Scotland has a rich and prestigious literary history but also a vibrant contemporary literary scene. It is unusual for one country to be able to boast both cutting edge gritty writers as well as literary greats of the calibre of Rabbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott. Scotland's literary heritage and our current successful writers both act as magnets attracting visitors to Scotland and raising Scotland's cultural profile around the world.
By its very nature the literary sector is diverse and our most successful writers represent the tip of an iceberg because talent can take many years to emerge. The strength of networks of both writers and publishers is vital for their support.
The Scottish Government and its agencies can do much to bolster the sector and make it more resilient to global economic changes. The literature sector itself also needs to work with education and tourism to build broader base for connections; embrace new technology and expand its readership.
The Literature Working Group was set up in 2009. It was tasked with recommending a new approach to public sector support for literature, focussing particularly on writing and publishing.
The Group was asked to examine the provision, both financial and non-financial, for all areas of literature: fiction, poetry, non-fiction, journalism, children's books, and any other forms of writing that are published in book or journal/magazine form, whether in English, Scots or Gaelic. It was also asked to address the needs of publishers and literary magazines; and of festivals, libraries, and all bodies working to promote literature.
I would firstly like to thank all members of the Group, under the superb leadership of Rosemary Goring, for their hard work and dedication throughout the process which has resulted in a rich and challenging report. This report works on many levels, raising many important questions and issues, and proposes a variety of solutions.
Since the publication of the report I have received many responses from those with an interest. I also offer my thanks to those who took the time to feed in their thoughts in this way.
I expected nothing less than energetic debate from the literary sector and the report's publication certainly opened up a wide debate. There is much in the report that is practical and realistic and there is much that will be considered challenging. I am delighted that the report also clearly recognises that there is much for us to celebrate in the vibrancy and history of Scotland's literature and publishing.
With the establishment, in July 2010, of Creative Scotland we have had the opportunity to look at what we are doing to support different art forms throughout Scotland. On the day Creative Scotland came into being, I wrote to Sir Sandy Crombie, chair of Creative Scotland, advising him that I expect the new body to lead on the implementation of actions recommended in this report. Creative Scotland has now been able fully to consider each of the recommendations in detail and I refer to Creative Scotland's response in my reply to each. There were, as I have said, many ideas embedded in the report and, though they were not numbered, Creative Scotland has now been able to consider the detail and I have drawn on discussions with them in my reply to each main recommendation.
High quality literature enriches us all. The deep enjoyment engendered by a good poem, short story or novel can make the author successful, the reader more sensitive and our society more civilised. Our distinguished literary culture in Scotland has, for centuries, been a notable part of our national identity. As the Working Group report points out, Scotland has produced "more writers per head of population than any other artform". It is now time to ensure this rich legacy is maintained by supporting established writers and by encouraging and promoting the wealth of exciting new talent.
The Literature Working Group report provides a vigorous and valuable examination of the current position of Scottish literature and publishing together with a robust set of recommendations. I look forward to seeing these taken forward by Creative Scotland over the coming months and years.
FIONA HYSLOP MSP
- To establish a Scottish Academy of Literature
I asked Creative Scotland to investigate the practicalities of establishing a Scottish Academy of Literature. Creative Scotland fully recognises the reasons behind this recommendation - the need to promote the value of the literature sector, the need to affirm its prestige, the need to develop its profile and support talent. There is also a need to make the most of the ambassadorial potential of Scottish Literature - to encourage more visitors from overseas to visit Scotland because of its outstanding literary canon. While there is undoubted merit in the aim of promoting the greater visibility and recognition of literature in the national and international consciousness, I understand Creative Scotland's decision to do this in other ways. Given the current economic circumstances, Creative Scotland has confirmed to me that it will seek to do this by taking a variety of actions, for example:
- Creative Scotland is working with its flagship organisations through the review of Foundation organisations to examine their strengths and move to consolidate these through further investment.
- Creative Scotland is looking for opportunities to acknowledge and promote the best Scottish literature - for example, with the recent appointment of the Makar, Creative Scotland has increased the stipend for the National Poet for Scotland in order to promote a greater degree of visibility for the appointment. Creative Scotland has already agreed with the Royal Commonwealth Society for Scotland that the National Poet will be commissioned to produce a work for the 2012 Commonwealth Day Observance. The work will be read at the event which takes place before Royalty and Heads of State and which is recorded for an international audience.
- In readiness for, and during the Year of creative Scotland in 2012 and in the run up to the legacy of the Commonwealth games in 2014, Creative Scotland will look for opportunities alongside the work of the Makar, to acknowledge and celebrate our best writers to bring literary prestige to Scotland.
- Creative Scotland will be carrying out a feasibility study for a National Book Week the first of which would be held in 2012 . The study will examine how a National Book Week could build upon the cross sectoral and cross artform linkages.
If there emerges a strong momentum from the literature and publishing sectors to establish a Scottish Academy for Literature, Creative Scotland is willing to look again at the potential for this as economic circumstances improve.
- To make funding for writers broader and more varied, with support for fledgling Writers predominantly through mentorships and retreats
I fully endorse this recommendation, as does Creative Scotland. For more than four decades the Writers' Bursaries awarded by the Scottish Arts Council provided support for almost 700 individual writers to develop their work - ranging from poetry and prose to novels and translations. Many of these writers, then unknown, have gone on to become highly respected literary figures.
Building on this legacy, the Writer's bursaries will be further enhanced through Creative Scotland introducing the 'Creative Futures' programme. This significant residency programme will support more than 200 residencies across all artistic practices and genres. Investment from Creative Scotland will be devolved to a range of organisations to ensure a plurality of approach and decision making.
There are a number of residencies which will focus exclusively on writers, offering opportunities both for creative development and collaboration: these will include at least eight opportunities annually, alongside at least one international residency. A Creative Futures network of participating hosts and artists is being established to exchange knowledge and experience which will increase opportunities for writers to network.
This builds on existing provisions of bursaries for writers and offers mentorship opportunities. Literature and the visual arts currently dominate Creative Scotland's bursary schemes. However, in the second year of the Creative Futures programme there will be the opportunity to build partnerships with the organisations responsible for Scotland's historic and iconic buildings and explore the potential for residencies.
- To set up an investment model for writers' grants
Creative Scotland is currently considering its new range of investment models for 2011-12 and beyond. Creative Scotland fully recognises that, due to the solitary nature of a writer's work, there needs to be better sign-posting to the sources of available support.
Creative Scotland is at an advanced stage of developing its plans for 2011-12, which will outline a number of new investment initiatives in readers, writers and publishers.
In addition to the writers' bursaries described above, Creative Scotland is looking at a range of ways of supporting writers at different points in their careers, which may range from grants through to profit shares.
Creative Scotland currently also supports the literature sector in the form of a wide range of fellowships for host organisations to employ writers, storytellers and literature development workers. The stipend for a one-year Writing Fellowship is a minimum of £18,000, or pro rata shared with the host organisation. Current or very recent Fellowship holders include Carl McDougall at the Biggar Museum Trust, Rab Wilson, the Burns Writing Fellowship and Anneliese Mackintosh at Her Majesty's Prison, Saughton (Writer in Prisons). Literature Development Officers are also being supported in collaboration with: the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association, Highland and Island Arts and a Storytelling Development Officer at St James's Parish Church, Pollock.
- To use libraries as writers' centres
I broadly support this recommendation, together with those at 10 and 11 below, which are aimed at improving access to and use of Libraries.
Many writers already use libraries to support their writing. Every local authority supports at least one writing group and/or an annual writers event/literature festival. In this context they use the libraries' welcoming environment and resources to research and study. Many authors and budding authors are active members of reading and local writing groups. Many Libraries already respond to local demand for such services and the recommendation made in the report should be considered in the context of appropriate space and opening hours for such support.
I can also report that Creative Scotland strongly supports this aim and is already demonstrating through small pilot projects that innovation can happen in the libraries service. These projects will act as influencers, and, working in partnership with SLIC will spread the benefits. Creative Scotland also intends to provide support for Readers in Residence within a small number of Libraries. These writers will use their time and specialist skills to develop the service in consultation with library professionals at local level. Creative Scotland will work with SLIC to measure the impact of this investment over time.
In addition Creative Scotland will support three library professionals to examine examples of excellence through carefully selected field trips. On their return they will disseminate new knowledge within the library sector.
I believe that these actions by Creative Scotland working together with its key partners will maximise mutually beneficial opportunities to improve the libraries sector.
- To enhance the Live Literature scheme
The Scottish Book Trust has informed me that it welcomes the focus on the Live Literature Scheme and its enormous potential.
I note that the Literature Working Group reports that the scheme is already 300% oversubscribed so the demand is huge. I can report that Creative Scotland intends to review its work with its Foundation Organisations to enhance this scheme. This review will begin imminently.
- To establish a Gaelic literary magazine
The Scottish Arts Council used to support a Gaelic magazine, "Gath". This aimed to be a quarterly magazine but after some time the gaps between issues began to lengthen and the magazine is unlikely to continue.
Creative Scotland has a new role in relation to Gaelic Arts by acting as an enabler and as such many of its new initiatives will be devolved through partnerships and experts within the existing infrastructure. Creative Scotland already supports a range of Gaelic arts organisations, is developing its Gaelic arts strategy and jointly funds a Gaelic arts development officer post with Bord na Gaidhlig. I have asked Creative Scotland to discuss this recommendation with the Gaelic Books Council (Comhairle nan Leabhraichan).
Creative Scotland will enhance the residency programme at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. These partnerships will have the potential for a literary dimension to further raise the profile of Gaelic.
- To set up a country-wide network of Literature Development officers
I fully appreciate the importance of networks in a fragmented and competitive field.
Creative Scotland is aware that there used to be a network of Arts Development Officers jointly supported through partnerships with local authorities. Despite incentives this was not sustained, primarily due to budget pressures. Creative Scotland is providing strong support for Scotland's network of Literature and Book festivals, is enhancing the national network of writers in prisons and is contributing to a national network of writers' retreats.
The Scottish Library and Information Council ( SLIC) has established a network of Reader Development Co-ordinators in 32 local authorities. Their work has supported the national reading promotions like this year's Tesco Bank Summer Read http://www.ayewrite.com/Book-Prize/, jointly funded by Scottish Government Public Library Quality Improvement Matrix funding and Tesco Bank. Given the success of this programme, SLIC advocate that any network for literature should be established within the public library sector, thereby linking writing and reading at a local level in sustainable ways. Public libraries also offer a huge programme of children's programme and often are often responsible for school libraries. This would be the natural place for such a workforce.
- To make grants to publishers investment-based
I can report that Creative Scotland is seriously examining how to bring finance into the arts sector to maximise the impact of its new investment models, which may include crowdfunding (funding by multiple small-scale investors) and soft loans, and will include investment in the publishing sector within these. Support via the cohort of Foundation Organisations will be reviewed in line with the current review of those organisations.
- To encourage Scottish Enterprise to fund the publishing industry
Publishing is, of course, an important creative industry making a vital contribution to the Scottish economy. With a turnover of £832 million in 2007, employing over 9,000 people, it ranks third in the creative industries sector in terms of its contribution.
The Government is determined to ensure that we support our creative industries to deliver their economic potential. As well as investment in infrastructure and skills, we have looked at how the public sector can work together more effectively to support those involved. Scotland's Creative Industries Partnership ( SCIP) recognises the potential of the publishing industry and has set up a Reference group for the Publishing industry to consider how best it can serve the industry in responding to the opportunities and challenges - now and in the future. This will enable the publishing industry to work with SCIP to help ensure the future success of the creative industries in Scotland. The working group process will lead to a seminar discussion between the different sub-sectors of publishing in early 2011.
Scottish Enterprise themselves have responded positively to the Working Group's report - "we note the recommendations in the Literature Working Group's Report, and look forward to developing our engagement with the sector, and alongside other partners, play our role in identifying and securing opportunities for sustainable economic growth in Scotland."
- To introduce local procurement for public libraries for Scottish material
Local procurement is already available for public libraries to order from independent local publishers. The Scottish Government would seek to balance any requirements for local procurement with the need for all public bodies to achieve value for money, particularly in the current economic climate. The potential for collaborative purchasing of mass-market fiction and sharing high-cost material, such as some specialist reference works could free up funds within library budgets to allow all libraries to support local publishers and authors. I am keen that all local authorities ensure that their library purchase procedures allow libraries the freedom to benefit from collaborations with other libraries and local publishers and authors.
- To set up government body to report on Public Libraries
The Scottish Library and Information Council ( SLIC) receives funding from the Scottish Government and reports on library standards and service delivery. The Scottish Government agrees priorities with SLIC for the funding it receives and will further consider the need for a wider review as to how the funding is best used to support the needs of the public library sector
- To set up a government body to examine possible reform of state procurement for public organisations
ScotlandExcel, the Scottish public sector purchasing agency, has agreed to meet with a group of small independent publishers after the current round of tendering has been completed, in order to listen to their concerns.
The Scottish Procurement Directorate ( SPD), is responsible for developing and advising on procurement policy for the public sector in Scotland and for overseeing the implementation of the Public Procurement Reform Programme. The Programme is a far-reaching and ambitious undertaking that aims to improve procurement across the Scottish Public Sector. SPD has seven strategic objectives:
- CAPABILITY - To ensure that procurement activity and decision-making is conducted to the highest possible standard; effort is not duplicated; and that resources are allocated where they are most needed.
- COMPETITIVENESS - Scotland is seen as a good place to do business by making it as easy as possible to compete for public sector contracts, particularly for SMEs.
- CAPTURING SAVINGS AND BENEFITS - Procurement across the public sector delivers further, real and lasting benefits on the ground.
- COVERAGE - Improved procurement has the widest possible coverage across the Scottish public sector.
- COLLABORATION - The Public Sector is working collaboratively, ensuring that effort is not duplicated, that best practice is shared and we learn from each other.
- CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - Procurement activity and the activity of those awarded public contracts conforms to robust ethical standards and contributes fully to sustainable development.
- COMMUNICATIONS - Greater awareness of how procurement contributes to public services making the best use of public money and on helping the Scottish Government achieve its overarching purpose of sustainable economic growth.
- To introduce compulsory question at Higher Grade on Scottish literature
During the Literature Working Group's research a very positive meeting was held with the Scottish Qualifications Authority( SQA) and the Association of Scottish Literature. I am very pleased to learn that the ASLS are now represented on one of the SQA's Review Groups. The SQA has written to me outlining their intention to consider the introduction of a compulsory question at Higher Grade as part of their forthcoming review.
" SQA is happy to consider changes to the assessment arrangements for English that could further support engagement with Scottish Literature (including the consideration of whether a compulsory question on Scottish texts is desirable). However, our view is that the best time to do this is with the forthcoming review and development of the new generation of qualifications which will support the introduction of the Curricular Experiences and Outcomes as referred to above.
The new qualification arrangements for all levels of National Course up to and including Higher are due for publication in April 2012 with the first candidates undertaking courses in session 2013/14 (Access 3, National 4 and 5) and 2014/15 (Higher). With respect to this work, the ASLS (Association for Scottish Literary Studies) is now represented and actively contributing to the SQA Curricular Area Review Group for Languages."
- To commission a national policy for children's literature
The Scottish Arts Council's Literature Department formulated a Policy for Support for Writing for Children in 1997. I have asked Creative Scotland to re-visit this and they have confirmed that they will consider it within their upcoming Youth Arts Strategy work, which will look at all their work with children and young people in Scotland.
- To make wider use of schools' intranet service for expanding access to Scottish literature and interaction with authors
I very much welcome this recommendation, Glow is the world's first national intranet for education. We are proud of our innovation in this field and will ensure that Glow is used as widely as possible. It is a hugely important in the development of Curriculum for Excellence and offers an excellent opportunity for expanding access to Scottish literature and writers.
Creative Scotland will continue to support Glow and seek opportunities to enhance its use. Creative Scotland will encourage the literature sector, via the organisations it supports, to embrace new technologies including on-line engagement. Creative Scotland recognises that e-communities need to be enhanced across all art-forms and will consider how this can best be done with the creative community as a whole most effectively and with an eye on best value for any investment.
The Ministers for Culture and Schools and Skills hosted an event in December 2009 in Edinburgh with representatives from the culture and education sectors at which a representative of the Scottish Book Trust made a presentation of its work on Glow to promote literature in education through engagement with teachers.
This was part of the Co-create programme 1, a partnership between Creative Scotland and Learning Teaching Scotland which aims to develop arts resources on Glow for learning purposes.
The Scottish Book Trust's Programme, Meet Our Authors, exploits cutting-edge technology to bring the best children's authors to children, young people and their parents across the UK. The project broadcasts children's author events live over the internet and many children, teachers and authors have taken part. This is one of a number of case studies on the Creativity portal on Glow about encouraging more enjoyment of reading and writing ( http://www.creativityportal.org.uk/creativity-case-studies.php). An event with best selling author Anthony Horowitz on Glow in 2009 attracted much interest from children and teachers alike as reported here: http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/sharingpractice/b/AnthonyHorowitz/introduction.asp?strReferringChannel=search&strReferringPageID=tcm:4-615801-64
The Scottish Book Trust literature in learning page of its website offers a wealth of information on literature in education: http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/learning-and-inclusion/lil
Other examples of exciting work to improve reading and writing in schools from the creativity portal include: 'Everyone's a critic', through the Scottish Chamber Orchestra's ( SCO's) Connect programme - looking at styles of critical writing, where Higher and Advanced Higher Music and English students work with a real critic over three months and write their own reviews of SCO concerts; Northfield Reads - a collaborative project to address low reading abilities; and Storyboxes at Ratho school where the Scottish Storytelling centre worked with a range of staff and pupils to fill storyboxes with a range of colourful objects, toys and activity cards to stimulate children's imaginations and lead them into oral storytelling.
Learning Teaching Scotland, who manage Glow, has told me - "We welcome the recognition of the potential of Glow, and we confirm our commitment to taking forward recommendations that implicitly or explicitly seek our support. Overall, we believe that we can make a significant contribution, as envisaged in the Report, to help redress the perceived imbalance in the prestige of literature in comparison with the status of other art forms. We share the vision of literature having parity with every other art form. Our support for literature is underpinned by our belief that it is an integral part of our culture and heritage and, as such, has a very important place in the education of our children, young people and adults. Furthermore, as you know, our core business of implementing Curriculum for Excellence provides both a context and a stimulus for the challenge, enjoyment and creativity envisaged in the Working Group's Report."
I encourage collaboration by agencies in conjunction with Learning Teaching Scotland, as outlined by the Working Group, as an important avenue in both education and supporting Scottish literature.
- To create an e-portal for Scottish literature
The website of the National Library of Scotland provides an excellent search facility for Scottish Literature of all kinds. In addition, BooksfromScotland.com is a portal which puts Scottish Books in the 'shop window'. Creative Scotland has also highlighted that there may be the potential to develop this site, in conjunction with Publishing Scotland.
- To encourage publishers to publish work in Scots, and create separate imprint or separate publishing house for literature in Scots
The Scottish Arts Council supported a Scots imprint, Itchy-Coo. This project will come to an end this year. This Scots imprint was very successful and I have asked Creative Scotland to explore the possibilities of putting something in Itchy-Coo's place.
This should be considered alongside the recommendations in the recent Report of the Ministerial Working Group on the Scots language. This includes a key recommendation that Creative Scotland should have responsibility for ensuring that Scots is fairly, consistently and positively supported in all areas of its funding of the arts, in particular its funding of literature, writers and publishing. Creative Scotland is already developing, and will adopt, a clear policy for support for the Scots language. The report goes on to make specific recommendations with regard to how Creative Scotland should structure and allocate its resources. Whilst Creative Scotland accepts feedback and will constantly review specific allocations and support streams, in the spirit of the arms-length principle, it is for them to decide on the detail of their investments.
- To enhance the Gaelic Book Council's editorial provision and guidelines
Creative Scotland has informed me that this is underway through the Gaelic Books Council and Bòrd na Gàidhlig Gaelic Publishing Strategy and the restructuring and expansion of the Gaelic Books Council. The Gaelic books Council is doing this with other Gaelic publishing interests and I have asked Creative Scotland to keep me updated with progress on this issue.
- To restructure oversight for literature within Creative Scotland
Since the publication of this report, Creative Scotland has established a new business model and structure as a result of extensive and on-going discussion. There is a Director of Creative Development within this structure, who has grass-roots and strategic level experience of the literature sector. In addition there is clearly allocated responsibility for literature and its development.
- To recommend Publishing Scotland to come under aegis of Independent Publishers Guild
The future and role of Publishing Scotland is a matter for the membership of Publishing Scotland. In the context of seeking to provide the best possible support for the publishing sector in Scotland, Publishing Scotland will be considered as part of Creative Scotland's current review of all flexibly funded organisations, and as part of its strategic commissioning.
- To promote Edinburgh UNESCO World City of Literature brand through existing literature organisations rather than a dedicated EUWCL office
Edinburgh was named the first UNESCO City of Literature, and this is an achievement of which we must be very proud. I am delighted to see that EUCL acts as a leader of the UNESCO Creative Cities network which now includes Melbourne and Iowa.
Creative Scotland recognises that more could be made of the UNESCO brand across Scotland, including with Literature and Music and Scotland's heritage. Creative Scotland will work with the sector to highlight this opportunity and where and when it becomes relevant and/or opportune will seek to act to increase the profile of the brand as part of a coherent plan.
As part of Creative Scotland's response to the international cultural environment, it intends to introduce a mechanism to expand access for all artists and cultural practitioners to international networks and opportunities. This is with the intention of building Scotland's reputation as a thought-leader in artform development and to serve the sector to increase Scotland's reputation as a partner of choice for other European countries. This will include promoting the UNESCO brand.