A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Open letter from Scotland’s writers to protect literature budget

Dear Editor,

The Scottish Government is preparing a budget which will have major consequences for the future health of the nation. All the signs suggest that culture in general could face devastating cuts. We are calling for the government to increase funding for the arts and literature, for the good of everyone in Scotland.

As writers who have built our careers while living here, or who have retained a close connection with the country even though we live elsewhere, we have benefited from Scotland’s long-standing commitment to making culture and the arts accessible for all – both in building readership for our work, but also in supporting the creation of our books. Some of us have received grants to help us write our books, while others have benefited from training and mentoring schemes for emerging writers. Our entrepreneurial publishers and our much-loved libraries have received vital support to publish and distribute books as widely as possible, while Scotland’s internationally-respected book festivals have achieved great things with small amounts of funding and have brought our work to worldwide attention.

Supporting literature is not a drain on the country’s resources: books make an enormous contribution to the country, financially and reputationally. Our writers tour the world, talking about Scotland and its culture at book festivals from Guadalajara to Jaipur and from Reykjavik to Auckland. Our books are an advertisement for Scotland, attracting tourists to visit the landmarks they’ve read about, and foreign students to come on summer schools here – not to mention the visitors who come especially for our festivals.

Harry Potter; The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; The Gruffalo – these are just some of the many international success stories that have been helped by Scotland’s literary support system. At the same time, key works of non-fiction such as Tom Devine’s The Scottish Nation and poetry from authors including Liz Lochhead and Jackie Kay have helped us better understand Scotland and its place in the world today. With more public support, writers can encourage diversity, inclusion and literacy, not to mention boosting Scotland’s economy.

Of course there are difficult budget decisions to make in times of austerity, but the cost of supporting literature only amounts to a tiny fraction of the overall money the government will spend. When it comes to the arts and literature, for a modest investment from the government our work generates enormous financial and cultural dividends.

Will future generations look back on the early 21st century and lament the absence of the next Muriel Spark, the next Robert Louis Stevenson, the next Edwin Morgan? We can’t be certain. But without support from the government, Scotland will surely damage one of its prize assets: its world-renowned literary heritage. What an irony we could be facing: a country which trumpets its First Minister’s Reading Challenge on the one hand, but which cuts funding to new writers on the other.

Yours,

Leila Aboulela

Lin Anderson

Kate Atkinson

Sian Bevan

Alan Bissett

Chris Brookmyre

John Burnside

Ron Butlin

Aonghas Padraig Caimbeul/Angus Peter Campbell

Karen Campbell

Nora Chassler

Regi Claire

Jo Clifford

Jenny Colgan

Stewart Conn

Stuart Cosgrove

Linda Cracknell

Jim Crumley

Christine De Luca

Meaghan Delahunt

Professor Sir Tom Devine

Imtiaz Dharker

Anne Donovan

Ever Dundas

Michel  Faber

Jenni Fagan

James Fergusson

Laura Fernandes

Charlie Fletcher

Aminatta Forna

Ronald Frame

Gavin Francis

Viv French

Janice Galloway

Magi Gibson

Harry Giles

Debi Gliori

Alasdair Gray

Alex Gray

Keith Gray

Andrew Greig

Kirsty Gunn

Robin Harper

Bill Herbert

Laura Hird

Richard Holloway

Kerry Hudson

Sandra Ireland

Kathleen Jamie

Jamie Jauncey

Tiffany Jenkins

Brian Johnstone

Doug Johnstone

Pat Kane

Kapka Kassabova

Jackie Kay

AL Kennedy

David Kinloch

Elizabeth Laird

Sue Lawrence

William Letford

Jenny Lindsay

Liz Lochhead

Kirsty Logan

Colin MacIntyre

Ken MacLeod

Aonghas MacNeacail

Kevin MacNeil

Iain Macpherson

Graeme Macrae Burnet

Sara Maitland

Willie Maley

Allan Massie

Peter May

Alexander McCall Smith

Helen McClory

Rachel McCrum

Val McDermid

Lesley McDowell

Denise Mina

Aidan Moffat

Donald S Murray

Liz Niven

Maggie O’Farrell

Andrew O’Hagan

Don Paterson

Mary Paulson-Ellis

Tom Pow

Chitra Ramaswamy

Ian Rankin

Alan Riach

Lucy Ribchester

James Robertson

David Robinson

Dilys Rose

Peter Ross

James Runcie

Helen Sedgwick

Sara Sheridan

John Gordon Sinclair

Ali Smith

Donald Smith

Alan Spence

Gerda Stevenson

Linda Strachan

Charlie Stross

William Sutcliffe

Malachy Tallack

Alan Taylor

Suria Tei

Alice Thompson

Ryan Van Winkle

Irvine Welsh

Louise Welsh

JL Williams

Kevin Williamson

James Yorkston

Davy Zyw

The letter has been featured in the following publications and has been sent to the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretaries for their views.

The Times

Guardian

The Herald

The Bookseller

December 5, 2017

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