Wigtown Scots Prize 2023


The winners of the annual Wigtown Poetry Prize – Scotland’s international poetry awards which celebrate the country’s three indigenous languages were announced at an event during Wigtown Book Festival.

The Saltire Society is delighted to support the Scot Prize.

"This category was both a pleasure and a pain to judge, because I thoroughly enjoyed every entry and trying to pick winners was extremely difficult. Every entrant should be proud of themselves, their Scots and their ability to put their world into words.

“The winning piece, Juist, captured a beautiful juxtaposition of the personal and universal nature of grief, and a close second place, Peer Breiths, was a powerful and reflective feminist mediation invoking strength and solidarity."

 - Len Pennie, Wigtown Scots Poetry Prize judge

2023 Winner

by Craig Aitchison

for Kevin Higgins (1973-2023)


Juist a body A kent for awee.

Juist a pal tae meet for a pint or three,

Juist someone aye riddy fir a blether –

aboot music, beuks, lassies, whitever.

Juist a gid lauch whae cud mak me golder

or when a gret tae offer a shouder,

tae let me haiver whiles he’d doucely list,

kenning that aw he hud tae say was juist

‘Tell me this and tell me no more’, wide-eened,

noddin. ‘Serious? Wow.’ Juist a pal, juist a freend.


Syne we driftit apairt. An A meant tae call,

tae hear the crack an let aw the years faw

away. A should huv ettlet, should huv socht

mair. Plenty o time A suppose A thocht.


A niver. Too late noo. Somehow a juist

niver. Sae A juist mind an mane an miss.



2023 Runner Up

Peer Breiths
by Keeks Mc

Thare's a special place in hell, she says fur thase lassies that dinnae

uphaud ilk ither tae forrit thair place. She says thay arnae findy

Ah'm no shuir it's quate as plain as Ma'am Albricht declares

but thare's fower weys lassies react o which Ah'm ur aware


The first sterts yung an simply is green een'd jealousy

Lashin oot or stabbin backs, "hou cam it isnae me?"

Maist graw oot as we gae but some will ne'er see

the vire that comes in strength o skeel an individuality


Neist is wan some lassies seem tae wammle in fur langer

The exception kind, the "pick me" ring, "no me, but generally weemin squatter"

Ye see it in clubs an groups, an a heap aa oer socials

Ye best belie the wans cryin this are aye super vocal


Thay champion thamsels an men as keeng oer ither lassies

"Ah'm best acause Ah'm no like tham, ma approach weel surpasses"

No forstawin whit thay dae kin ainly end in dree

cementin thair ain buise unner the patriarchy


Aulder in the face o cheynge will tak a different tak

"We uised tae juist get oan wi it" thay like tae herken back

Thase "in ma day"ers seem tae think kis things wir a certain wey

wummin shouldnae cheynge tham tae reflect wir needs theday

Ah wunner if the Romans wha cam up wi sewage systems

wir derogatit, torn doon an met wi sic resistance


The last an final wan tae mention is thankfu'y the best

The wan whaur weemin band thegether supportin aa the rest

We mak up oer hauf the wurld, tho no cast fae the same die

wir still unner-apprised an dirl'd. The mair o us that try….

tae mak the wurld mair e'en fur aa that live thase days

the better a place we'll leave ahint whan wir aa in wir graves


2023 Shortlistee

Junkie Lust
by Helen Cross

‘Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.’ -  Dr. Daniel Sumrok



Junkie Lust 


in the back o’ the heid’s wit you need

fer makin’ yer mither’s heart bleed.

Junkie Lust’s greed is consumin’ yer soul,

swallowin’ yer goals,

draggin’ you doon a hole o’ despair.


Please son, nae mair.


‘I need help, I need cash.’

Aye fer meth, smack, crack

the clean slate,

dirty needles and sleepin’ in pish.

Remember that campaign ‘Just Say No?’

But you don’t have the skills,

rather take pills,

chase the smokin’ dragon too wasted tae blaze.

You don’t care in yer drug-induced haze,

gettin’ high, gettin’ away fae the pain

that always remains.


Nae numbin’ this son, yer done.

Yer done.


Junkie Lust has a gun tae yer heid.

You’ll end up deid on a shit and tear stained bed

where you’ll greet fer yer maw, but she’ll no come.

You’ve stolen too much, too much has been said.

‘It’s all your fault if I take my life!’

Yer words like a knife

cuttin’ the cord, breakin’ the spell.


Fractured like a fragile bird shell.


True, when life’s cards were dished you got ACEs in spades.

It wisnae easy fer you.

Too young tae have a voice, a chance, a choice.


as yer da punched yer maw in the face,

fer some minor disgrace or somethin’ she said.


As her nose misaligned, while you cowered and cried

and Junkie Lust, aye she spied her chance.

That’s when she sowed the seeds o’ romance. 



2023 Shortlistee

The Auld Words
by Fiona Frank

In Aiberdeen in ‘79 I culdna spik ma tongue 

The teachers beat it oot o ma, they telt me it wis wrang 

We hid tae spik their English or they said we’d get i strap 

They said that we were cheekin’ tham - to spik like ma and pap. 


But at the end o school A fand the world made sense again , 

The wirds we spak wi mam and da wis far A felt at hame 

My grunny and my ma would sing us sangs and tell us tales 

They sang o clearances and crofts, of fishing boats and whales. 


Fae Scotland tae the Amazon, the story’s still the same 

We need wir local languages tae un’erstand oor hame


That wis mony years ago, but noo we’ve got it richt

They’re lairn’n Scots to bairns in Bamff without a strap in sicht 

The Doric’s noo official in the country o ma birth 

I couldnae be mair  happy that they’re valuing ma wirth


But o’er in Brazil, it’s nae the case ma dear  

Mony local languages are deein oot each year 

And wi the language and the wirds, the knowledge disappears 

The local wye o living for the past twa thoosan years 


Fae Scotland tae the Amazon, the story’s still the same 

We need wir local languages tae un’erstand oor hame


The colonists destroyed our worlds, it didnae tak them lang

They telt us we wis savages and how we lived wis wrang 

Our speerit guides wor deils and we hid tae weer mair claes 

We hid tae spik  their Portuguese and lairn their white man’s ways.


But noo the world is burnin up, the watter’s rinnin dry 

The forest’s turning intae san’, the birds nae langer fly 

The ancients hid the knowledge for i future o the sky 

The auld words hiv the answers, oor language mustna die! 


Fae Scotland tae the Amazon, the story’s still the same 

We need wir local languages tae un’erstand oor hame


Susan Garnsworthy, Convener of the Saltire Society: “The Saltire Society are very committed to support for and celebrating the Scots language and this is why we have supported the Scots language prize in the Wigtown Poetry Competition.

“I was also involved in the initial development of this competition and the fundraising back in 2007-8 when it was created as a way of raising the profile of Wigtown both the Book Town and the festival across the UK and internationally. I am really delighted that it has developed and been fully supported by the book festival.”