Sadly, Roz Paterson, one of the co-authors of Restless Land died on the morning on Monday May 6 after a brave and inspirational battle against cancer. We carry below a tribute from Alan McCombes, which was published in the Sunday National newspaper on May 12.
ROZ SHOWED US A GLIMPSE OF A BETTER FUTURE
A bright light has gone out in the lives of many people across Scotland and beyond this week. Cruelly struck down by illness in her prime, Roz fought back with all her strength. She was desperate to see her beloved children grow up and to spend the rest her life with her soul-mate Malcolm.
I had the great privilege of being a colleague then a friend of Roz for the best part of two decades. Before I met her, I was already familiar with her byline and had read many of her exquistely crafted feature articles in various newspapers she had worked for. When she agreed to join the small editorial team of the Scottish Socialist Voice, we knew we had brought something special to the publication. Roz had flair, wit and style in abundance. Her natural eloquence flowed though every paragraph she wrote. Her humour sparkled like sunshine on snow. Her humanity touched people’s hearts. And she was a superb editor, able to infuse even the dullest political manifesto with a touch of poetry.
More than that, she was a great human being. Calm, unassuming, warm, conscientious and professional. Everyone loved and respected Roz. Years before the quote was engraved on the wall of the Scottish Parliament, the words of Alistair Gray – ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’ – were displayed on a poster above her desk.
Her political outlook might best be summed up as green socialist. She was a strong supporter of independence for Scotland, which he saw as a route toa better country and ultimately a better world and campaigned hard for a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum. She detested injustice and inequality and yearned for a better society free of greed and exploitation.
She also understood better than most the intricate planetary ecosystem with its trillion species and complex web of interconections upon which all life depends. She brought into the Scottish socialist movement a much deeper understanding of the natural world and the destructive power of consumer-driven capitalism. And she lived her life in line with her principles: ethical, compassionate and caring.
In her characteristic low-key fashion, Roz played a crucial role in one of the great breakthroughs for the Scottish left: the 2003 Scottish Parliament election, in which six Scottish Socialist MSPs were elected alongside seven Greens. Behind the scenes she wrote media releases, organised press conferences and was part of a small team that produced leaflets, election addresses and newsletters –distributed in their millions on the streets and to households across the land – which won admiration even from political opponents for their humour and imagination.
And later, during the dark days of 2004 to 2010 when every SSP activist was forced to choose sides between truth and fraud, there was never any doubt which side Roz would take. In the sometimes murky world of politics she never wavered in her honesty, integrity and courage.
I later worked with Roz on the book Restless Land: A Radical Journey Through Scotland’s History. As always, she was a joy to work with, even at a geographical distance of over a hundred miles. The book was praised for its style, wit and clarity – a testimony to Roz’s expert editorial eye and beautiful turn of phrase. oz was devoid of ego and conceit and shunned the limelight. When the book was launched, she preferred to stay in the background and send a written statement down from the Highlands rather appear at public events in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
That was typical – yet in her final months, she was reluctantly forced into become something of a public figure. To raise what she called the “telethonic sum of money” needed to treat her otherwise incurable illness, she had to make aan audacious appeal. It was against her nature, but she did it with style and sensational success, and in a matter of weeks was well on course to raise half a million pounds. When NHS Scotland steeped in to fund the pioneering newe treatment in Londod, she insisted that every penny that could be returned was resturned donated to four cancer charities.
The mass upsurge in generosity had crossed political boundaries, with thousands of people in Beauly, the Highlands and beyond rushing to her aid. It was a tribute to her inspirational personality – and it also, albeit in desperately tragic circumstances, validated her own deep belief in the fundamental decency of the human spirit.
We have long been told there is no point in trying to build a better world, because people are inherently selfish and incapable of rising above ruthless rivalry. Roz Paterson proved otherwise. Her simple story of a woman fighting for life so she could see her children reach adulthood touched something deep in the heart of humanity. People in the local community, irrespective of whether they were Yes or No, Brexit or Leave, left or right, rallied round in a great outpouring of kindness. And strangers from across the land who had never met Roz or her family contributed generously to suppprt her. Not in a philosophy tutorial, but in the real world, she demonstrated that when the chips are down, there are many, many people whose natural impulse is to do whatever they can to help.
Roz died far too young, far too soon. But she left a mark on all who knew her and many who didn’t. She lived her life as shining example of all that is best in humanity. In her own quiet, humble way she was truly inspirational. And even in the face of death, she gave us hope for the future by bringing out the best side of human nature and showing us a glimpse of the kind of society that we could build in the future.
Signed copies of Restless Land
A small number of limted edition double-signed copies of Restless Land: A Radical Journey Through Scotland’s History – co-written by Roz Paterson and Alan McCombes – are still available.
For a donation of £25, including post and packing, you will receive a signed copy printed and bound in high-quality gloss paper designed to endure. All proceeds will be donated to support Roz’s young family.
‘Riveting and expertly written work of popular history’
It covers a huge amount of ground with style, wit and limpid clarity that sets it apart from the dry tomes that put many people off history before they are out of school.
Restless Land is a riveting, expertly written work of popular history that deserves a very wide readership.
Alex Miller, Professor of Philosophy, History and Politics at the University of Otago, New Zealand
‘Incredibly readable book that will grab you from the start’
This is a history book like none that I’ve read before. It is an incredibly readable book which will grab you from the opening pages. Half-remembered stories and vague Scottish heroes leap to life, and the book resonates with excitement.
Reading Restless Land was like having lots of little lights come on in my head. Finally, a book which could tell me the meaning of many of the songs and poems I’ve heard, of the half-remembered stories, of the slogans and names which have drifted down through the generations.
Pam Currie President of the EIS Further Education Lecturers Association
‘A substantive book that makes you want to find out more’
“Restless Land is a substantive book by any description. It tells you things that you’ve never been told before in school, in the media, or anywhere else.
“We should thank Alan and Roz for writing a book that’s easy to read, that’s interesting page by page, and makes you want to find out more. It’s an important book that articulates a fascinating history – the history of those on whose shoulders we stand.”
Jeanne Freeman Scottish Government Minister