A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Muriel Spark 100

Are you planning an event to celebrate the Muriel Spark centenary or have an idea for an event you would like to develop?

The Muriel Spark 100 programme aims to raise the profile of Dame Muriel, her work, and her legacy and place her in the centre of the cultural landscape of 2018.

Led by the National Library of Scotland and Creative Scotland with the collaboration of many partner organisations – including BBC, Glasgow University, Scottish Book Trust, British Council, Muriel Spark Society, GFT and Glasgow Women’s Library –  the Muriel Spark 100 programme will celebrate the life and literary achievements of one of Scotland’s finest and most internationally respected writers across the year, through a series of events, including talks, exhibitions, readings, publications and screenings.

They are looking for organisations and practitioners with work in development or who would be interested to mark the centenary in some way. From exhibitions to readings, talks or screenings, the formats and angles for contribution are diverse.

For more information, please contact the Muriel Spark 100 Coordinator, Sabrina Leruste, at s.leruste@nls.uk

August 24, 2017

Creative Scotland news: Growing Scotland’s Literature and Publishing Sector


Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland today, Wednesday 23 November 2016, provides an update on Creative Scotland’s work to support Scotland’s Literature and Publishing Sector, since the publication of its Literature and Publishing Review.

The update coincides with Niven’s appearance at Literature Alliance Scotland’s International Summit, taking place at Edinburgh’s Storytelling Centre, during Book Week Scotland.

Jenny Niven, Head of Literature, Languages and Publishing at Creative Scotland, commented:
“Convened in direct response to recommendations within the Literature and Publishing Sector Review published in June 2015, the Summit is bringing together – for the first time – writers, publishers, literature organisations and public bodies to plan how Scotland can better support the international promotion and presentation of Scotland’s writers and literature.

“A range of other projects, including new support for translation as well as investment in the recently established International Literature Showcase are part of our increased focus on international working, in response to feedback from the Literature sector in 2015’s sector review.

“That consultation has helped shape our Arts and Creative Industries Strategies and we thank everyone who has contributed to this work so far.  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.”

Published 18 months ago, the Literature Sector Review produced a broad spread of recommendations aimed at improving the health of literature in Scotland, sustaining the sector as a vibrant form of cultural expression, and as an important creative industry. The review covered a range of areas including individual writers, the publishing industry, developing readers, and the international promotion and development of Scottish writing.

In addition to the £4m awarded to writers, poets, book festivals, storytellers, publishers and literary organisations, over the last year, to support their work in Scotland and internationally, a number of measures have been undertaken in the past 18 months to help grow the Sector, including:

International Promotion
Developing a strategic approach to the international promotion of Scottish writers and Literature

  • Today’s International Summit has been co-ordinated by LAS, in direct response to a specific recommendation from Creative Scotland’s Literature and Publishing Sector Review, to explore a more strategic approach to the international promotion of Scottish writing and literature.  Dr. Alasdair Allan MSP, Scotland’s Minister for International Development and Europe, will open the event. The aim of the day is to lay the groundwork for a stronger international presence for Scottish literature.

Donald Smith, Vice-Chair of LAS said: The issue of Scotland’s international presence has been discussed a great deal over the years. This Summit marks the first time that the key players will be together in the same space with the same goal of agreeing what needs to be done and how we might work together to do it.”

  • Creative Scotland is partner funding a major new initiative with Writers Centre Norwichand the British Council to promote UK writers and literature organisations overseas.  Launched in September 2016, the online International Literature Showcase is supporting talented upcoming writers with promotional opportunities, new commissions and the development of their international profile.

Developing Talent and Skills

  • In the last financial year, 2015-16, Creative Scotland awarded more than £4million to writers, poets, book festivals, storytellers, publishers and literary organisations to support their work in Scotland and internationally. For further information on Creative Scotland’s support for Literature, languages and publishing please visit, here.
  • Creative Scotland’s Open Project Fundoffers support for individual writers at all stages of their careers.  Awards made this year include Janice Galloway, Kirsty Logan, Amy Liptrot, Ewan Morrison, Merryn Glover, Malachy Tallack and Gordon Meade.
  • The Gavin Wallace Fellowship enables writers to take time out of their usual environment to develop their practice over the course of a year.  Writer Kirsty Logan, who undertook her Fellowship in 2015, commented: “The past year has been absolute bliss. Having the freedom to read, think and explore is truly priceless for a writer. The fellowship came at exactly the right time in my writing life, and I can’t recommend it enough.”
  • Creative Scotland has partnered with the Scottish Review of Books to run the Emerging Critics Mentoring Programme, which was launched with a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August 2016. Between November 2016 and February, 2017, 20 writers looking to break into literary criticism are being mentored in small groups by critics Alan Taylor, Rosemary Goring, David Robinson, Kaite Welsh and Dave Coates. Mentees are receiving guidance on writing literary criticism for print and online platforms and are receiving individual feedback with a view to showcasing their work on a special Emerging Critics section of the Scottish Review of Books website.

Mentee Ian Abbott, commented: “The emerging critics programme is bringing together different voices and practices from inside and outside the field of literature to learn from, share with and challenge each other. It offers the opportunity to reset, refocus and deepen our thinking on what criticism is, could be and how relevant it is; I’m interested in who isn’t represented, the gaps that exist and why some voices are invisible. There is already a generosity and exchange amongst our group and I believe it’s going to produce a series of stimulating debates, new sets of knowledge and a hearty barrel of the unknown.”


  • Launched in August 2015, the new Translation Fund, delivered by Publishing Scotland, is designed to encourage international publishers to translate works by Scottish writers. The £25,000 fund has already supported the translation of work from authors such as Amy Liptrot, Gavin Francis, Jenni Fagan and Jackie Kay translated into a variety of languages including Spanish, Italian and German amongst others.

Aly Barr, Literature Officer at Creative Scotland, said “The Publishing Scotland translation fund is now attracting applications from leading publishers around the world. The fund forms part of a pathway for international publishers-working in parallel with the annual international publishing fellowship. The fund is the amongst the largest awards schemes for translating books in Britain and positions Scottish publishing as an outwardly facing industry keen to share its stories with the world.”

  • The Fellowship Programme launched in August 2015 with the aim of forging stronger and more strategic links between international and Scottish publishers and agents to discover and acquire the rights to Scottish books.  Developed in partnership between Creative Scotland, Emergents and Publishing Scotland, the programme has engagedeighteen international publishing fellows.
  • The newly established Translation Residency Programme is offering writers the opportunity to take the time to work on the translation of Scottish works.  Delivered by Cove Park in partnership withPublishing Scotland and the British Centre for Literary Translation.  Anne Brauner (Germany) and Clara Pezzuto (Italy) undertook residencies in September 2016 and translated works byScotland based authors – The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie and And The Land Lay Still by James Robertson, respectively.
  • In 2017, the Translation Programme will expand to include partnerships with Writers Centre Norwich and University of Glasgow, in addition to a continuing relationship with Publishing Scotland, creating a UK-wide and outward looking programme. Highlights include residential mentoring for translators and poet-poet translation, as well as an increase in the number of translation residencies available.

Advocating for literature

  • Literature Alliance Scotland was awarded £50,000 in April 2016 to undertake a two-year programme of advocacy and networking involving its 26 member organisations (e.g. EIBF, Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Book Trust, Saltire Society). The programme of activity will be rolled out over the next 18 months and the first output is today’s international summit.

Writer’s Pay

  • Creative Scotland’s recently published Arts Strategy underlines its ambition to improve the financial context in which artists and other creative professionals develop and make their work.  The Strategy has been informed by findings reported in the Literature Sector Review which found that that 81% of Scottish writers who responded to the survey earn below the National Minimum Wage. Together with the Society of Authors in Scotland, and other partners, Creative Scotland is exploring ways to address this issue and encourage organisations representing writers to continue to work closely with the sector in setting  standards  and  terms  of  engagements  for  activities  such as travel,  speaking  engagements, residencies, and publishing  contracts.

Access to literature and support for Scotland’s languages

  • In August 2015, Creative Scotland and the National Libraries of Scotland announced the first Scots Scriever – poet, novelist and playwright, Hamish MacDonald.  Responsible for working with the cultural sector, communities, and in particular, schools across Scotland, the Scriever will work to enhance awareness, understanding and use of Scots.  The Scriever post is also directly complementing Education Scotland’s work through their Scots language co-ordinators to broaden engagement of the Scots language policy.

Notes to Editors

About Creative Scotland 

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

Media Contact

Sophie Bambrough
Media Relations and PR Officer, Creative Scotland

D +44 131 523 0015 +44 7916 137 632

E: Sophie.bambrough@CreativeScotland.com

November 23, 2016

Opening Address by Tom Pow at the Literature Sector Review Summit

Tom Pow, poet and writer, gave the introductory address at the Literature Review summit meeting held in The Lighthouse in Glasgow on 30 July 2015. The afternoon meeting was attended by over a hundred people from the literature community across the whole of Scotland. Read Tom’s full address here:

‘I have ten minutes to introduce this hugely complex, thorough and ambitious review. I want to reflect briefly on where we have come from, as well as where we are now and where we might go. This is a rather breathless personal take on that journey.

In 1968, when I went to university, there was not one chair of Scottish literature in the whole of Scotland; one of the reasons perhaps why at the time I could barely tell a MacDiarmid from a McGonagall. Hopefully, the new Scots Scriever and the new Scots Language Policy will help to sort that sort of ignorant nonsense out! I’d never met a living writer and the only way to meet one at university was to import one yourself – Norman MacCaig, Robert Garioch, Alan Jackson and Pete Morgan, the finest performance poet of his and many another generation. It was a time when, as MacCaig commented, Scottish poets were, most commonly, ‘men of sorrow acquainted with Grieve’. Before Liz Lochhead’s Memo for Spring, man and poet in Scotland were almost synonymous terms.

In the suitcase of the Scottish novel, writers tended to be represented by one novel each rather than by a body of work: Sunset Song, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Cone Gatherers. Interesting to note that the film of  Sunset Song, to be premièred in Toronto in September, had its harvest scenes shot in New Zealand – I mean, tell us Robyn Marsack, what can a New Zealand summer offer that a Scottish summer can’t?

Back then again, the ‘literature ecology’ was given oxygen by committed activists – Joy Hendry regularly sold copies of Chapman in the Abbotsford from a postman’s sack (at least that is how I remember it) and engaged passionately with all-comers about Scottish writing. Meanwhile, Callum Macdonald publishing his own imprint and the magazine, Lines Review, was a forerunner of Hamish Whyte and Gerry Cambridge in terms of meticulous standards and steady commitment.

Looking back in this haphazard way, personal hotspots come to mind: among them, Tom Leonard’s first Glasgow poems; the publication of Sorley Maclean’s Selected Poems; the appearance of Lanark; Edwin Morgan’s Sonnets from Scotland; Liz Lochhead’s  Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off: the vibrancy of a culture asserting itself post 1979.  At Polygon, Peter Kravitz was working with Janice Galloway and AL Kennedy and especially James Kelman. Kravitz said later that it had taken him ten years to get Kelman’s voice out of his head.

There were other voices too: Jeff Torrington, Duncan McLean, Agnes Owens, Irvine Welsh – Scotland was finally writing itself. At the same time, Canongate Classics was turning the suitcase of the Scottish novel into shelf upon shelf. Moreover, different kinds of hotspots were coming into being – ones that reflected confidence and that gave support: the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the Scottish Poetry Library. All of these organisations – the RFOs – in fact, every bloody hotspot you can think of – has depended on vision, generosity and sheer stubbornness. Such were qualities Tessa Ransford had in abundance. She is gravely unwell. I’m sure such a wide gathering of all concerned with Scottish writing would want to pass to her today their thanks for her contribution to Scotland as poet and activist.

It takes acknowledgement of where we have come from to recognise that we are in the middle of a significant hotspot right now. All of the above organisations have expanded their horizons – the number of book festivals has grown, a potential tourist trail from Edinburgh to Ullapool, from Dundee to Melrose, from Wigtown to Shetland, and from Shetland back to Stirling. Bloody Scotland? Aye Write! The Scottish Book Trust has also grown, as it keeps butting itself up against the question of what impedes the pleasures and the social advantages of literacy. The Scottish Poetry Library has increased its capacity and collaborated with the Storytelling Centre in interesting ways.  Cove Park, too, is having new work done to offer more opportunity to artists.  The National Library of Scotland continues to expand its work as a world-class institution. And there are new developments: Moniack Mhor is free to pursue its own exciting agenda (Moniack Libre!); The Saltire Society is re-energised under Jim Tough; and Moat Brae in Dumfries is due to open as a National Centre of Children’s Literature and Storytelling in 2017. It will endeavour to be a centre of innovation and engagement as the Glasgow Women’s Library has proved to be. And hurray, the independent bookshop is back!

Live events – Neu! Reekie!, Rally and Broad and Mirror Ball – are attracting a new, younger audience. If you were ever introduced at Forest Café by Ryan Van Winkle, as he necked a bottle of wine, you might be forgiven for thinking of the old saw that ‘poetry (really) is the new rock and roll’. And, as storytelling, traditional and revivalist, has become part of our ‘official’ (i.e. funded, supported) literary culture, so is spoken word now. Musicians frequently share the platform at spoken word events – Aidan Moffat, Withered Hand, King Creosote – bringing a new focus to lyrics, which, from the Border Ballads to Burns’ songs, have always been a vital part of our culture. And so song writing has also been brought, its mention albeit fleeting, into the larger tent of this Review.

Last summer indyref cultural activists, in word, story and song, reached out to the whole of Scotland – as Neu! Reekie’s summer tour is currently doing. One of the attractive ideas of the Review is the questioning of the Central Beltist concept of ‘out reach’. Instead, it is suggested that regional hubs be set up round Scotland with various kinds of expertise. Connection! Co-ordination! Collaboration! – three significant watchwords within the Review. (They need to be verbs.)

Thankfully, we live in a literary culture now where you don’t need to be dead to be appreciated – though it still helps. The New Writers Scheme run by the Scottish Book Trust produces writers who seem to be born with reputations – Billy Letford, Kirsty Logan, Malachy Tallach, Claire Askew. While at the same time, writers like Ali Smith, Kathleen Jamie, AL Kennedy, Jackie Kay, Louise Welsh – and let’s throw in a token James Robertson and Andrew O’Hagan, now flying a flag of his choice in the Booker long-list – have growing international reputations. That’s not to mention our global brands of Alexander McCall Smith, JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and the Tartan Noires.

Meanwhile, established publishers such as Birlinn, Canongate and Luath, have been joined by the fresher faces of Freight, Cargo, Vagabond Press and current Scottish Publisher of the Year, Sandstone Press. Our publishers respond to the challenges of the digital market place with vigour and imagination, while continuing to produce beautiful, distinctive books, in all three of Scotland’s languages, supported by a more internationally aware Publishing Scotland and Gaelic Books Council. In fact, I think the international section of the Review, with its comparative studies, and call for greater focus on translation, will be one of the most interesting sections of the Review for many here today. The Review comments on all of this, while advocating that the sector needs further re-scoping beyond traditional models to include new digital possibilities of storytelling and collaboration within the ‘creative industries’.

Something that struck me forcefully, engaging with the Review with the members of the steering group, is that it is consciously democratic. It takes writers at all levels, and readers at all levels, seriously. It respects the needs of the child reader and of the young writer; it considers the needs of the commercially published writer and those of the self-published writer; it considers those committed to print and those seeking new platforms. Funding apart, the Review does not preference one literature worker over another – whether working for a literary organisation or reading to a child at night, each is engaged, at some level, with the business of fostering a love of reading and of developing the imagination.

Similarly, it is recognised that publishing, whether a best-seller or a kitchen table pamphlet, can be motivated by a similar passion and desire to share what is considered worthwhile; though again obviously the financial implications are of a different order. This democratic emphasis does not come from nowhere – it comes from all those consulted in the making of the Review; in other words, from many of you here today.

Again, back in the day, my contemporaries – Liz Lochhead, Ron Butlin, Brian McCabe, Andrew Greig and Alan Spence – were from the first generation to make a bare living working in schools. Now, writers are regulars throughout education – from working in primary schools (Itchy Coo! Itchy Coo!), to the numerous Creative Writing Courses at our universities – but also in hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in parliament: the report sees many more possibilities for advancing the effectiveness and importance of literature as an agent for social good.

Each time I read the Review I am prompted, as you will be, by fresh thoughts. For example, how to sustain a level of critical debate beyond the universities i.e. in our public outlets. For another example, you may find reference to the Open Project Fund rather too frequent. You may also think that certain projects, such as getting more Scottish writing into schools and libraries, are of such significance to our identity and cultural and educational health that funding for them should come from another source i.e. the Government, rather than by putting further pressure on the highly competitive Open Project Fund. If so, this will involve determined advocacy (by someone…) and, in many ways, the success or failure of the ambitions contained here will be decided by how persuasive the literary community can be in unlocking fresh sources of income.

There may be parts of this Review that you will want to argue with vehemently. But do not do so with suspicion.  We have always been very lucky with our literature teams at Scottish Arts Council and Creative Scotland – Walter Cairns, Jenny Brown, Gavin Wallace and now Jenny Niven with Emma Turnbull and Aly Barr, people who have cared and who do care deeply about the state of literature in Scotland. The consultant team at Nordicity and Drew Wylie have worked with energy, engagement and commitment. This introduction has been shot through with holes, omissions and oversights – all my own work – but I hope you have filled in some of the gaps with examples from your own ‘kist o whistles’.

Lastly, the best way I can think of to describe the Review is as a manifestation of energy – something sparky, electric, challenging to control. Chris Grieve had to invent Hugh MacDiarmid so that he could both praise and fight with himself. When Alan Jackson, in 1971, published ‘The Knitted Claymore’, his essay on culture and nationalism, he had to write a letter to The Scotsman himself to create a puff of argument. Our literary culture today is not one lacking in energy or confidence – we don’t have to artificially create energy, only to shape it and to direct it. This Review offers us prospects of doing that.’

Tom Pow

30 July 2015



August 20, 2015
Opening Address by Tom Pow at the Literature Sector Review Summit