William McIlvanney impressed by independence hope

William McIlvanney said he was astonished by the positivity of independence supporters. Picture: Robert Perry
William McIlvanney said he was astonished by the positivity of independence supporters. Picture: Robert Perry
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WILLIAM McIlvanney, one of Scotland’s most revered authors, has been impressed by the continued “vibrancy and self-belief” of Scottish independence supporters since the referendum result, but he says he remains unconvinced by the SNP.

McIlvanney told Scotland on Sunday that he was “too quick to be dismayed” by the No vote in last year’s referendum and said he has been “astonished” at how “positive the aftermath has been” among supporters of independence.

The 78-year-old, who has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years after publisher Canongate reissued a swathe of his back catalogue to an appreciative new audience, added that although he remained a “hung jury” when it comes to the SNP, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made him “hopeful for the immediate future”.

McIlvanney’s life and work is the subject of a documentary which premieres at Glasgow Film Theatre tomorrow before being broadcast on BBC2 Scotland on Friday at 10pm.

Work is also under way on a television adaptation of Laidlaw, his seminal 1977 work. A pilot episode has been written by Stephen Greenhorn, the creator of River City, and is being produced by Company Pictures, the firm behind the adaptation of Wolf Hall.

In an interview, the author said that while he had “endured one winter of dispirit too many” in political terms, the positivity of independence supporters in the past five months had taken him aback.

“I was obviously disappointed in the result, but I wasn’t surprised,” he said.

“I went into George Square during the referendum and the vibrancy and self-belief was amazing, and that’s the same now even in defeat. That took me by surprise.”

McIlvanney, who describes himself as a “melancholy socialist”, also bemoaned the shifting roots of Labour and predicted a rout for the party come May.

“Like everyone else, I’m waiting to see what develops at the general election,” he said.

“I would think that Labour might be dead in the water – I could be wrong, but post Blair, the party’s been deracinated – it doesn’t know where its roots are. I don’t see how they get out of that.”

McIlvanney hopes to publish at least two more books in his lifetime, including a long-awaited fourth instalment of his Laidlaw series.

The writer is now working on several projects in a “mania of multiple activity that doesn’t go anywhere very fast”.

The projects include 
Personal Dispatches, a “fragmentary autobiography” he says has “haunted” him as he seeks to complete it.

William McIlvanney: Living With Words features the likes of Ian Rankin, Ali Smith and David Hayman reciting his work, along with conversations between McIlvanney and his sportswriter brother, Hugh, and Robbie MacInnes, a former Glasgow detective who helped him with Laidlaw.


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