A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Guest blog: Scottish children are reading what they want

Shelagh Toonen, Librarian at Elgin Academy, responds to an article in the national press that  ‘Scottish children are not reading challenging enough books’ (BBC News, 22 February 2018)

The report reads that we are failing our pupils in Scotland. It highlights a study which leads us to believe that we have a Scottish education system clearly heading for catastrophe. Librarians, teachers, parents, pupils, education authorities and concerned citizens have reason for alarm. There are signs of literacy failure nationwide.

However, in my own school, Elgin Academy, in 2016, 87% of our pupils left school with a literacy level of level 5 in literacy or better. This was compared with 80% of our virtual comparator.

This refutes the claim in the study that “many 16-year-olds sitting National 4 and 5 exams have the reading ability of a 13 year old or lower.”

However, the education company Renaissance Learning, Inc. has made the claim that Scottish children are not reading challenging enough books and this was reprinted in the Scottish media. Renaissance Learning’s flagship product is a software package called Accelerated Reader. The company claims that AR (as it is called) is “the world’s most widely used reading software.”

It has been established in the UK since 1999 and claims to have a presence in over 40,000 schools in more than 60 countries worldwide. Renaissance’s purpose is to accelerate reading and learning for all. A minimum subscription rate for 50 pupils is £450, or £9 per pupil. AR is, by its very nature, a system of providing extrinsic motivation and extrinsic rewards for reading. A very expensive system with very expensive rewards.

Most pupils, even those with less reading ability, quickly realise that one way to accumulate points is volume, volume, volume. Read easier books and lots of them so you can quickly take as many AR quizzes as possible with minimal challenge. This competitive race is likely to discourage weaker readers while proficient readers may find the joy and power of reading reduced to vocabulary words and computer-generated comprehension quizzes. Our young people should not be reading to achieve tangible rewards. They should read because they want to. AR gets motivation wrong. It assumes that the reason our young people don’t read is that they need to be bribed into doing so with extrinsic awards.

Bestselling YA author Judy Blume is unequivocal: “What I don’t like and what I really don’t like — intensely hate, you could say — is the Accelerated Reader program, even though many of my books are in that program, because they rate books, not on emotional content or emotional readiness. They’re rated by machine — how many words in a sentence, how long is a paragraph. Nothing to do with character, nothing to do with subject and again, nothing to do with emotional readiness.”

Our pupils in Scottish schools read because their school librarian selected and recommended a book they thought they would enjoy based on knowing them and on their interests. Our pupils read to escape, to heal, to experience, to have adventures, to escape into other worlds and to dream. We provide them with the means to do that. School librarians provide a reader-friendly, safe, nurturing space with time to read and be read to and with time to select and to talk about reading. We provide access to books and, more importantly, choice. Young people are given free rein in the library, to read anything and everything they want.

Free choice is a powerful motivator in reading. For a young person, to have the opportunity to independently choose their own book, surely demonstrates their willingness and desire to read? It does not matter what that choice is. It should not be frowned upon nor the reader discouraged. Choice empowers our young people and if we value their choices, then we value them. Their choice leads to discussion, firstly about the books, but also then helps to create and to strengthen relationships. Ultimately, choice develops independent readers and learners.

If secondary school pupils do choose the same books they enjoyed in primary school, or choose to remain with one series of books, then they are reading books they have known, enjoyed and loved. If these books provide a comforting or nurturing value during what might be challenging or difficult times at secondary school, then that is a good thing. If pupils want to remain with Robert Muchamore, or Jeff Kinney or Anthony Horowitz and want to re-read the whole series, then let them.

School librarians are there to help our pupils to make choices based on their interests and to develop their enthusiasm for books. We are there to motivate and to enable our pupils to have choice in their reading. Strong and capable readers are those who read widely and diversely in a wide variety of genres and in the quest to build capable readers, promoting independent, self-selected reading remains key. Creating keen, lifelong readers doesn’t just happen. It takes a school library, with a diverse, relevant and vibrant collection of books and a professionally qualified librarian to help reach that goal.

My own proposal would be that all pupils be given the gifts of time and books they want to read throughout their school lives and that all young children would have an adult who would read aloud to them each and every day.

Parents of our pupils have a role to play in developing their reading habit and their literacy skills too. What parents do is more important than who parents are. A study involving 4000 children in the UK found parents who provided learning support at home had a positive impact on their child’s cognitive, language and socio-emotional development, regardless of the parent’s class or educational background. This can be anything from reading to their child, library visits, singing songs, reading poems or nursery rhymes.

The powerful influence of the early home learning environment was apparent in the pre-school period, and when children started school, and continued right through to the end of secondary school. Closing the gap in educational attainment between children from affluent and disadvantaged homes is a current priority of the Scottish Government.

A quality school library can contribute to reducing the attainment gap and enable vulnerable students to improve academic success. Evidence reveals the difference a school library can make at both primary level and to disadvantaged pupils who have limited access to reading resources in the home.

Nurturing my school’s reading culture gives me the opportunity to raise the profile of books and reading in school, while at the same time sharing my passion for high-interest titles, favourite authors and the joy of books.

I believe that, through independent reading and freedom of choice, our young people gain a wealth of background knowledge about many different things and they will build vocabulary, fluency and will want to read more. I want our pupils to enjoy reading and I know that school librarians’ role in creating readers is one of the most exciting and satisfying parts of our job.

Now, with changing technologies and concepts, the school library is a much more exciting place to explore than ever before. We all relish the excitement on a pupil’s face, when they come into the library, knowing that they are entering a world of creativity, adventure, learning, fun and warmth. It is a reminder every day of why our school libraries and reading are so important to our young people.

Professional library support and choice really do help to make our make young people into readers. I firmly believe that our libraries should be the beating heart of the reading culture in our schools in Scotland.

“Students will read if we give them the books, the time, and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so. If we make them wait for the one unit a year in which they are allowed to choose their own books and become readers, they may never read at all. To keep our students reading, we have to let them.”
― Donalyn Miller The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.

This guest blog originally appeared on the CILIPS’ website. It is reproduced here with kind permission. 

March 1, 2018

Open Project Funding for Literature: Jan 2018

Last month £836,779 of National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fund was awarded to 41 recipients, including individual artists, musicians, writers, theatre makers, festivals and organisations working across the arts, screen and creative industries.

Congratulations to the following projects and individuals receiving funding in January 2018 for Literature:

Literature festivals including Nairn Book and Arts Festival (11-16 September 2018) in the Highlands, Boswell Book Festival (4-6 May 2018) in East Ayrshire, and Aye Write! (15-25 March 2018) in Glasgow have received funding towards their 2018 programmes.

Poets Juana Adcock and Christie Williamson have received support to attend and speak at The International Poetry Festival of Granada.

Katrina Brodin, Programme Manager (Reader Development & Literacy) at AyeWrite! said: “At their core, Aye Write! and Wee Write! exist to foster a love of reading and writing and to encourage development of both. This funding not only helps Aye Write! identify, attract and nurture talent but also helps expose budding writers, readers and authors to new skills, genres and audiences. Similarly, Wee Write! fires imaginations and helps instil a passion for reading in new generations that will last a lifetime and encourage young people to explore writing and reading in all forms.”

For funding information on the other cultural sectors, read the announcement on Creative Scotland’s website.

February 28, 2018

Wigtown Festival Company seeks Cultural Producer

Wigtown Festival Company (WFC) is looking to recruit a cultural producer / programme manager from April 2018.

This is an exciting opportunity to be a key member of a team delivering a variety of literary and cultural activities across south-west Scotland, including the annual Wigtown Book Festival.

The position is full-time with a salary of £25,000 and is based at our offices in Wigtown, Dumfries & Galloway.

The successful applicant will have a strong professional background in arts and literature and proven experience of delivering cultural projects, including monitoring, evaluation and reporting. A driver’s license is also required.

This is not an entry level position, though applicants with appropriate internship experience will be considered.

WFC is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Our organisation is committed to equalities, diversity and inclusion.

To register interest and for further information, including job description and application requirements, please contact Anne Barclay (anne@wigtownbookfestival.com).

Application deadline: 5pm, Friday 9 March 2018.

Interviews: week commencing Monday 19 March

Wigtown Festival Company | 11 North Main Street | Wigtown | DG8 9HN

Charity registered in Scotland. Number SC037984.

February 26, 2018

2018-2023 Draft Gaelic Language Plan

The second iteration of the National Library of Scotland’s Gaelic Language Plan is now out for public consultation.

The plan will remain open for this period of consultation from 19 January 2018 to 16 March 2018.

The Library is seeking the views and comments of interested individuals, businesses and local and national Gaelic organisations, regarding the content of its Draft Gaelic Language Plan which, once finalised, will cover the period 2018-2023.

All views and comments will be fully considered before the final draft of the plan is produced at the end of the eight-week period.

If you have any comments or queries regarding the content of the plan, please do send an email to GaelicLanguagePlan@nls.uk.


2018-2023 Dreachd Phlana Ghàidhlig

Thathar a’ dèanamh co-chomhairle phoblach air an dàrna tionndadh den Phlana Ghàidhlig aig Leabharlann Nàiseanta na h-Alba aig an àm seo.

Bidh a’ cho-chomhairle fosgailte eadar 19 Faoilleach 2018 agus 16 Màrt 2018.

Tha an Leabharlann a’ sireadh bheachdan bho dhaoine agus buidhnean aig a bheil ùidh sa chùis, a’ gabhail a-steach buidhnean Gàidhlig aig an ìre ionadail is nàiseanta, air an dreachd Phlana Ghàidhlig aige airson 2018-2023.

Thèid cnuasachadh air na beachdan uile a gheibhear sa cho-chomhairle mus tèid an dreachd mu dheireadh den phlana fhoillseachadh aig deireadh nan ochd seachdainean co-chomhairleachaidh.

Ma tha beachd no ceist sam bith agad mu shusbaint a’ phlana, cuir post-d gu GaelicLanguagePlan@nls.uk.



February 26, 2018

Edinburgh: City of Literature – Summer School course

Edinburgh has an amazingly rich literary heritage and was the first city in the world to receive UNESCO City of Literature status.

Now, the University of Edinburgh has created a unique four-week course to examine some of Edinburgh’s most celebrated literary talents – Edinburgh: City of Literature.

Alongside works by Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ian Rankin, Muriel Spark and Irvine Welsh, the course will explore these writers’ presence in the city through manuscript collections and objects in the National Libraries and Museums of Scotland and the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum.

It will also follow their footsteps through the city to see how their presence has been marked with monuments, plaques and other forms of cultural heritage, and consider how these writers represent the city in their works and how it has shaped their writing.

Application deadline: 30 March 2018. The course runs from 4-29 June 2018.

Watch the video below. For full details visit the website.

February 25, 2018

Invitation: Glasgow Zine Fest programme launch, 8 March

Glasgow Zine Fest is excited to invite you to their first ever Programme Launch!

The evening will feature poetry from Colin Herd and Jane Hartshorn, along with performances and screenings from visual artists James st Findlay, Lewis den Hertog, Rosa Klerkx, Sabe Lewellyn and Lauren La Rose. All are self-publishers in some form or another – so you’ll get to see their work at the fair on 14 and 15 April too!

Come along to the back room at Saramago’s Terrace Bar, CCA, on Thursday 8 March. The evening starts promptly at 8pm, and finishes at 10.30pm. The bar is then open until 12 midnight. Get your hands on their first ever printed programme for #GZF!!

Find out more here. Or go to the Facebook event and see who else is going.

For the launch the programme will also be available in large print, as a PDF on our website. For more information on access to the CCA, see their Access Statement.

Unfortunately there will not be BSL interpretation at this event, however all events at the festival will be interpreted.

Glasgow Zine Festival is a weekend of workshops, screenings, talks and socials topped with the biggest self publishing fair in Scotland. It takes place on 14 and 15 April 2018 at CCA Glasgow.

Follow them on Twitter @GlasgowZineFest


February 23, 2018

Event – FUTURE PROOF: How does the author fit into today’s publishing landscape?

Authors: join Creative Scotland and a host of publishing professionals for an afternoon of panels, talks and discussions, designed to inform and provoke debate around the opportunities and challenges currently facing writers at all stages of their career – including alternative routes to publication and the potential offered through new distribution models and digital channels.

  • Update yourself on both the traditional and new models of book distribution
  • Learn more about self-publishing models
  • Understand the viability of e-book publishing

Featured speakers will include Marion Sinclair of Publishing Scotland, Davinder Bedi of Booksource, Laura Jones of 404 Ink, self-published author Margaret Skea and Peter Urpeth of Emergents.

DATE: Monday 12 March 2018

TIME: 12.45-4.30pm

VENUE: Grassmarket Community Project, 86 Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh EH1 2QA

FREE but ticketed: Book via Eventbrite


Afternoon Agenda

12:45 – Welcome, registration & coffee

13:00 – PANEL: Something Old, Something New: Approaches to Book Distribution

With Marion Sinclair (Publishing Scotland), Davinder Bedi (Booksource), Laura Jones (404 Ink)

14:30 – Comfort Break

15:00 – TALKS:

  • The Road Less Travelled with Peter Urpeth, Emergents
  • Hybrid/Self-publishing and E-books, Margaret Skea, author


16:30 – Event close

February 23, 2018

Creative Scotland opening remarks to Culture Committee (22 February 2018)

Below are the opening remarks from Janet Archer, CEO of Creative Scotland at today’s evidence session to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee: “Sustainable funding for arts and creative organisations in Scotland”

Watch the recording of the session here.

Good morning everyone and thank you to the Committee for inviting us to give evidence this morning.

We’re here to talk about sustainable funding for arts and creative organisations in Scotland.

Creative Scotland’s most significant means by which we provide this is via three-year Regular Funding. Our first round spanned 2015-18 and our guidance for the second round 2018-21 was published in November 2016. The process and guidance for Regular Funding was tested with sector representatives who worked with us to test them prior to us going live.

I want to start by saying I’m profoundly sorry that the delivery of this process has been such a negative one for many. We can’t let that happen again. My role as Chief Executive of Creative Scotland, is to take ultimate responsibility for everything that Creative Scotland does. I am currently in dialogue with everyone involved at every level in the process and I will make sure we learn from this moment and resolve all outstanding issues fairly and openly.

I’d like to offer some context in which I hope the committee will find helpful.

Regular Funding is an open application process, this time we had 184 applications and have funded 121. Overall we have committed to spending £33.9m on Regular Funding, £1m more a year than previously. Due to a £6.6m uplift from the Scottish Government for which we are very grateful, Regular Funding is no longer reliant on the National Lottery. We previously utilised £6m of National Lottery funding to regularly fund organisations.

Many of you are aware that between September and December last year, like other public bodies, we were scenario planning against some very difficult budget predictions.

In the end the budget settlement was much better than we expected. It’s important however to recognise that the 21% uplift we communicated, is made up of £10m for screen, set against hard economic targets, and £6.6m to replace the lost Lottery income for the arts as I’ve already outlined. That means our RFO budget effectively remains at standstill.

Despite this we have been able to support 121 excellent organisations, across Scotland and across art-forms for the next three years. At one point last Autumn we thought we might have only been able to fund half this amount.

The network includes 19 organisations new to Regular Funding, such as the Alchemy Film Festival in Hawick; Bodysurf Scotlandin Moray; Starcatchers, Scotland’s National Arts and Early Years organisation; Lyra, based in Craigmillar, in Edinburgh Toonspeak which provides free, high quality drama and theatre activities for young people aged 11-25 living in Glasgow; Theatre Gu Leor, the acclaimed Gaelic Theatre Company; and Tinderbox Collectivebased at North Edinburgh Arts.

Making funding decisions is never easy, nowhere more so than in Scotland where creative talent and ambition far outweighs the funding we have available, particularly in the context of increasing reliance on Creative Scotland funding, as alternative sources of support come under increasing pressure. I fully understand that even on standstill funding some organisations are really struggling. As stated in our arts strategy, we are committed to working with all organisations to support them to build resilience for the future.

Overall the applications we received totalled 33% more than our available budget. That created a real challenge for us particularly when organisations asked for an average of a 25% increase.

We have tried to help by supporting all organisations coming out of Regular Funding through providing transition funding of between six and 12 months at the same level they are currently funded at.

We are also in the process of meeting organisations to explain our decisions, and where they have been unsuccessful, discuss alternative routes to funding and how we might be able to support them in the future.

Regular Funding is one of our routes to funding, sitting alongside Open Project and Targeted Funding which includes Screen.  Over the coming three years, we expect to distribute circa £83m of Government and National Lottery funds a year across these three funding routes.

One immediate thing I want to tackle is to make project funding more straight forward to access especially for artists, individuals, and artists led organisations. We’re planning to announce how we will do this very soon.

I completely recognise that the Regular Funding process has been more challenging this time round than it needed to be – for both those applying and for our staff.

It’s clear that the introduction of the Touring Fund, while based on a review of touring which included consultation, did not chime with everyone in the theatre sector and is not seen as a replacement for Regular Funding. That’s one of the reasons that the Board decided to take stock, increase the budget available for Regular Funding and add organisations into the network.

We understand that this final stage of the process has created real difficulties, none of us want to repeat the experience, as it stands, in three years’ time.

That’s why, as we have already announced, we are committed to a root and branch review of how we fund. We will – importantly – do this in full collaboration with the people and organisations we support.

We welcome all of the constructive communications that we have received – of which there have been a significant amount – and much dialogue that has emerged. We are meeting with sector representative bodies – such as Scottish Contemporary Art Network, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Literature Alliance Scotland and others, whom we already work closely with – in the coming weeks to shape how we approach this review.

Finally, I want to recognise the dedicated, hard-working and knowledgeable staff at Creative Scotland who work every day to make a positive difference to art and culture in our country. Many have recently joined us after high profile careers in the sector. Others have built up immense knowledge over many years of service. They have worked thoughtfully and diligently on this Regular Funding round, dedicating a great deal of time, energy and care to the process.

We are all committed to doing things differently in the future, many ideas have been surfaced as we’ve been working through our difficult decisions and we’re looking forward to sharing these as we enter into dialogue over the coming months.

Thank you.


February 22, 2018

LAS submission to Culture Committee re Creative Scotland funding

We have submitted the following response to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee ahead of the evidence session with Creative Scotland on ‘Sustainable funding for arts and creative organisations in Scotland’ on Thursday 22 February 2018 from 9am. Meeting papers are here.

Peggy Hughes, Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland, said:

“While Literature Alliance Scotland is pleased that many strategic literature and language organisations have received regular funding from Creative Scotland, we have some concerns about the Board’s decision-making process in the final stages, which has been unclear, unaccountable and has resulted in some surprising outcomes. Specifically, we regret the loss of Edinburgh City of Literature Trust as a regularly funded organisation, and the reductions in funding for Tracs and Scottish Poetry Library.

“The Scottish Government’s positive budget announcement in December 2017 was met with both relief and optimism across the cultural sector. However, the developments that followed Creative Scotland’s initial regular funding announcement, with the subsequent series of reversals in some funding decisions, sets a worrying precedent that could indicate that not all voices and approaches are equally valued or listened to.

“We hope that the Culture Committee’s scrutiny of Creative Scotland on Thursday will provide the much-needed answers to questions about criteria, process and transparency that are being urged by us all across the cultural sector.”


February 20, 2018

LAS seeks new Trustees

Literature Alliance Scotland seeks to appoint two new Trustees and welcome expressions of interest from potential candidates – and particularly from those with a specialist knowledge of education, and Scots.

A description of the positions and the candidates’ qualities sought follows.

As LAS is a SCIO (Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation), the positions are unpaid, however, reasonable out of pocket expenses will be met.

If you would like to join our Board of Trustees, please send a CV and a short letter to LAS Chair Peggy Hughes on admin@literaturealliancescotland.co.uk telling us why you’d like to get involved and what you think you can offer.

The deadline for applications is 23 March 2018.

Information about being a Trustee for LAS

About LAS

LAS is a membership organisation, which is committed to advancing the interests of literature and languages at home and abroad. It is Scotland’s largest network for literature and languages, of more than 30 member organisations, bringing together writers, publishers, educators, librarians, literature organisations and national cultural bodies.

Our vision is that LAS is a trusted, strong collective voice for Scotland’s literature and languages, which are celebrated locally, nationally and internationally.

LAS was formed in spring 2015 as successor to the Literature Forum for Scotland, which was first set up in 2001, at the invitation of the then Literature Committee of the Scottish Arts Council. In 2006, following a review of its remit by the Scottish Arts Council, the Literature Forum was formally recognised as a national Advisory Council for Literature, and acted in this capacity. In mid-2014, Literature Forum members decided to review the organisation’s future role and to consider how it should develop to become a stronger and more inclusive voice for literature and languages in Scotland and abroad, leading to the transition in spring 2015 to Literature Alliance Scotland.

Members actively participate in leading and contributing to LAS’ main areas of work, which include championing the sector through advocacy and events, networking and sector intelligence, and professional development.

LAS’ income comes from membership fees and is supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

LAS became a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Institution (SCIO) in March 2016. Under its Constitution, LAS has a Board of Trustees headed by a Chair and Vice-Chair, elected by the members at the Annual General Meeting.




The role of the Board of Trustees is to determine the overall strategic direction of LAS, monitoring progress towards our objectives and taking collective responsibility to ensure the good governance of the organisation. Our Trustees should be prepared to act as advocates.

Trustee applications are welcome from within and outwith the membership of LAS.

Main Duties

Our Trustees must perform the following functions:

Ensure the organisation complies with its constitution, charity law and any other relevant legislation or regulation.

Contribute actively to the role of the Board of Trustees in giving strategic direction to the organisation, setting and maintaining the mission, vision and values of the organisation and evaluating the organisation’s performance.

Establish policies and procedures to govern organisational activity

Ensure that the charity pursues its objectives as defined in its governing document

Ensure the effective and efficient administration of the charity and ensure its financial stability.


Time commitment

The LAS Board of Trustees meets four times a year. Trustees will be expected to prepare for and attend these meetings as well as our Annual General Meeting. Board meetings, which usually last around two hours, take place immediately after the Members’ meetings, which are held in Edinburgh during a working day.  One of the four meetings is held in a different part of Scotland.



This is an unpaid post, however out of pocket expenses reasonably incurred in connection with carrying out the Trustees’ duties will be met.


Candidate Qualities

A sound knowledge of and passion for Scottish literature and languages

Familiarity with the principles and practice of leadership and management

Knowledge of the principles of corporate governance.



Active involvement with Scottish literature and languages in one or more fields. We would especially welcome a specialist knowledge of education, and Scots

Experience of making strategic decisions at board level

Acquaintance with leadership and management within the public sector

Familiarity with working collectively and in partnership.



An understanding and acceptance of the legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities of trusteeship

Financial literacy, with experience of financial management and the ability to assist with budget preparation

Strategic thinking and problem solving

Strong ambassadorial skills

Ability to work as a member of a team

Excellent spoken and written communications skills.


Personal Qualities

Strong commitment to the vision and objectives of Literature Alliance Scotland

Commitment to devoting the necessary time and effort to the role of trustee by preparing well for board meetings and actively contributing to them.

Good independent judgment and the ability to think creatively.


Other Factors

Convenient access to Edinburgh is desirable since most (but not all) meetings are held there.





















February 15, 2018

Call out:Scottish-Latvian Poets & Performing Artists Exchange

 Expressions of interest are sought from Scottish poets and performing artists who work or have worked in Gaelic or Scots for this cultural exchange project by Visiting Arts in the Spring.
It involves a week in both Latvia and Scotland to collaborate with Latvian peers on written and performative work around the theme of endangered languages.
The aim is to promote a greater awareness of endangered languages and the rich contemporary literature and culture in Scotland and Latvia. More info here.
Deadline: Thursday 15 February 2018


January 25, 2018

Sad news about the passing of Alex Cluness

Below is a note from Marc Lambert of Scottish Book Trust about the unexpected passing of Alex Cluness.

Alex was from a notable Shetland family and one of the instigators of Word Play, Shetland’s literary festival. He was a good poet himself, and did a lot of work – first in Shetland, then elsewhere – in supporting and developing new writers.

He was an excellent person – funny, modest, and kind. His company was always a life-affirming pleasure. He was very kind and supportive to me as a newbie at SBT. Later I returned the favour in helping (in a very minor way) him and his colleague Tracy set up Literature Works, which enables and nurtures literature development activity in South West England.

Alex’s family wanted as many of his former colleagues and friends to know as possible. They will keep in touch with me regarding funeral arrangements etc, which I will pass on.

This is very, very sad. We have lost a talented poet and a great friend.

Below is an appreciation by poet Kevin MacNeil, “Writers Who Deserve to be Better Known”, from Scottish Review of Books, 2011.


Neglected writers are like Shetland on a wider map – marginalised and boxed away like an afterthought when recognised at all. It is to Shetland I turn your attention, and a contemporary writer who is a one of the UK’s best and most original poets. In Shetland literary circles Alex Cluness is quietly revered; elsewhere he is quietly ignored. He is a typical islander in that he devotes his energies to promoting the work of others – as Shetland’s literary development officer, then while working in literary promotion in South West England, now as a visionary leader at Uist’s Taigh Chearsabhaigh. Cluness’s poetic output is eclectic, impassioned and wide-ranging, encompassing Shetland and Other Poems, Disguise, 2005, and Mend. 2005 is an intense, cinematic, rain-soaked collection, a paean to Wong Kar-wai. The astonishing lines in the poems of Mend are so long the book had to be published in letterbox format. Disclaimer: Alex’s work is also included in a recent anthology I edited, These Islands, We Sing. My primary intentions in editing this book were to emphasise how disproportionately high is the quality of poetry from the Scottish isles and also to give greater prominence to writers such as Cluness. I have read his work at quite a few events promoting the anthology and it always elicits a physical response, a gasp. Cluness’s poetry is epic, intimate, elemental, complex and beautiful.

James Robertson published Alex under the Kettillonia imprint and below is what he had to say about Alex’s collection, followed by one of the poems from that pamphlet, Disguise:

“This collection by Shetland-based poet Alex Cluness is deceptive in more ways than one. Apparently simple, the poems lure you into the minds of eighteen different men filled with the hopes and despairs of being in love. Funny and poignant, they suggest that the porn star and the minister, the zen master and the boxer, the astronaut and the alcoholic have at least this much in common: that love can be the loneliest emotion in the universe.”

 The Fisherman

The fisherman
Given over to love
Began a carving
When the days rolled less:

To bless this Madonna
And baby saviour
He kissed the finished piece
As the North Sea
Squeezed the concertina
Of their fragile red boat

My girl
He said to himself
Is more important to me
Than I can ever know
I must just trust to God
That she is safe

The ocean formed a landslide
And at a wild angle
The call came to haul the nets




January 22, 2018


Let’s raise a glass to Burns from every corner of the world.

As part of its work to promote Scotland’s Winter Festivals, The Scottish Government is celebrating our shared love of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns by creating a global virtual toast to the great man and we would love you to participate.

Since there is no better opportunity than 25 January to come together with like-minded people from all over the world Scottish companies and brands, along with their employees and customers are being asked to help make that celebration bigger than ever before.

Doing your bit is simple. Just post a picture of your toast on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from 18 January using #cheerstoRabbie.

You may want to create a group toast, or get all of your employees/customers involved individually – the more the merrier! You can toast him at your Burns Supper with a classic Scotch, a wee skirl of the pipes or a twirl on the dance floor. Or you can do your #cheerstoRabbie from anywhere that takes your fancy.

Join us in raising a glass to the lassies, your family, your friends, and, of course, the big man himself because wha’s like him.

January 18, 2018

Publishing Scotland Annual Trade Conference: 22 February 2018

The joint Publishing Scotland and Booksellers Association Scottish Book Trade Conference 2018 will take place on Thursday 22 February at Central Hall, Tollcross, Edinburgh.

The conference is the biggest get-together of publishers and booksellers in Scotland.

To view the conference programme and book your place, please visit Publishing Scotland’s website here.



January 17, 2018

Beyond Burns: 22 February 2018

Poetry and talks on Dumfriesshire and Galloway past and present, featuring award-winning poets Hugh McMillan, Liz Niven and Stuart A. Paterson, alongside British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow Gerard McKeever.

This is a free event at The Stove in Dumfries on 22 February from 6.30-9.30pm.

Please RSVP for numbers to gerard.mckeever@glasgow.ac.uk

January 16, 2018

Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship 2018: Call for submissions

Applications are now invited from professional mid-career or established writers based in Scotland for the 2018 Dr Gavin Wallace Fellowship on the theme, Epic.

Deadline: 5pm on Tuesday 30 January 2018.

This Fellowship is open to playwrights, fiction writers, poets, librettists or lyricists to research, write and develop work for the stage that meets their creative ambition to work on a larger scale.

Hosted by Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland, in partnership with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, a professional writer will be given the opportunity to develop an original play, adaptation or new, scripted dramatic work for the stage, that is grand in scale.

For more information and details on how to apply, please visit Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s website here.

January 15, 2018

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.


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


The Herald

The Bookseller

December 5, 2017

ICYMI: Watch the #ThisIsIt2017 videos

If you didn’t make it to the Literary Cabaret 2017 on 23 November, or to watch the speakers again, here are the videos.

Please share your comments with us @LitScotland using #ThisIsIt2017.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scotland’s Culture Secretary opens the show.

“Words matter, writers matter…Scotland is a country of the word. You are guardians and nurturers of that word. You are creators of that word. Thank you.”


Francis Bickmore, Publishing Director of Canongate, on publishing:

“Novels are literally a crash-course in empathy…Books can not only make us care but they can also give us hope.”


Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival on book festivals:


Pamela Tulloch, CEO of Scottish Library and Information Council on public and school libraries:


Award-winning poet William Letford on writers:


Best-selling author Louise Welsh on international perspective:

December 4, 2017

Saltire Literary Awards announced!

Congratulations to the winners – and all shortlistees – of the 2017 Saltire Literary and Publishing Awards, announced on St Andrew’s Day, Thursday 30 November 2017, at Central Hall in Edinburgh.

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe, looking at the borderlines that exist between countries, cultures and people was announced as the Scottish Book of the Year by the Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP at the Saltire Literary Awards 2017. 

Describing the book, the judges noted: ‘If ever there was a book for our times, it is Border: A journey to the Edge of Europe, delves into the stories of when the lines that separate countries on the map harden once more after their Cold War thaw. It is at once timely and timeless, with Kassabova – the poet and travel writer by trade – blending skills to spin something truly magical, and sadly, entirely necessary.’

Now firmly established as Scotland’s most prestigious annual book awards, the Saltire Society Literary Awards are supported by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland and celebrate and support literary and academic excellence across six distinct categories.

The winner of each individual book award wins a £2,000 cash prize and goes forward to be considered for the Saltire Book of the Year award and an accompanying cash prize of £3,000.

Announced at the Saltire Literary awards ceremony was the winner of the 2017 Saltire Publisher of the Year Award, which went to Birlinn, who  over its 25 years of publishing, Birlinn has consistently produced interesting, important and quality books with high production values.

Only in its second year, the winner of the Saltire Emerging Publisher of the Year Award was also announced as being presented jointly to founders of indie publisher 404Ink, Laura Jones and Heather McDaid, whose dedication and innovation are changing the face of modern Scottish publishing.

Information courtesy of Saltire Society. 

December 1, 2017

Protect the culture budget – write to your MSP

We’re calling on our members – and Scotland’s literature and languages community – to take action and write to Finance Cabinet Secretary Derek Mackay MSP and their local MSP to urge them to protect the culture budget.

We must ensure MSPs understand that we want to live in a literary nation and it is their job to invest in and support the development of that literary nation.

Use the info we’ve supplied in this template letter – but also draw on your own experience and the difference festivals, books, libraries, literature programmes have made to your life, your family and your community.

This is important. It will only take 10 minutes. Please post or email your letter by Friday 1 December.


Contact details

Derek Mackay MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP

Email: CabSecFC@gov.scot

Find your local MSP here: http://www.parliament.scot/msps.aspx


Below is our letter posted to Mr Mackay, from LAS Chair Peggy Hughes.


Dear Derek,

Please protect Scotland’s culture budget

My name is Peggy Hughes, I am Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland, which represents the principal literature and languages organisations in Scotland, and I write to ask you to ensure continued financial support for literature programmes in Scotland in the forthcoming budget.

While I appreciate you face difficult decisions when balancing the budget, the argument for investment in culture is strong. Scotland’s arts and culture sector is one of the most efficient and dynamic in our nation:

At £293 million, total spending on culture, tourism and external affairs represented less than 1% of the 2016-17 Scottish budget. Yet arts and creative industries contribute 3% of the gross value added to the national budget.

In 2015/16 Creative Scotland’s Regular Funded Organisations attracted £109million of extra investment from sources other than public funds and created 1.62 million public participation opportunities.

In 2015, 92% of adults in Scotland participated in a cultural activity and Scotland’s Creative Industries contributed £4.6billion GVA to the Scottish economy, supporting 73,600 jobs.

Scottish literature puts us on the international map and attracts business through publishing, bookselling and cultural tourism. Scotland has more than 100 active publishing houses, producing over 3000 new books a year, employing +1600 people, and generating an annual turnover of c£150 million. The country’s 45 plus book festivals include the world’s largest, and book festivals attract millions to Scotland’s local economies. A third of visitors to Scotland cite history and culture as a key motivation to visit, especially overseas and long-haul visitors.

Given the huge added value the cultural sector brings to Scotland’s economy, society and business community, it is clear that public investment in culture offers outstanding value for money.

Literature is a success story for Scotland and we appeal to the Scottish Government to invest in Scotland’s literature for the future.

Cuts to the public funding that supports the literary infrastructure in Scotland – the bedrock of a cultural offer recognised worldwide for its quality – will undoubtedly lead to the disappearance of many irreplaceable arts organisations and literary infrastructure which support our readers, storytellers, writers, and publishers.

Reading is Scotland’s favourite cultural activity, which brings with it important health benefits. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by the Scottish Government shows clear and significant links between cultural participation and improved health and wellbeing.

Right now, we are punching above our weight across all the creative sectors. Ours is a proud, confident, pioneering nation with a long reach. On behalf of our members, our communities and the young people of the future, we implore you: let’s not fall behind. Please protect the arts and culture.

Yours sincerely,

Peggy Hughes
Chair of LAS


Literature Alliance Scotland Membership at November 2017


  • Association for Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS)
  • Association of Scottish Literary Agents (ASLA)
  • Bookdonors CIC
  • CILIPS (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland)
  • Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust
  • The Gaelic Books Council
  • Moniack Mhor
  • National Library of Scotland
  • Peter Pan Moat Brae Trust
  • Playwrights’ Studio Scotland
  • Publishing Scotland
  • The Saltire Society
  • Scottish Book Trust
  • Scottish Language Dictionaries
  • Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC)
  • SLAM (Scottish Literary and Arts Magazines)
  • Scottish Society of Playwrights
  • Scottish PEN
  • Scottish Poetry Library
  • Scottish Storytelling Forum
  • Scottish Writers Centre
  • Society of Authors in Scotland
  • Universities Committee for Scottish Literature
  • Wigtown Festival Company
  • Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (Scottish Region)


Network Associates

  • Ayton Publishing
  • Emergents CIC
  • Florida State Universities Library
  • Indie Authors World
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
  • Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication @ Stirling University
  • The Poetry Association of Scotland.

Letters were sent from: ASLA, ASLS, CILIPS, City of Lit, Indie Authors, LAS, Moniack Mhor, Playwrights Studio, Scotland and Scottish Society of Playwrights, Publishing Scotland, SLAM, Scottish PEN, Wigtown Book Trust, UCSL.

Society of Authors (in Scotland) supported the campaign with a letter from CEO Nicola Soloman, a piece on their website and in The Bookseller.

Weegie Wednesday also sent the template letter to their network to encourage letters.

At the Scottish budget announcement on 14 December 2017, the overall spend on what the Scottish Government defines as culture rose 10% to £166.8m.


November 30, 2017

#ScotBookFlood: Celebrating Scottish-Nordic Literary Links

With Book Week Scotland 2017 kicking off today, Publishing Scotland is delighted to announce ScotBookFlood. Inspired by the unique tradition of book gifting in Iceland, Jolabokaflod, ScotBookFlood will celebrate Scottish-Nordic links and encourage thoughtful book giving in the run-up to Christmas.

Jolabokaflod (which translates roughly as ‘Christmas book flood’) is the Icelandic tradition of giving books to one other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. It’s such a popular custom that it is the reason why the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December.

ScotBookFlood reflects the recent Arctic Circle Forum in Edinburgh, at which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasised the importance of continuing to forge strong relationships between Scotland and its northern neighbours. Iceland and the UK publish more books per capita than any other countries, and with more books sold in the run-up to Christmas than any other period, ScotBookFlood presents a timely opportunity to highlight dynamic Scottish-Nordic cultural connections.

Kristín Viðarsdóttir, Head of International Cooperation at Reykjavík City of Literature, comments: “Our literatures have crossed paths through the ages as have our people and our languages. We can trace our connection to the very settlement of Iceland, as many of our ancestors came here from the British Isles.”

Marion Sinclair, CEO of Publishing Scotland, says: “The vibrant publishing scene in Scotland moves into the spotlight during Book Week Scotland, and with Christmas ahead, this is a hugely busy time for publishers and bookshops. An increasing emphasis on book design and creating beautiful books these days means ScotBookFlood is an excellent opportunity to showcase books as the perfect gift.”

Duncan Furness, Senior Bookseller at Topping and Company Booksellers in St Andrews, one of Scotland’s newest bookshops, echoes this: “The gift of a book at Christmas provides much more than a diverting story or set of facts. Books contain entire worlds, and have the power to change our perception with every read and re-read. They are paper treasures which last a lifetime.”

The #ScotBookFlood digital campaign is delivered throughout Book Week Scotland (from 27 November to 3 December) via social media and the Books from Scotland website. Books from Scotland features a special ScotBookFlood issue launched today. Highlights include:

  • Interview with best-selling author Matt Haig about his new book for children Father Christmas and Me.
  • Exploring Edinburgh and Reykjavík as UNESCO Cities of Literature.
  • Exclusive Scottish gin cocktail recipe, inspired by Iceland’s volcanic outdoor pools.
  • Acclaimed author Kirsty Logan recalls sheep, wild swimming, and solitude in an article about her writing residency in rural Iceland.
  • Scottish Publishers reveal what Scottish books they will give this Christmas.
  • Extract from McSmörgåsbord: What Post-Brexit Scotland Can Learn from Our Northern Neighbours by Eberhard Bort and Lesley Riddoch.
  • Giveaways of books for adults and children.
  • Pinterest boards highlighting Scottish-Nordic literary links.

Author Kirsty Logan, who features in the ScotBookFlood campaign, remarks “I’ve always been inspired by the idea of north, and my time in Iceland strengthened and sweetened my northern heart. To say it’s a place of pure, terrifying magic is an understatement.”

This week, Books from Scotland and Publishing Scotland will ask about what Scottish books people plan to give this Christmas, or what books from Scotland people plan to read over the festive period. They invite the public to join the conversation, using hashtags #ScotBookFlood, #BookWeekScotland, and tweeting @scottishbooks.


Notes for Editors

  • Publishing Scotland is the trade, network and development body for the Scottish book publishing sector. For more information visit www.publishingscotland.org and its books site www.booksfromscotland.com.
  • Book Week Scotland, a Scottish Government initiative, is the annual celebration of books and reading, facilitated by Scottish Book Trust. It runs from Monday 27 November to Sunday 3 December 2017.
  • Edinburgh was the first UNESCO City of Literature in the world. Reykjavík became the fifth UNESCO City of Literature in August 2011 and was the first non-English speaking city to join the Cities of Literature Network.
  • The Books from Scotland ScotBookFlood Issue is live at www.booksfromscotland.com/issue/scotbookflood. See alsoBooks from Scotland on Twitter (@scottishbooks) and Pinterest.
  • We are available for interview on topics relating to the ScotBookFlood campaign. Please contact Gill Tasker –gill.tasker@publishingscotland.org or call 0131 228 6866. Campaign logos and images are available on request from Gill Tasker.


November 27, 2017
#ScotBookFlood: Celebrating Scottish-Nordic Literary Links

Open Letter: We hope Government will continue to recognise the value of public funding of the arts

The Editor, The Herald

The cultural sector in Scotland awaits the UK Government’s budget announcement on Wednesday this week with trepidation: a perfect storm approaches.  Stark warnings have been issued to prepare for significant financial challenges. But further cuts to the public funding that supports the arts and its infrastructure in Scotland, the bedrock of a cultural offer recognised worldwide for its quality, will undoubtedly lead to the disappearance of many irreplaceable arts organisations.

The sector in Scotland has already weathered cuts of more than a third in real terms since 2010, including a year-on-year collapse of Lottery funding, which until now has been used to shore up Creative Scotland’s core funding for theatres, galleries, venues, literature, and more.  Creative Scotland would need an increase of 48% or £22m on the 2016 budget simply to match the real-term level of 2010.  Arts Council England, by contrast, this year announced £170m in new investment to support 180 additional National Portfolio Organisations.

Core funding reductions are compounded by threats from other areas:  if Barclay Review recommendations are implemented, millions would be wiped from the budgets of arts venues across Scotland.  Culture is not a protected spend, so further cuts to Local Authority budgets will wipe out grass roots community arts activities.

We welcome the positive public statements made by the Scottish Government in acknowledging the central role culture plays across our society, and we applaud the major new investments in film and the Edinburgh Festivals, The Burrell Collection and The V&A in Dundee. Clearly, the will to support arts and culture exists at the highest level.

However, big flagship investments cannot substitute for the basic funding that our everyday, small-to-medium sized cultural groups need to exist. If these disappear, which many will if predictions about cuts to Regular Funding Organisations (RFOs) are correct, how will we nurture and sustain the highly skilled but low-paid artists who deliver arts, culture and creative experiences to audiences across every community in Scotland?

We are clear that we have now arrived at a tipping point where even a small cut to Creative Scotland’s Grant-In-Aid, alongside the reduction in Lottery funds and local authority cuts, will devastate Scotland’s arts and culture infrastructure.  Damage to this infrastructure, developed with the aid of public investment over the last fifty years, will be irreversible. This cannot be overstated.

Conversely, a very small increase in funding would allow the core infrastructure of arts and culture in Scotland to survive and to thrive.

The argument for investment is strong. The arts and culture sector is one of the most efficient and dynamic in the country. In 2015/16 RFOs attracted £109m of extra investment from sources other than public funds and created 1.62 million public participation opportunities. In 2015, 92% of adults in Scotland participated in a cultural activity and Scotland’s Creative industries contribute £4.6bn GVA to the Scottish economy, supporting 73,600 jobs. These outcomes draw from, and depend on, skills identified and developed by the arts.

We are proud to live in a country that values arts and culture for its own sake as well as for its wider societal impact on health, education, justice and communities.  Government funding is vital to this ecosystem. We write to ensure the potential impact of further cuts is fully understood, and we ask the Scottish Government to demonstrate that understanding in the Draft Budget to come.

Yours faithfully,

Seonaid Daly, Director, Scottish Contemporary Art Network

Marc Lambert, Literature Alliance Scotland

Jan-Bert van den Berg, Director, Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians

Fiona Logue, Director, Craft Scotland

Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Unison

Claire Stewart, Director, Creative Edinburgh

David Francis, Director, Traditional Music Forum

Jude Henderson, Director, Federation of Scottish Theatre

David Watt, Chief Executive, Arts & Business Scotland

Janie Nicoll, former President, Scottish Artist Union

Sara Graham, CC Skills, Nations Director

Robert Livingston, Director, Regional Screen Scotland

Diana A Sykes, Director, Fife Contemporary

The letter appeared in The Herald on Tues 21 November 2017 here, and was also covered by Phil Miller online here.



November 21, 2017

CPG on Culture – 5 Dec 2017

The next CPG on Culture will be held on Tuesday 5 December 2017 between 5.30pm-8.00pm at the Scottish Parliament in Committee Room 2.

The meeting will look at Intangible Cultural Heritage.

  • 5.30-6pm – Social Discussion
  • 6-610pm – Introducing Intangible Cultural Heritage: Heather Doherty, Research Co-ordinator, Museums Galleries Scotland
  • 6.10-6.15pm – Illustration of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Kate Sloan and Elma Clark, Sanquhar Knitters
  • 615-6.45pm – Panel Discussion featuring: David Francis, Associate Director, TRACS; Simon Hayhow, Director, Scottish Fisheries Museum; Máiréad Nic Craith, Chair in European Culture and Heritage/Director of Research/Director of Intercultural Centre, Heriot-Watt University 
  • 6.45-8pm – Group Discussion

Due to room capacity only 60 non-MSPs can be accommodated at the meeting, so booking is essential. Secure your spot by emailing Kirstin.MacLeod@creativescotland.com 



Heather Doherty, Research Co-ordinator, Museums Galleries Scotland 

Heather Doherty has been involved in MGS’ work relating to intangible cultural heritage (ICH) since 2008, including international activity and Scotland specific activity. Heather was part of the MGS team for the redevelopment of the ICH in Scotland website and for the organisation of the international ICH Symposium “For Everyone” in November 2015. She has worked in partnership with TRACS to deliver ICH workshops throughout Scotland, and presented at the TRACS St Andrews Day ICH event in 2016. Heather has attended meetings of the ICH NGO Forum and UNESCO meetings relating to the ICH convention.

Kate Sloan, Sanquhar Knitters 

Kate has been a knitter for over forty years. She has worked on the Sanquhar project since it started three years ago. Kate had always had a link to the pattern as she lives locally. She had her family and then the project helped resurrect her skills. She works as a volunteer on the project and has assisted in training many new members of the community with her skills, knowledge and patience.

Elma Clark, Sanquhar Knitters 

Elma is the knitting supervisor for the project. She has been a knitter for over forty years. Elma enjoyed knitting as it helped her work from home when she lived in a rural area and she could work from home and bring up her family. Elma worked for local company who did produce Sanquhar patterned products. Elma is dedicated to ensuring that the heritage of the pattern is passed on.

David Francis, Associate Director, TRACS 

David Francis is Associate Director of TRACS (Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland) and Director of Scotland’s Traditional Music Forum. He compiled a report into traditional music for the Scottish Arts Council in 1999 and chaired the Scottish Government’s Working Group on Traditional Arts which reported in 2010.

Away from the desk, he is a dance-caller and storyteller, and as a guitarist and songwriter was one half of The Cast (with Mairi Campbell), producing 6 albums. He co-produces Distil, a long-running, creative development project for traditional musicians and is currently completing a Masters in Ethnology and Folklore at Aberdeen University.

Simon Hayhow, Director, Scottish Fisheries Museum 

Simon is Director of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, a post he has been in for over ten years. Before that, Simon was Curator of Natural Sciences at Lancashire County Museum Service for eighteen years, with previous museum posts in Rotherham, Oldham and Plymouth. In addition, he has worked for a range on conservation organisations, specialising in upland bird survey work. www.CPGonCulture.com

Máiréad Nic Craith, Professor of Cultural Heritage, Heriot-Watt University 

Máiréad Nic Craith is Professor of Cultural Heritage in the School of Social Sciences at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh, Dubai and Malaysia). Her publications on heritage include edited volumes such as Cultural Heritages as Reflexive Traditions (2007 with Ullrich Kockel), Cultural Diversity, Heritage and Human Rights (2010 with William Logan and Michele Langfeld) and The Blackwell Companion to Heritage Studies (with William Logan and Ullrich Kockel in 2015). In 2011, she was invited by the United Nations as an expert on access to heritage as a human right. Her TEDx talk on intangible heritage is below.

November 15, 2017

The Lights Go On Again – #wordsonthestreet

Stars & Stories is an illuminated walking trail around the Canongate area of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

For the second year, Stars & Stories adds some sparkle to a winter evening walk with 24 beautiful light boxes displaying quotations which shine a light on the print and publishing history of the Canongate area.

The trail of Words on the Street stretches from the Scottish Storytelling Centre in the middle of the Royal Mile down through the Canongate to the Scottish Parliament,forming an hour long tour.

The boxes are lit between 4pm and 11pm each evening, from November until February 2018.

A map, with more information about the quotations, is available from the iCentre on Waverley Mall or for download here.

Discover the background to the quotations on the website and share your photos with @EdinCityofLit using #wordsonthestreet

Stars & Stories is supported by LitLong, the free app to explore the literary city. With thousands of book extracts pinned to locations around the city, it’s the perfect way to create your own walking trails and discover the hidden words of Edinburgh.

Information and image courtesy of Edinburgh City of Literature. 

November 10, 2017

This is it! Scotland’s literary talent in the spotlight at cabaret event

Author Louise Welsh, poet William Letford (l) and Francis Bickmore of Canongate Books.

Best-selling author Louise Welsh and award-winning poet William Letford are set to headline an inaugural literary cabaret taking place this month, which shines a light on the nation’s literary scene in 2017.

The fast-paced, 90-minute show – called This Is It! –  will highlight the year’s literary happenings across five strands – publishing, book festivals, school and public libraries, writers, and the international perspective.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs will open this first public event from Literature Alliance Scotland (LAS) – the nation’s largest network of literature and languages organisations – on Wednesday 23 November from 7pm at Central Hall, Edinburgh.

Speakers include, respectively, Canongate Books’ Publishing Director Francis Bickmore, Adrian Turpin, Artistic Director of Wigtown Book Festival, and Pamela Tulloch, Chief Executive of Scottish Libraries Information Council (SLIC).

Poet William Letford, who hails from Stirling, will cover writer development and perform a reading of his poem This Is It from which the event takes its name.

Closing the show will be Glasgow-based author, Louise Welsh, who will speak about Scotland’s books and literature on the international stage as well as the importance of literary exchange between nations.

In addition, attendees will be able to browse and buy books from Scotland’s writers and publishers courtesy of Blackwell’s Bookshop, Edinburgh while librarians from South Lanarkshire’s digital library programme ‘ACTIVEe’ will be on hand to demonstrate 3D printers which are now available in all of Scotland’s public libraries.

Peggy Hughes, Chair of LAS said:

“With over 40 book festivals a year, ambitious new publishing houses such as 404ink emerging, stalwarts such as Birlinn celebrating 25 years, another Man Booker shortlisting for Ali Smith, Muriel Spark’s centenary on the horizon, not to mention the many, many Scottish books and authors that are going into the world every day and taking our stories and voices with them, it seemed high time that we take a moment to celebrate the wealth of our literature sector and shout about its cultural and social value.”

“At a time when Scotland’s Culture Strategy is being developed, it’s vital that we champion our sector and all the talented people working within and for it. Our literary cabaret is a chance for everyone with an interest in Scotland’s literature and book community to gather together and say, ‘This is it, this is a snapshot of what’s been happening this year’. It’s about carving out a space to celebrate the wonderful success, highlight the exciting potential and address the challenges. That’s why we’re so delighted that Fiona Hyslop is officially opening the event and giving this rich and vibrant sector the recognition it deserves.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“Scotland’s distinguished literary culture is a notable part of our national identity. It also attracts visitors to Scotland and raises our cultural profile around the world.

“I am pleased that the Literature Alliance Scotland is extending its reach beyond its membership of key individuals and agencies which promote writers and publishers to engage with the public.

“We are doing all we can to support the literary sector to ensure this rich legacy is maintained and strengthened in future years. We do this through for example our support for Creative Scotland, literacy, libraries, festivals, Book Week Scotland, the First Minister’s Reading Challenge and the post of Makar.”

Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland, said:

“We have a unique, distinctive and rich cultural asset in literature that not only makes an enormous impact to people’s lives in Scotland but also enhances our reputation internationally.  From poets to storytellers, screenwriters and playwrights the quantity and quality of writing being published here is truly inspiring. This is It! and Literature Alliance Scotland creates an important opportunity to bring together authors, publishers, libraries, festivals and literary organisations, and champion the work being done to make literature more visible to a greater number of people. We look forward to continuing this work with Scottish Government, partner agencies and individuals to create the best conditions to support a thriving literature and publishing sector in Scotland and internationally.”

This Is It! is hosted by Siân Bevan and tickets are £7 /£6 – https://this-is-it-literary-cabaret-2017.eventbrite.com/


Issued by JK Consultancy on behalf of Literature Alliance Scotland. For further information, please contact LAS Communications Officer Jenny Kumar on 07989 557198 / jenny@jkconsultancy.com

Notes to Editor

Literature Alliance Scotland, a membership organisation, represents the principal literature and languages organisations in Scotland, and is committed to advancing their interests at home and abroad. We exist to provide a strong, trusted collective voice on their behalf. Formed in Spring 2015, LAS is a successor to the Literature Forum for Scotland. For further information visit www.literaturealliancescotland.co.uk or follow us on Twitter: @LitScotland

Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. For further information about Creative Scotland, please visit www.creativescotland.com Follow us @creativescots and www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland

November 6, 2017
This is it! Scotland’s literary talent in the spotlight at cabaret event

Scottish Libraries receive Carnegie UK Trust Funding

Public libraries across the UK, including 2 in Scotland, are to receive new funding to help their communities explore major health and wellbeing issues including stress, obesity, body image and even death in new ways.

The ‘Engaging Libraries’ funding, announced by the Carnegie UK Trust and global charitable foundation Wellcome, will support libraries to engage local people in imaginative and interactive projects exploring health and wellbeing.

Libraries in East Dunbartonshire will engage with young and older people to explore brain development at different stages in life, and use the celebration the Year of Young People to work with young people and make intergenerational links via a project called Brainworks.

Dundee libraries’ project Talking ‘Bout Teddies will work with Dr Zeedyk to highlight the importance of teddies to children’s wellbeing, by recording and screening stories and short films of children and adults talking about their teddies and hosting a public lecture on attachment as part of the Dundee Science Festival.

Information courtesy of CILIP in Scotland.

October 31, 2017

Muriel Spark 100: Centenary Celebrations

First details announced for nationwide programme of events & activities celebrating the life & work of Dame Muriel Spark: November 2017 – November 2018

Centenary website goes live: www.murielspark100.com @MurielSpark100 #murielspark100

Organisers encourage people to get involved

Launch of new fund for artists & groups to develop & present work

Advice available to those planning activities

Today, Thursday 26 October 2017, the first details are announced for Muriel Spark 100 – a year-long, nationwide programme of literary and cultural events and activities marking the centenary of one of Scotland’s finest and most internationally respected writers, Dame Muriel Spark.

Watch the promotional video:

Trailer_Muriel_Spark_100 from Creative Scotland on Vimeo.


Led by Creative Scotland and the National Library of Scotland in collaboration with a host of partner individuals, groups and organisations, today’s news coincides with:

  • the launch of a dedicated centenary website murielspark100.com
  • new funds for artists and groups to develop and present new work as part of the centenary year
  • a call out by Muriel Spark 100 organisers to anyone with plans to mark the centenary, to be in touch.

Events and activities already confirmed include the re-publication of all 22 of Spark’s novels by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn ltd (from Nov ‘17); the unveiling of Spark’s extraordinary archive at a landmark National Library of Scotland exhibition (Dec ‘17-May ‘18); leading Scottish writers Ali Smith, Val McDermid, Janice Galloway, Kate Clanchy and Louise Welsh reflecting on Spark’s career in a new BBC Radio 3 series (Jan ‘18); an international conference bringing together fans and academics to explore all aspects of Spark’s writing (Jan/Feb ‘18); Edinburgh Spy Week’s ‘18.

Commenting, Muriel’s great friend Penelope Jardine said: “Muriel’s contribution to Scottish Letters is one of manifest originality, brevity of wit, with the musical composition and rhythms of a poet. Something unforgettable sui generis.”

The initiative has been welcomed by Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop: “I’m really excited about the forthcoming celebration of Muriel Spark 100. Dame Muriel Spark was one of Scotland’s literary giants and, to this day, her work continues to inspire generations of readers and writers and resonates with audiences across the country and beyond.

“I commend Creative Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and all the other partners involved for delivering such an engaging and varied programme of activity and I am looking forward to attending some of these events next year.”

As details are confirmed they will be announced through the newly launched website www.murielspark100.com and posted through the following channels:

@MurielSpark100 / #murielspark100 / facebook.com/murielspark100

Muriel Spark 100 Chair and Creative Scotland Head of Literature, Publishing and Languages, Jenny Niven said: “The centenary of Dame Muriel Spark’s birth is both a landmark moment and an unparalleled opportunity to permanently influence the way in which this leading figure of Scotland’s cultural history features in the public imagination.

“There is so much to explore in Ms Spark’s work, from her incisive commentary, to her startling poetry, to her ability to effortlessly weave folk tradition with biting satire. It’s a particularly interesting time too to consider her legacy, as a Scottish writer who was fiercely international in her approach and who broke through a great many barriers in her career.

“It’s testament to her range and relevance that so many Scottish organisations will engage with her work and legacy throughout 2018 and we are looking forward enormously to this varied and unusual programme. Creating space for contemporary writers and artists to reflect on Muriel Spark’s influence on them is also very important to this project and we hope to see some really exciting and ambitious proposals through the small grants fund in her name.”

National Librarian Dr John Scally said: “The opportunity to celebrate the life and work of Dame Muriel Spark is as exciting a prospect as opening one of her books for the very first time. She is one of Scotland’s finest ever writers and her reputation extends far beyond these shores. It is fitting therefore that the National Library of Scotland and Creative Scotland are marking the centenary of her birth with Muriel Spark 100 – a year- long programme of activity that promises to be lively, varied and engaging.”


Awards of up to £1,500 are available to support people and projects across a range of art forms. The deadline for proposals is Monday 4 December 2017, with selected projects being announced in early 2018. Further details, funding guidelines and application form are available on Creative Scotland’s website here: www.creativescotland.com/murielspark100fund


For those looking to develop events or who would like to mark the centenary in some way – from exhibitions to readings, talks to screenings – contact Muriel Spark 100 Project Coordinator Sabrina Leruste at s.leruste@nls.uk who can offer advice on promoting events as part of the Muriel Spark 100 programme and making connections with relevant counterparts.

Information on a cross section of programme highlights so far:

National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh www.nls.uk/exhibitions

A major new exhibition revealing unique insights into Muriel Spark’s extraordinary life and work. Featuring personal artefacts never before seen by the public The International Style of Muriel Spark will showcase the National Library of Scotland’s Muriel Spark Archive which is one of the most comprehensive personal records of a writer’s life ever assembled.

The writer’s boxed archive covers the period from the 1940s until her death in 2006, taking up some 46 metres of shelving — just short of the height of Edinburgh’s famous Scott monument. The early records of wartime poverty that chart the struggles of an unknown author are joined by scores of diaries, fascinating letters including those with literary giants, world leaders and film stars, diaries, photographs, newspaper cuttings and school magazines all of which illuminate the inspirations behind Spark’s literary style, her love of fashion, and the significance of the places where she lived.

Colin McIlroy, Muriel Spark Project Curator, National Library of Scotland commented: “Muriel Spark was a self-confessed hoarder. She kept everything from school magazines to shopping receipts, photographs, desk diaries and letters from some of the biggest names in 20th century literature. This is what makes her archive so fascinating. The exhibition will allow us to showcase items never before seen by the public and, in the process, shed new light on an incredible life. It will illuminate her literary style, her love of fashion and the significance of the many places around the world in which she lived.”


Publication dates: Nov 2017 – Sep 2018
Each book is priced at £9.99 (hardback). https://murielspark100.com/event/muriel-spark-novels- centenary-editions/

In a bold publishing move, all 22 novels written by Muriel Spark are being re-published by Polygon, an imprint of Birlinn ltd. Each novel will be published in a striking and collectable hardback centenary edition, carrying a series preface by editor Alan Taylor and an introduction by such well-known writers or critics as Ali Smith, William Boyd, Alexander McCall Smith, Candia McWilliam, James Wood, Andrew O’Hagan, Joseph Kanon, Zoë Strachan, Allan Massie, Kapka Kassabova, Dan Gunn Ian Rankin and Richard Holloway. Supported by Creative Scotland and The Muriel Spark Society.

The first four novels – The Comforters, Robinson, Memento Mori, and The Ballad of Peckham Rye – will be published in November 2017. A Far Cry From Kensington will be released early in January, with the next four – The Bachelors, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Mandelbaum Gate – on the anniversary itself, 1st February 2018. The remainder will be published over the course of the following six months, finishing in September 2018.

“The Polygon team are delighted to republish all 22 of Muriel Spark’s quite perfect novels in striking, collectable, affordable editions. With the support of Creative Scotland and the Muriel Spark Society, and the drive of series editor Alan Taylor, all of them are being re-issued by Polygon between November 2017 and September 2018, putting her writing exactly where it should be – right at the heart of the celebrations for her centenary” – Jan Rutherford, Birlinn Ltd

Alan Taylor added: “Everyone knows that Muriel Spark was the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which is undoubtedly one of the twentieth century’s great works of fiction. What too few people also know is that she wrote 21 other novels, all of which are infused with her trademark blend of fun and profundity, original thinking and peerless style.

“Now, for the first time, readers have the opportunity to read Spark at her sparkling best, in a uniform, covetable, hardback edition which even those of slender means can afford.”

Sun 29 Jan – Thur 2 Feb 2018 https://murielspark100.com/event/all-miss-brodies-girls/ 22.45-23.00 every night on BBC Radio 3 and online on the BBC Website and on i-player

Every night from Sunday 29 January until Thursday 2 February, leading Scottish writers Ali Smith, Val McDermid, Janice Galloway, Kate Clanchy and Louise Welsh will reflect on different aspects of the career of Muriel Spark in a series of essays on BBC Radio 3.


Early 2018 (exact date tbc) www.bbc.co.uk
Early in 2018, BBC Scotland and BBC Four will screen a documentary on the life and work of Muriel Spark. Presented by Kirsty Wark, the programme will explore the writer’s extraordinary life and work.


Wed 31 Jan – Fri 2 Feb 2018
University of Glasgow, Senate, Carnegie & Melville Rooms, University Avenue G12 8QQ https://murielspark100.com/event/muriel-spark-centenary-symposium/
Booking information available soon

At the end of January, the University of Glasgow will host a 2-day symposium exploring all aspects of Spark’s writing. Film screenings and creative writing workshops are being planned alongside talks and discussions from Spark fans, distinguished academics and Scottish and international writers including Zoë Strachan, Louise Welsh and Ali Smith. Themes will cover humour, satire and transgression, faith and surveillance, writing and gender in Spark’s work.

Dr Helen Stoddart, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Glasgow said: “The Muriel Spark Centenary Symposium at the University of Glasgow will be a celebration and a critical consideration of Scotland’s most cosmopolitan writer. Spark’s books and characters feature deep spiritual insight and slashing satirical comedy, the latter often portraying the petty confidence tricks that people employ. From the 1960s, when ‘condition of Scotland’ fiction was being demanded by the critical and cultural establishment, she gave the world instead, ‘condition of the human soul’ writing.”


Publication date: from mid November https://murielspark100.com/event/appointment-in-arezzo-a- friendship-with-muriel-spark-by-alan-taylor/ £12.99

Alan Taylor, longstanding friend and travel companion to Muriel Spark, editor of the Birlinn novels re-edition series, well-known literary journalist for over 30 years and author of many books will publish in November 2017 Appointment in Arezzo: A friendship with Muriel Spark.

An intimate, fond and funny memoir of one of the greatest novelists of the last century, this colourful, personal, anecdotal, indiscrete and admiring memoir charts the course of Muriel Spark’s life. With sources ranging from notebooks kept from his very first encounter with Muriel and the hundreds of letters they exchanged over the years,

Appointment in Arezzo offers an invaluable portrait of one of Edinburgh’s premiere novelists.

April 2018 (exact date of talk to be announced soon)
National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EW https://murielspark100.com/event/edinburgh-spy-week-2018-secrecy-spies-and-muriel-spark//

Edinburgh Spy Week is an annual week of public events focusing on spy fiction and film and the ways in which secrecy and spying run through our culture, organised by the University of Edinburgh with the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh Filmhouse, and Blackwell’s. To tie in with the centenary, Spy Week 2018 spotlights the role of secrecy in the life and work of Muriel Spark. Spark was recruited into the Black Propaganda Unit of MI6 during WWII: ‘I played a small part’, Spark wrote, ‘but as a fly on the wall I took in a whole world of intrigue and method’.

The week of events will explore the ways in which this ‘world of intrigue and method’ play out in Spark’s writing, in which espionage, secrecy and spying often takes centre- stage.

Dr Simon Cooke, Department of English Literature, University of Edinburgh, said: “The idea of the event is to explore a pervasive cultural concern. While Spark wasn’t a spy out in the field, she had a career in political intelligence and she did meet a lot of people who were spies. It was a small part of her life in some ways, but if you look at her fiction, the notion of secrecy occurs with some frequency. Books like The Mandelbaum Gate, The Hothouse by the East River and Territorial Rights are, in many ways, spy novels.

“There are a lot of ways in which secrecy and secret agents have a very powerful pull on the imagination and what we want to do is respond to that and try to give interesting discussions, screenings and lectures by some of the key people who are thinking through these ideas.”


Jun-Aug 2018 (exact date to be announced soon)
Glasgow School of Art https://murielspark100.com/event/making-sparks/

Since its inception in 1991, Glasgow Women’s Library has been collecting Muriel Spark’s work. Vintage gems in Spark’s cover art collection, many of which have been donated from Spark fans looking for a new home for their beloved books, will make up an exhibition that will show a colourful timeline of interpretations of Spark’s novels over the years.

Taking inspiration from these cover images, a group of first and second year students from Glasgow School of Art are working to create their own exhibition of illustration, and graphics. Showing from summer 2018, this will run alongside the cover art exhibition.

Adele Patrick, Lifelong Learning and Creative Development Manager at Glasgow Women’s Library said: “The Muriel Spark centenary is a hugely important event for Scotland as it provides us with the opportunity to honour one of our great literary talents. As one of only a few 20th century Scottish women writers to have her legacy recognised in this way, it poignantly and positively reminds us about the wider array of women writers from history that we risk forgetting.

“We are delighted to be working with long term collaborators Glasgow School of Art on a programme where young designers will mine the Glasgow Women’s Library Muriel Spark collection to create new illustrative interpretations.”


Nationwide, throughout 2018

Muriel Spark 100 is collaborating with Scottish arts schools to invite Illustration, Design and Animation tutors and lecturers to involve students in developing new work based on, or influenced by Spark’s work and/or life.

Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, Gray’s School of Art and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design are already on board with the project which will offer participating students opportunities to present their work through a variety of platforms as part of the Muriel Spark 100 programme.

Tutors and lecturers who would like to involve students in the project are invited to contact Sabrina Leruste, Muriel Spark 100 Project Coordinator for more information, at s.leruste@nls.uk. Deadline for submissions: Friday 30 March 2018.

From spring 2018
Throughout Edinburgh https://murielspark100.com/event/walking-spark/

Edinburgh City of Literature Trust will be partnering with Mercat Tours to launch Muriel Spark walking tours from Spring 2018. The tours will set Muriel Spark’s work in the context of the city, exploring the places that influenced and inspired her.
Further details and booking information be announced soon.


For further press information/interviews/images please contact:
Wendy Grannon, Media Relations & PR Manager, Creative Scotland
E: wendy.grannon@creativescotland.com T: 0131 523 0016 / M: 07916 137 632


  1. Muriel Spark 100 is a year-long, nationwide programme of literary and cultural events and activities marking the centenary of one of Scotland’s finest and most internationally respected writers, Dame Muriel Spark.

The project is led by Creative Scotland and the National Library of Scotland in collaboration with a host of partner individuals, groups and organisations including: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, BBC, Birlinn publishing, Bookmark Festival, British Council, Dovecot Studios Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, Filmhouse (Edinburgh), Glasgow Film Festival, Glasgow Film Theatre, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Women’s Library, Gray’s School of Art, Hospitalfield, Literature Alliance Scotland, Muriel Spark Society, National Galleries of Scotland, Saltire Society, Scottish Book Trust, Scottish Library and Information Council, Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Review of Book, StAnza Festival, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Visit Scotland, Waterstones, Writers’ Museum

There are a number of ways to get involved in Muriel Spark 100:

Small grants are available to support people and projects across a range of art forms to develop and present work (deadline Mon 4 Dec 2017)

For those looking to develop events or who would like to mark the Centenary in some way – from exhibitions to readings, talks to screenings – contact Muriel Spark 100 Project Coordinator Sabrina Leruste at s.leruste@nls.uk who can offer advice on promoting events as part of the Muriel Spark 100 programme and making connections with relevant counterparts.

Further information and updates are available at www.murielspark100.com and posted through the following channels: @MurielSpark100 / #murielspark100 / facebook.com/murielspark100

  1. About Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark (née Camberg; 1 February 1918 – 13 April 2006) was a poet, writer of fiction, criticism and literary biography. Best-known as the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark was at the top of her profession, internationally, for more than half a century and went on to win many literary awards. She received a number of honorary degrees, and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993.

Never out of print, Muriel Spark wrote many well-known novels including The Driver’s Seat, The Girls of Slender Means and Momento Mori. Her work found critical approval, and her novels, where the supernatural and the surreal come into collision – and collusion – with the everyday, helped to change the face of fiction in the English language.

In the 1940s Spark decided to keep a record of her professional and personal activities, beginning an archive that is now one of the largest and most comprehensive held by the National Library of Scotland. http://digital.nls.uk/murielspark/

  1. Creative Scotland is the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland on behalf of everyone who lives, works or visits here. We enable people and organisations to work in and experience the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland by helping others to develop great ideas and bring them to life. We distribute funding provided by the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. www.creativescotland.com / @creativescots www.facebook.com/CreativeScotland.
  2. National Library of Scotland

The National Library of Scotland is a major European research library and one of the world’s leading centres for the study of Scotland and the Scots – an information treasure trove for Scotland’s knowledge, history and culture. The Library’s collections are of world-class importance. Key areas include digital material, rare books, manuscripts, maps, music, moving images, official publications, business information, science and technology, and modern and foreign collections. The Library holds more than 26 million physical items dating back over 1000 years in addition to a growing library of e-books, e- journals and other digital material. The collection includes over four million books, eight million manuscripts, two million maps and over 45,000 films and videos. Every week the Library collects around 3,000 new items. Most of these are received free of charge in terms of Legal Deposit legislation. www.nls.uk / @natlibscot / facebook


October 26, 2017

CPG on Culture: A Culture Strategy for Scotland

The Cross-Party Group on Culture discussed A Culture Strategy for Scotland at its meeting on Tuesday 5 September 2017. Watch the video of the debate below.

Speakers included:

  • Leonie Bell, Head of Cultural Engagement and Culture Strategy, Scottish Government
  • Allison Gardener, Programme Director, Glasgow Film
  • Lauren Ross, National Youth Arts Advisor, Young Scot
  • Heather Stuart, Chief Executive, Fife Cultural Trust

CPG on Culture, September 2017 from Creative Scotland on Vimeo.

If the video is not showing above, please view the video here.

October 18, 2017

Statement from Emergents Creatives

A statement from Emergents Creatives was released on 13 October as below:

From the 1st November 2017 our contracts with Highlands and Islands Enterprise to deliver, through Emergents, the XpoNorth Writing & Publishing and  XpoNorth Craft, Fashion & Textiles support will end.

Over the past three years we have had the great pleasure of working with some amazing businesses and wonderful creative people, it has been a privilege.

It is anticipated that support for creatives businesses will continue in some form through Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), to keep up to date with news please sign up for the XpoNorth and HIE newsletters.

Thank you to everyone we have worked with, hopefully our paths will cross again in the future.

Peter Urpeth, Pamela Conacher & Avril Souter

Emergents Creatives Community Interest Company Ltd

October 14, 2017

2017 Saltire Literary Awards shortlist unveiled

Multi-award winning writers and household names James Kelman, Bernard MacLaverty and Denise Mina feature alongside emerging talents Ever Dundas and Kate Hunterin 2017 in the Saltire Literary Awards shortlists, unveiled last night (12th October).

The shortlists for the seven awards that make up the 2017 Saltire Literary Awards were officially announced at an event hosted at the Edinburgh West End branch of Waterstones and featured readings from last year’s winner of the Scottish Book of the Year Award, Kathleen Jamie.

Widely regarded as Scotland’s most prestigious book awards, the Saltire Literary Awards are organised by the Saltire Society, a non-political independent charity founded in 1936 which aims to celebrate the Scottish imagination.

Established writer John Burnside, one of only two poets to have won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the same book, features in both the Poetry and Fiction Book Awards shortlists. He is up against new voices Em Strang and Jason Donald for the coveted prizes.

A collection of some of the most beautiful and historically significant maps from the National Library of Scotland’s archive, the exploration of the development of Muslim communities in Scotland, highlighting the ongoing changes in their structure and the move towards a Scottish experience of being Muslim, and a collection, covering 500 years of transgressive Gaelic poetry with new English translations all contribute to a rich line-up in the Research and Non-Fiction book of the Year Awards.

The Fiction Book of the Year shortlist features a number of acclaimed authors, including the latest novels from previous Saltire Literary Award winners James Kelman, Bernard MacLaverty and John Burnside. Also featured is Denise Mina,the first woman to win the McIllvanney prize for her shortlisted novel, The Long Drop.

The First Book of the Year shortlist is particularly varied, with beguiling historical tale Goblin by Ever Dundas, the interweaving of crime and taxidermy in Sandra Ireland’s Beneath the Skin alongside the candid life-memoir of an Italian Scot, Anne Pia.

2013 saw the Saltire Literary Awards expanded to see Publishers as well as writers celebrated for their work.

This year sees awards for both publishing companies and individuals at the beginning of their career in the industry.

Established publishers such as Canongate and Birlinn are shortlisted alongside newcomers 404Ink who have had phenomenal success with their first publication Nasty Women, and niche publishers Handspring, while emerging talents, such as Kirstin Lamb of Barington Stoke and Laura Waddell of Harper Collins, have been shortlisted for the Emerging Publisher of the Year Award for their commitment, innovation and adaptability within the industry.

The shortlists for the seven awards for the 2017 Saltire Literary Awards, each accompanied by a cash prize for the winner, are:


The winning book from each of the book awards will go on to compete for the coveted Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award and an accompanying £3,000 cash prize.

The winners of all the Saltire Literary Awards, along with the Ross Roy Medal for the best PhD thesis on a subject relating to Scottish literature, will be formally announced at a special ceremony in Edinburgh on St Andrew’s Day (30 November 2017).

Saltire Society Programme Director, Sarah Mason commented: “As always with the Saltire Literary Awards, the sheer scale, diversity and excellence within the shortlists exemplify the best in Scotland’s literary sphere.

“My congratulations to all our shortlisted writers and publishers. I wish them the very best of luck when the awards are announced at a special ceremony on St Andrews day.”

October 13, 2017