Following a recent poetry event I had a discussion with another poet from the Nith Valley who had spent the reading chewing the cuffs of his shirt because he thought the work being read was "not part of our culture". This followed something flattering (and probably quite untrue) that someone said at Willie's funeral and it got me thinking about whether we have a responsibility or imperative to write as part of a Scottish cultural tradition, or whether we're part of that tradition no matter what we write. I don't mean this in any narrow nationalistic way, in fact I subscribe completely to the view that Scottish poetry is at its most energetic when absorbing or reacting to different and fragmented internal influences in what someone once described as a "potent concentration of hybrid vigour". It's MacDiarmid's Caledonian Antisyzygy, or MacIllvaney's "mongrel nation" but the implication behind it is that influences are absorbed into 'Scottish' poetry and although that changes the dynamics the poetry remains identifiably Scottish. Does it? And will it always? "How many more reiki therapists from the Home Counties will it take to turn North Uist into a cultural wasteland?" a friend from Stornoway jokingly wrote recently.
People writing in Scots and Gaelic do not have this problem, of course, but those who write in English may. Especially those whose poetry is essentially mapping out an internal landscape. I'm reminded of the fact that many of his countymen choked when Dylan Thomas was described as being a 'Welsh' poet. I feel quite sensitive about this because linguistically I am one step away from Scotland's two languages (my mother was a native gaelic speaker and my father's family were miners from Auchinleck and Cumnock)but write in English.
Of course I write a lot about Scotland, its history, and my place in it. Maybe that does.