As regular readers of this column will know, we recently ran the Dear Scotland, Indelible Ink Writing Competition, with no idea as to who would enter, or what they would send in. The prize was all 50 books which have appeared on these pages, and the only instructions were that pieces had to be under 600 words and about ‘Scotland’. The response was terrific in both quality and quantity (more than the none we expected, and less than the hundreds we feared, since you ask) and came from here, there and everywhere.

It wasn’t an easy job for the judges, who were novelist Nina de la Mer, writer and broadcaster Vic Galloway, and myself. But after some to-ing and fro-ing it was clear that there were three which stood apart from the rest, and we could just about agree as to where they ranked. They are, in reverse order, ‘Snowglobes’ by Max Scratchman, ‘Homesickness’ by Katriona Kerr and, our winner, ‘Promenade’ by James Carson, and they are all being published today for the first time.

Max’s ‘Snowglobes’ is a wonderful summary of a nation, outlining how the landscape and the people unite to provoke the strongest of emotions, and taking a fresh look at Scotland’s ‘stereotypes’, embracing them instead of rejecting them . Emotion, both positive and negative, drives ‘Homesickness’. It’s a fantastic depiction of the love/hate relationship which many of our entrants expressed, but none did it with such fervour and poetry as Katriona managed.

‘Promenade’ is a wonderful journey through Glasgow, and by extension, Scotland, moving from the past to the present, a voyage of discovery as our guide sees the city as if with new eyes, wondering at the sites he sees and the people he meets. Same as it ever was, yet always changing. And that’s what came across when you look at the entries to this competition as a whole; that people see Scotland as being something permanent, but always in flux. But enough from me, here are links to our three winners:

Promenade by James Carson

Homesickness by Katriona Kerr

Snow Globes by Max Scratchmann


I don’t want to speak for my fellow judges, but what I like about our winners is that their pieces are reflective, poignant and personal, yet they obviously spoke to something in all three of us. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Congratulations to Max, Katriona and particularly James. It really was closer than you can imagine.

There has been hasty talk about repeating this competition when we reach Indelible Ink #100, which means I only have another 50 to write (starting with Kirtsy Gunn’s ‘The Big Music’ next month). Already I’m keen to see how people’s views on Scotland will have changed by then.


All of these columns can now be found in one place over at Indelible Ink.

Further thoughts on Scottish books, film, music, comedy, theatre and the like can be found at scotswhayhae which now has a Facebook home.


Next Month’s Novel: New Zealand born Kirsty Gunn is one of Scotland’s best writers and it is an oversight on my part that she hasn’t yet appeared on these pages, but I will rectify that next month.


Her most recent novel, ‘The Big Music’, was many critics book of the year for 2012. Set against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands, it questions what it means to create, and specifically how the form of music relates to the culture which shapes it.