Nicola Sturgeon has said making publishing more diverse is "essential" - both to better reflect society and to remain economically successful.
Scotland’s First Minister made the plea in a keynote speech at a Northern Lights event, part of Edinburgh Book Festival.
She told the audience: “I feel today, given the fractious nature and increased polarisation of the world we live in today talking about how we have more voices heard, bringing together disparate and diverse perspectives, and deepening our mutual and collective understanding, is I think, more important than it’s ever been in my lifetime.”
Sturgeon, who also interviewed Arundhati Roy at the festival, spoke of how The God of Small Things writer helped open readers’ minds to new perspectives, promoting understanding of other lives and cultures.
She said: “I think it is impossible to overstate the value of that – to all of us as individuals, but to the wellbeing of our societies as well. And it’s why I believe so strongly that having a strong, diverse literary and publishing scene is essential, for any country. It’s also why I think the work that all of you do is so hugely important.
“All of you play an absolutely central role in finding and providing a platform for new literary talent. In doing so, you bring joy and enlightenment to countless people. And you help to make our society more interesting, more vibrant and more outward-looking.”
Sturgeon cited a recent ROAR project which showed just 37% of books published in Scotland during 2017 were written by women.
She said: “It’s not just in the output of publishing, in the range of authors being published, that we see a lack of diversity. We also see it in the industry workforce and particularly in senior positions.
“And of course, publishing is not unique in that respect, all of this is interlinked. If we have a narrower range of voices influencing decisions, then inevitably it will have an impact on the kinds of writers and books which are published.
“So these are issues which publishing needs to tackle. Doing so is, first and foremost, a matter of basic fairness and equality. But the economic case is also important. It is about the bottom line. In publishing as in any other walk of life, equality is good, for your competitiveness, for quality and for the profits that you will make. So we shouldn’t just see it in a warm, fuzzy sense, we should have a really hard headed focus on this as well.”
She singled out firms like 404 Ink, Charco Press and BHP Comics for praise, alongside moves form the Publishers Association to increase diversity.
Sturgeon added: “These are examples I think of successes and of progress that we should celebrate but it should inspire us to do more. I think that all of that is a sign of the determination there is to tackle this.
“It is part of what publishing needs to do, not just to be diverse for its own sake, but to contribute to the economic sustainability and success of the sector.”
Northern Lights is a collaborative project between the Edinburgh International Book Festival and Bradford Literature Festival designed to bring together northern and Scottish publishers.