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.
Aonghas Padraig Caimbeul/Angus Peter Campbell
Christine De Luca
Professor Sir Tom Devine
Graeme Macrae Burnet
Alexander McCall Smith
Donald S Murray
John Gordon Sinclair
Ryan Van Winkle
The letter has been featured in the following publications and has been sent to the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretaries for their views.