A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Perceptions & experiences of writers of colour in Scotland’s literary sector – survey report

Added on June 2, 2021. Download this resource

In March 2021, Scottish BAME Writers Network (SBWN) partnered with EDI Scotland for their second annual survey on perceptions and experiences of Black and PoC writers in and from Scotland. This survey aimed to assess gaps, absences, and barriers to participation in Scotland’s literary sector; to help SBWN plan inclusive programming in 2021 and beyond; and was a follow up to build on the findings in their 2020 report. They also wanted to ask: “What are we, as a sector, doing to support and inspire current and future generations of Scottish and Scotland-based Black and PoC writers?”

Read the report, which was published on 26 May 2021, here.

Key findings from respondents include:

  • 68.3% strongly agreed that SBWN had increased the visibility of writers of colour in Scotland.
  • 70.7% strongly agreed that SBWN had exposed them to a greater diversity of writers of colour in Scotland.
  • 21.4% had experienced a racist incident at a literary event or activity in the past 12 months.
  • 81.8% had experience of mental health problems or mental distress.
  • 28.8% identified as disabled, with a further 9.6% of respondents unsure.
  • 78.9% disagreed or strongly disagreed that white Scottish audiences were aware of the diversity of writers of colour in Scotland.
  • 13.0% had not yet published work.
  • 38.9% had not read their work at a public event (venue-based or digital) in the past three years.
  • 79.0% disagreed or strongly disagreed that people of colour and white Scottish people have equal opportunities to succeed in Scotland’s literary sector.

Several respondents commented on the whiteness of cultural events and activities, particularly outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow and an expectation to share racial trauma. Many also requested that SBWN facilitate mentorship opportunities and/or a buddy scheme.

Recommendations for the literary sector include:

  • Develop events and activities for writers of colour outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow, for example, the continuation of online events and activities when in-person events and activities are permitted to restart.
  • Facilitate opportunities for writers of colour in Scotland to showcase their work with international audiences outside of Scotland.
  • Better engage white Scottish audiences in the work of writers of colour in Scotland, without burdening writers with the responsibility to ‘educate others’.
  • Challenge views that suggest diversity and quality are incompatible or that writers of colour are invited to participate in literary events and activities to satisfy diversity requirements.
  • Increase the representation and visibility of people of colour in senior positions in Scotland’s literary sector.


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