Portraits from The Pinning Stones by Ray Smith

On Thursday, the residents of Scotland decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and establish their own state. Whatever your view of the possible outcomes, we should be thankful that negotiations are not being conducted with arms as they are now in Ukraine. Democracy has its failings, as elected demagogues (the irony!) never tire of saying, but it is still our best way of settling differences – provided we see it as a process, not an achievement.

If the referendum were not enough to keep Scotland in my mind just now, I’ve also been preparing a trip to Orkney to give a lecture about its culture, based on the research I did there in 2011. It is a wonderful place, unique in so many ways, and it will be great to be in Kirkwall again, though I’m conscious that I might be landing in a country that has just declared its will for independence.

And now, after a long delay, I can also share my study of culture and community in Aberdeenshire, completed last year. Aberdeenshire Council will publish The Pinning Stones in paperback this autumn, and I’m grateful to them for allowing me to make the digital version available prior to publication. Although there are evident similarities and connections between Orkney and the ancient lands of Banff, Buchan, Gordon and Kincardine, I was struck as ever by how unique each place is. What things look like is so often a matter of perspective and the closer you get the more you are struck by the particularity within the unity.

To download a digital copy of The Pinning Stones, Culture and Community in Aberdeenshire, click on the links:

In the past 20 years, I’ve been fortunate to work in many parts of Scotland: in Glasgow, Aberdeen, the Western Isles, the Highlands, Argyll, the Borders and elsewhere. I’ve met many generous and creative people,  learned a great deal and grown to appreciate the diversity of place, life and culture that lies behind the single word ‘Scotland’. Whatever happens on 18 September, this is a nation and a people with so much to celebrate.

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