Hmm I guess the Wasp Factory is a book which you could read without any particular reference points. Both the Crow Road and The Bridge are heavily referenced to Scotland and I don't know how much they work on their own merit. I can't remember the others which doesn't mean they aren't good, just that my memory is poor these days :(
Got to agree with you on Banks' Culture novels; I've decided, since reading a few of them, that I'd like most to live in the Culture over all other sci-fi societies I've read about.
I'm actually not an alternative account for flow. Having not been here terribly long, I can't comment on any possible similarities. But if his avatar is similar to mine, I think I can safely say he has excellent taste. :P