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The Saltire Society Book of the Year Awards

A celebration of twenty five years of literature

Open books; Photo: Rebecca Moyce The Saltire Society's Scottish Book of the Year Award was set up in 1981 and the first recipient was Alasdair Gray in 1982 for his book Lanark, published by Canongate.

This was also the start of a long association with many publishers. Without their co-operation, the award might not be able to exist. The Society therefore acknowledges with gratitude the important part they play in the success of the award. Over the last 25 years the adjudicators have read more than 1100 books - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama and essays; last year they alone they had the task of considering 110 entries. This in itself is a testament to the strength of writing in Scotland and the Society is grateful to so many authors for their participation in the Award.

Books in any of the languages of Scotland are usually nominated by editors of literary magazines and periodicals. They may also be nominated by a publisher or an individual or by members of the adjudication panel. The award may be given for any book by an author or authors of Scottish descent or living in Scotland. It may also be given for any book which deals with the work or life of a Scot – or with a Scottish question, event or situation.

The Scottish Book of the Year was inspired by Paul Henderson Scott, a long standing member of the Society and currently one of its Vice Conveners. However, it must not be forgotten that the Society's founders set up the Original Saltire Society Book Award which was presented in 1937 (the year after the Saltire Society was founded) to Neil Gunn for his Highland River and also to Robert Gore-Brown for The Lord Bothwell. Pile of books; Photo: Rebecca Moyce

In 1939 Robert McLellan received the award for his Three Plays. Then the Second World War intervened and it was not till 1956 that the Society awarded Edwin Muir for his poem, One Foot in Eden followed in 1958 by Stuart Piggot's Scotland Before History.  

Happily, for most of the last 25 years the Society has been very fortunate in securing sponsorship for the award. The Society has been grateful to The Royal Bank of Scotland for its support in the 80s; to Scottish Television for its support in 1990 and to The Scotsman from then until 1999. From 2000 to 2003 the Saltire Society itself supported the award, but because of the strain on the Society’s own finances, it was at this time that the award was in danger of being dropped. Fortunately since 2004, The Scottish Book of the Year Award has been supported by The Faculty of Advocates; for this the Society is extremely grateful. Over the 25 years the prize has increased from £1,000 to £5,000.

The adjudicators consider works published between 1 September and 31 August. Reading starts immediately on receiving nominations and these are discussed over four meetings. At the penultimate meeting the short leet is drawn up, and the final meeting produces the winner. The Panel prides itself on having a transparent and fair system that allows for full discussion followed by a secret vote in which all members vote for all books, thereby eliminating tactical voting.  

Over the years the Saltire Society has had the following distinguished panellists as adjudicators of the Scottish Book of the Year Award: Paul Scott, Derick Thomson, Alan Taylor, Isobel Murray, Alison Lumsden, Angus Calder, Marion Sinclair, David Robb, Joyce McMillan, Iain MacDonald, Ann Matheson, Douglas Gifford, Ian Campbell and Allan Boyd, all of whom have given, or continue to give their time, expertise and knowledge, voluntarily, to the Society.

Related links
* The Saltire Society
* Literature projects archive
* Literature features
* Scots homepage
* Scots poem of the month
* Literature homepage
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