Iain MacWhirter has come a long way from when I first knew him – propping up the bar in Henderson’s pub in Thistle Street, back in the 1980’s. Then, he was a precociously talented and intuitively assured member of BBC Edinburgh’s News & Current Affairs team, specializing in Scottish politics. 

Nowadays, he is properly recognised as arguably Scotland’s most astute political journalist, casting his clever eye over the shifting sands of the Scottish political landscape. And it’s that ever-evolving terrain that never fails to surprise and amaze him that he writes about so authoratively in The Herald & The Sunday Herald.

Now in the presence of a packed and captive Book Festival audience, he gives us the benefit of his political wisdom, as he assesses Scotland’s move into unknown territory. The fact that on the night, there was barely an empty seat is testimony enough to his respected reputation, and breadth of his readership. Going by the overall tone of his conversation with interviewer Richard Holloway, MacWhirter still appears to be largely bewildered and astonished at such a seismic shift in the political affiliations of the Scottish populace.

His first book analysed the story of Scotland’s road to the Referendum. His new book takes up the story, by focusing on how the union’s apparent victory has only sowed the seeds for its possible potential dissolution further down the line.

Following last year’s historic Referendum, the unionist status quo remained, despite the massive public turnout and accompanying media frenzy. However, it was the aftermath of that event that proved to be more astonishing in its impact.

MacWhirter has few peers as he casts a critical and observant glance over the changing parameters that have given Scottish politics its most radical and dramatic shake-up in over half a century. Even the recently unfolding events surrounding the Labour Party’s leader race and the sudden emergence (and almost deification) of Jeremy Corbyn offers up a faint echo of a re-energized nation, taking control and grabbing destiny with both hands.

Thank’s to MacWhirter’s avoidance of too much obscure political rhetoric, what was discussed for a generally gripped audience was clear and concise on a subject that is still hotly disputed and full of impassioned opinion.

This event turned out to be no stuffy, or overly complex political debate, but an intriguing examination of how Scotland as a nation has profoundly changed over the past year. As he asserted that in his view, there is no going back, with very little doubt that many more changes are lying up ahead. All told, this proved to be a fascinating hour’s discussion in which the political legacy of the past year in Scotland was entertainingly presented in all its strength and sharpened clarity.

Lawrence Lettice