Search for new Scottish literary icon launched

A nationwide hunt for a Scottish literary icon has been launched under plans to revive the country's annual book and publishing Oscars this year.

Public suggestions are being sought for the recipient of a lifetime achievement honour to recognise the contribution of a key figure in shaping the country’s literary landscape.

The Saltire Society, which has issued a call for nominations for the award the arts charity originally instigated in 2019, wants to recognise someone who has made a “lasting impact” through their work.

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The winner will be announced at the revived Saltire Literary Awards, which will return in November after a two-year hiatus.

They will be following in the footsteps of the late Alasdair Gray, who was honoured in 2019 just weeks before he passed away at the age of 85.

The award is open to any individual who was born in Scotland, is currently living in Scotland or is working in Scotland.

Nominations can be made via the Saltire Society website and will close on 26 August.

Saltire Society director Sarah Mason said: “The Scottish Lifetime Achievement Award celebrates an individual who has made a meaningful creative contribution to the world of literature, be it in writing, publishing, representing authors or working in supporting emerging writers.

The Saltire Literary Awards, the country's flagship awards for literature and publishing, are returning this year.

"Individuals are nominated for their professional and personal endeavours and accomplishments. Anyone can make a nomination and we are very much looking forward to an exciting list of names to put forward

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to our judging panel in September.”

Gray was unable to attend the awards ceremony, on St Andrew’s Day in 2019, due to ill health, but sent a message stating: “At the end of next month I will be 85 years old. I think it unlikely that I will write another work of fiction or play, and though I still have several paintings to complete, I doubt if I will sell many more. I have therefore no more to say to you than to thank you very much.”

The Saltire Literary Awards, which date back to 1937, were controversially shelved last year due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the rejection of a funding application to arts agency Creative Scotland.

Alasdair Gray was honoured as the first winner of the Saltire Society's lifetime achievement awards for services to Scottish literature in 2019, weeks before he passed away at the age of 85. Picture: Peter McNally
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Organisers have said all books released between September 2019 and February this year will be eligible for the 2021 awards.

The awards recognise fiction and non-fiction titles, first-time authors, and poetry and historical works.

An overall winner is recognised for Scottish Book of the Year. Previous winners have included William McIlvanney, Alan Warner, Iain Crichton Smith, Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, Kate Atkinson and James Kelman.

Ms Mason said: “We’re thrilled to be back celebrating Scotland’s literature and publishing in 2021. 2020 was a difficult year for many and the creative sector was hit extremely hard.

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"By ensuring the awards are more accessible and easier to take part in, we hope to bring the literary community together again to celebrate the amazing work and innovation that has taken place.

"The society is hugely grateful to all of our partners including Publishing Scotland, the Scottish Historical Review Trust and the National Library of Scotland. Without their long-standing and invaluable support, these awards would not be the national celebration they are.”

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Neil McIntosh