There was sparkling water for the MSPs and glasses of wine for the rest of us. A book launch in Edinburgh is a nice night out, especially when the book has been written by a friend. Even when that book is a serious and sobering deconstruction of Glasgow.
The Tears that Made the Clyde by Carol Craig has the subtitle Well-Being in Glasgow but no-one is in any doubt what that really means. I haven’t read it yet but judging from last night’s speeches this is a devastating look at the causes and effects of generations of chronic ill health – and the chronic inequality at the root of it all. But there is no room for any Edinburgh complacency. As Carol points out, while Glasgow’s health statistics are the worst in Europe, there are parts of Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee Stirling and even Perth which are no better. This is a story for the whole of Scotland.
Which of course is why there were MSPs at the launch in the very elegant Birlinn building in Newington Road. I should point out that the MSPs were allowed to have wine if they wanted. It was Birlinn publisher, Hugh Andrew, who noted that politicians opt for sparkling water when they are working next day, while the rest of us are free to fill our glasses (which most of us did). And I should also add that Tears that Made the Clyde is published by Argyll Publishing. It just so happens Hugh Andrew is a pal of Argyll publisher Derek Rodger so he offered his house (which is also the Birlinn office) for the Edinburgh launch.
The point is worth making because both publishers seem to share not just a passion for books but a mission to save Scotland’s soul by publishing them. Given the title and subject matter of Carol’s book there was a fair amount of serious discussion about the state Glasgow is in. But everyone was looking for a message of hope.
For Carol, hope is only possible if we accept we must reduce inequality by investing in the future’s of Scotland’s children. For Harry Reid, former editor of the Herald and proudly Glaswegian (if living in Edinburgh) there is a nice natural justice in the fact that the Necropolis cemetery – the last resting place of Glasgow’s wealthiest merchant princes – is now the happy drinking ground of the city’s dispossessed.
For Hugh Andrew and Derek Rodger salvation lies in publishing books that enlighten. I drank to that last night. Now I will read the book.