there were negatives too.

The EU referendum result troubled me because so much of the campaign had been dishonest, and the thought of Trump presiding over the free world was disturbing to say the least. There is no escape from either of these, but Scotland felt, and still feels, like a place of forthright views, of optimism. Scots have a pragmatic and enlightened approach to the environment and lend appreciation of and support to the arts. This is refreshing, a bulwark against some of the aggravations of modern politics.

I realize these are the views of an outsider coming into Scotland, and no doubt they will be modified or improved with time, but they are enough for now. I have made the move and I’m here to stay.

I’m a writer, a novelist, the occupation of my whole adult life. I’ve managed to make a living for half a century, although for a long time it was only by the skin of my teeth.

A writer’s life can look dull from the outside, with long periods of apparent inactivity. Much time is spent delving into books.

What does one read, and why? I follow instincts, a sudden whim or curiosity about a title or author, someone I’ve heard mentioned, something that intrigued me.

Only when I’m researching for a particular project do I focus on a subject, or target a kind of writing. At the moment, while I’m between novel projects, I’m reading widely: high, middle and low. Brow, that is.

For the last month or so I have been exploring the subject of climate change, more properly described as a climate catastrophe. Like most people I have a general awareness of the critical problem, with a guilty feeling that there seems nothing I can do about it. Reading about it doesn’t solve anything, but you can’t tackle a problem until you start to understand it.

Last week, as summer temperatures hit a record high in the UK and across Europe, I was reading The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells. This is a book which tackles climate catastrophe head-on. Some reviewers described it as depressing and frightening.

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So it is, but it’s also calmly and intelligently written, backed up by good science and forensic logic. Although it’s difficult to accept such concentrated bad news, sooner or later we all must. The lives of our children, and theirs, and theirs are at risk. Information is a strength.

While England and the near continent sweltered intolerably in the high 30s and 40s, here in west Scotland we had a series of lovely days, with warm peaceful evenings. Our move northwards, therefore, seemed superficially to be a solution to the increasing heat, but of course, that was just luck. Anyway, the real climate catastrophe is an appalling mix of many serious problems, of which a rising temperature is but one.

My current paperback novel is called An American Story and is largely set on the Scottish island where I now live. It is also set two or three years in the future. Global warming is not a main feature, but because it is the near future there are a couple of assumptions of other things that might have changed. One of them is that by then Scotland will have remained in, or rejoined, the EU.


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This is not necessarily what I think will happen, but I have flown to Europe several times since living here. Derived from those flights one small personal hope is spelt out. In An American Story, I made Scotland part of the Schengen Area. Flights to almost anywhere in Europe (but not to England) have in my book become passport-free.

Could it happen? We wait and see. For now, I wish to be remembered as the man who helped reduce the long queues at Glasgow Airport.

But we live not in a time of increasing convenience, but the era of referendums. I was interested to learn that the first referendum of modern times was held in Italy in 1860. At the time Italy consisted of many small states, most of which were quarrelling with each other. The extremely leading Yes/No question lacked even a question mark. This is what it said: "The people wish Italy to be one and indivisible with Vittorio Imannuele as their Constitutional King and his legitimate descendants after him."

It succeeded, and Italy was united, but history doesn’t record the splits between the Yes’s and No’s that must inevitably have followed.

In 2014, when I was an Englishman living in England, I had no vote in the independence referendum, but I hoped secretly and privately that it would fail. I have always valued and loved the Scottish influence on our complicated country, and I didn’t want to lose it.

Now I am here, and suddenly things are different. My perspective, loyalties, long-term commitments have all changed gear. In short, I have become a don’t know, at least for now, and if a second independence question arises I will wait to hear the arguments on both sides.

I wish that were the case with the Brexit matter, but that seems a lost hope, a lost cause.

Episodes by Christopher Priest is published by Gollancz.