We’ve been hearing for years now that we are living through a golden age of Scottish literature. The former MSP Allan Wilson referred to this renaissance when introducing the National Cultural Strategy in 2001. The Scottish Arts Council’s head of literature invoked it at a prizegiving in 2005. Professor Willy Maley, in an essay published in 2008, wrote: “Either Scotland is enjoying a Golden Age of Letters, or it’s got a brass neck like a tuba.” Even a critic as perceptive as Robert Crawford opens his history of Scottish literature with the claim that the world “disproportionately enjoys” Scottish writing. The same grandiloquence can be found everywhere in Scottish culture at the moment: we “punch above our weight”, there is an “unprecedented explosion” and a “remarkable efflorescence” of writing. It goes without saying that all those who claim this have a vested interest in promoting the idea of Scotland’s exceptional status.I know from personal experience that confessing to any scepticism about the golden age is unlikely to win me many friends. I fully expect to be upbraided as a quisling and a pawn of that nebulous and nefarious entity, the London literary establishment.
Ah, the old pre-emptive strike tactic. You sly devil. I can say nary a thing without you pointing a finger of triumph and saying, “Ah?!”