The Saltire Society's Book Awards- an inaugural Scottish institution

The Saltire Society's Book Awards- an inaugural Scottish institution

Stevie Louise Marsden, a PHD student from the University of Stirling has been researching a book prize dedicated to Scottish publishing with winning authors including  Muriel Spark, A.L. Kennedy and Alasdair Gray.  

In 2012 I began working and researching with The Saltire Society, a cultural arts charity based in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded collaborative doctoral award.  My research, which will be presented as a PhD thesis focuses on The Saltire Society’s literary awards, which are Scotland’s longest running series of literary awards specifically for Scottish literature. 

Following the termination of the Scottish Investment Mortgage Trust Book Awards in 2013, The Saltire Society Literary Awards remain the only awards dedicated to celebrating the wide spectrum of Scottish literature.  As a result, a full understanding of how these awards have grown and continued to develop is particularly intersting and important.

With the help of Creative Scotland, in recent years, The Saltire Society’s Literary Awards have undergone a number of changes, including increasing the number of categories, increasing the prize fund and expanding the award’s ceremony which takes place in November each year (this year’s ceremony takes place in Edinburgh on Friday 27th November, pop it in your diaries!)  As of this year awards contain six categories which are fiction, non-fiction, first book, poetry, history and research.

The winner of each category receives £2,000 and become the shortlist for The Saltire Society book of the year award, the winner of which receives an additional £6,000.  The key criteria of eligibility for each of the awards is that books are written by authors of Scottish descent or living in Scotland, or deal with the work or life of a Scot, a Scottish question, event or situation.

The first literary award formally established by the society was the ‘Scottish Book of the Year Award’ in 1982.  The inaugural award went to Alasdair Gray’s debut novel Lanark and subsequent winners include Muriel Spark, James Robertson, Kate Atkinson and A. L. Kennedy.  The society’s first book of the year award was established in 1988 with former winners including Jackie Kay, Ali Smith and Michel Faber.    

As well as researching the history of these awards (which involved many, many hours sifting through stacks of archives in the National Library of Scotland!) I have been involved in the administration and management of the awards.  This has included working with The Saltire Society’s executive director, Jim Tough, and Programmes Manager Sarah Mason, in implementing the recent changes to the organisation of the society’s awards which has included the introduction of the poetry book of the year award and Scottish publisher of the year award.  What’s more, this year sees the expansion of the society’s ‘literary book of the year’ category, into two categories for fiction and non-fiction.  We will also be holding simultaneous shortlist announcements in Edinburgh and London for the first time ever this year.

Such developments show The Saltire Society’s dedication to making continual improvements so their series of literary awards reflect contemporary developments in the literary marketplace.  With their rich and longstanding history, The Saltire Society literary awards have become an integral part to the UK’s celebration of literary value and achievement.