Culture Shock; SNP Minister Claims Glasgow Smells of Urine, Aberdeen Is Scary and Lanarkshire Is Grimy ... and He's Meant to Be PROMOTING Scotland

Daily Mail (London), February 24, 2009 | Go to article overview

Culture Shock; SNP Minister Claims Glasgow Smells of Urine, Aberdeen Is Scary and Lanarkshire Is Grimy ... and He's Meant to Be PROMOTING Scotland


Byline: John Robertson Scottish Political Reporter

THE Nationalist minister in charge of promoting Scotland abroad was under fire last night after it was revealed he once penned a heavily critical travel book about the country.

Mike Russell was handed the culture and external affairs brief in First Minister Alex Salmond's recent reshuffle and was also given the job of overseeing SNP plans to break up the UK.

But before he became an MSP, the former TV producer wrote a travel book in which he criticised towns and cities throughout Scotland.

His 1998 tome, In Waiting: Travels in the Shadow of Edwin Muir, includes a description of Glasgow as smelling of 'urine and rubbish' and warnings about 'dark corners' of Aberdeen that 'make passersby walk more quickly'.

He even compares a remote Scottish village to the 1970s movie Deliverance, about a group of tourists hunted down by violent hillbillies.

SNP chiefs yesterday denied that the book undermines Mr Russell as he attempts to promote the the country for the controversial Year of Homecoming..

Opposition MSPs, however, branded the comments 'arrogant and outrageous'.

The book - one of seven written by the South of Scotland MSP - describes Glasgow as having 'closes smelling of urine and rubbish, cluttered with dirt and debris. The walls are decorated with spray-paint graffiti and it is not uncommon to have to step over a comatose body, with or without a needle by its side.'

Of Aberdeen, he says: 'It feels no more hospitable than when I first came here - there is still a snell wind that blows through the town and dark corners by the harbour that make passers-by walk more quickly.' The flag over Edinburgh Castle is 'an awful mutant tablecloth' and the National Trust for Scotland is 'arrogant' and 'elitist'.

He is even less impressed with Lanarkshire, claiming: 'There is something dirty about the roads.

Even the country lanes have a sort of grimy edge to them.' And after visiting a pub in Wanlockhead, Dumfriesshire, Mr Russell says: 'The scene might have been set for a Scottish version of the Deep South tourist terror movie Deliverance.' Meanwhile, of Dumfries - in his own constituency - he writes: 'The town centre...has the usual sprinkling of chain stores and the usual complement of skinny, illdressed women in their early twenties who seem to hover around cheap Scottish shops like importuning wraiths.

'These are the marginal people of Scottish society, existing on poorly paid part-time jobs or inadequate benefits, living from night out to night out. …

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