The Saltire Society Honour Scotland’s Greatest Contributors at Prestigious Fletcher of Saltoun Awards


On Saturday 21 September, Saltire Society members invited the public to celebrate the contributions of four of Scotland’s most influential citizens, working for the benefit of Scotland at large.

The Awards were this year hosted in Aberdeen’s historic Maritime Museum and were awarded to Aileen Christianson, writer and academic, Di Gilpin, knitwear designer and innovator, Jan Clarkson, Dental healthcare researcher, and Steve Parkes, Director of Dundee University’s Space Technology Centre.



 Di Gilpin, Steve Parkes and Jan Clarkson 


Sarah Mason, Programme Director of the Saltire Society, said:

We are delighted to have this opportunity to celebrate the innovators and entrepreneurs       of Scotland and recognise the impact they have. Since 1936 the Society has tirelessly to ensure Scottish culture is recognised, lived and fought for.  The 30 years the Fletcher Awards have been running has seen over 50 people recognised and we are pleased to see Aileen Christianson, Di Gilpin, Jan Clarkson and Steve Parkes recognised in 2019.

The Fletcher of Saltoun Awards, established in 1988, honour the innovative and culture-shaping work in the fields of Science, Arts and Humanities and Public Life. The Fletcher of Saltoun Awards take nominations from the Saltire Society membership so as to welcome nominations from all over the country for those whose work may go largely unrecognised.

The recipients are:

Aileen Christianson has been a valued member of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh for many years as well as an indispensable part of the editorial team of the Carlyle Letters project which is now nearing publication of volume 46. Aileen has for years been responsible for teaching and propagating knowledge of Scottish writers, particularly women writers, and her work on Willa Muir was the product of years of research and has been very positively received. Her teaching has been inspirational for generations of those meeting writers for the first time who might otherwise have passed unnoticed.


Di Gilpin is an outstanding designer-maker in the fields of Scottish wool production, fashion design and hand knitted garment construction.  Her reputation for excellence means she is sought after by designers world-wide. Her fine wool, stocked in the UK, Netherlands, Austria, California, Virginia and Maryland USA, carries these words on each label, ‘Proudly made in Scotland.’ Di Gilpin’s innovative designs and top quality production have earned her commissions from couture houses all over the world.  Her garments are presented on the catwalk by top UK, European and Canadian designers, including at London Fashion Week.Di Gilpin has made, and continues to make an outstanding contribution to Scotland’s reputation throughout the world for innovation, hard work, intelligence and superb craftsmanship.


'I wish to express my gratitude to the Saltire Society for  the Fletcher of Saltoun Award in the field of Arts and Humanities for 2019. It was a huge surprise to learn that I had received the award and an extraordinary and overwhelming  honour to find myself in such exalted company.Special thanks to my friends and family for their patience, endurance and support and above all to thank Shiela Greenwell without whom little of this would have been achieved.’ Di Gilpin



Jan Clarkson is a Fellow in Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, a Fellow in Dental Surgery Paediatric Dentistry and Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, and a Fellow of the Dental Faculty of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow. Much of Professor Clarkson’s research is embedded in service and education delivery. The outcome has informed changes to Scotland’s dental remuneration policy, contributed to NICE and SIGN guideline development, provided evidence of the effect of change to national postgraduate education policy and informed methodological debates in Randomised Controlled Trial design. She was Principal Investigator of the only implementation trial of dental remuneration and education, the first cluster versus patient randomised trial, a UK evaluation of the impact of changes in the dental service contract and the first US-funded Cochrane Systematic Reviews.

'I am very excited about sharing with others the work done by the Saltire Society and its aims and visions. I am delighted that dentistry has been honoured in this way.' Jan Clarkson


Steve Parkes is the technical leader of ESA's SpaceWire working group and is the author of the ECSS E50-12A SpaceWire standard. Dr Parkes is also the director of the NERC Satellite Receiving Station and the Managing Director of STAR-Dundee, a University of Dundee spin-out company which provides services and equipment to support organisations using SpaceWire for space applications. Dr Parkes was Principal Engineer - Matra Marconi Space / BAe Space Systems from 1988 to 1995 where he was the technical authority on digital signal and image processing for spacecraft instruments. He was also from 1982 to 1988 the Research and Development Manager for Geodata Systems Ltd where he was responsible for the development of a range of competitive underwater acoustic navigation and telemetry systems.

'The Saltire Society does an incredible job of promoting Scottish culture and achievements. I work with other engineers and scientists across the world. The results of our work go out into space, monitoring and protecting the Earth, providing communications, exploring other planets in the solar system and reaching out in support of scientific curiosity across the Universe. It is an honour for my work on spacecraft technology to be recognise by the Society.' Steve Parkes


All photographs by Graham Clark 

The 2018 Fletcher of Saltoun Awards were presented at the Saltire Society in Edinburgh on Saturday 22 September. Four Scots were awarded in recognition of their contribution to Scotland in the arts and humanities, sciences and Scottish public life:


Karine Polwarth's parents accepted her award

For contribution to Arts and Humanities: Karine Polwart, awarded for her contributions to music, both singing and powerful song writing.

During the past 15 years, Karine Polwart has emerged as one of Scotland’s most popular folk singers and thoughtful contemporary songwriters. Her skills as a writer lie in combining intimate stories, often centred on women and families, with sharp social and political observation. Sources as diverse as Donald Trump and ancient bird lore, parental grief and sex trafficking, infuse her songs with a sense of human resilience and reek of memory and history. She is a four times winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, twice for Best Original Song, and was the inaugural winner of Scots Singer of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards. Her most recent album Traces was shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year. A former member of Malinky, The Battlefield Band, macAlias and The Burns Unit, her musical career as a touring and recording artist has encompassed also community song, university level teaching, animation soundtracks and thematic collaborative projects. During 2015 she wrote with Greek Cypriot songwriter and composer Alkinoos Ioannidis and for awardwinning theatre company Puppetstate.

Her career highlights include an invitation to sing at at the opening session of the Scottish Parliament in 2011. She has been outspoken in support of numerous political causes, including anti-nuclear campaigns and mental health issues, and was vocal in encouraging participation and discussion around the Scottish Independence referendum. Her career as a musician follows seven years of face to face and policy development work within the Scottish Women’s Aid movement in the field of children’s rights and domestic abuse, as well as a spell as a university and community-based philosophy tutor (she has an MPhil in Philosophical Inquiry). She lives in Pathhead, Midlothian, where she shares her love of story and song with her two young children.

More information at:


Fiona Duncan speaking on accepting her award 

For contribution to Scottish Public Life: Fiona Duncan, awarded for her valuable contributions to life in Scotland.

Fiona is CEO of the Corra Foundation, formerly the Lloyds TSB Scotland Foundation.

In that capacity she has steered the foundation through a difficult and litigious split from Lloyds Bank which is no longer prepared to provide financial support. In addition she has developed the foundation beyond its origins as a grant giving charity (providing grants of £3000 to £40,000 to small charities) to a proactive charity working with other charities on targeted programmes to counter drugs and to locate social workers in neglected areas such as West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire etc All of this activity depends on a motivated and hard-working team developed in recent years.

At the personal request of senior ministers in the Scottish Government, Fiona is also heading up the Care Review – an in-depth review of childcare in Scotland. To do this she has been seconded from the Corra Foundation for 50% of her time. The review, which is set to last for two years, has involved going out to talk to over 60 children in care across the country to seek their views, as well as those of carers, social workers and government

In addition to that, Fiona runs the Kilfinan Group, which provides mentors to the heads of charities in Scotland. There are chapters in the East and West of the country and over thirty mentors.

The heads of charities are often under pressure from trustees, beneficiaries and staff and the ability to talk to an independent and experienced mentor can be invaluable. Fiona uses exceptional personal skills to match mentors and mentees and then organises regular meetings of mentors to exchange information and receive updates on regulation etc.

In summary, Fiona Duncan is an exceptional and inspiring individual who is making an
immensely valuable contribution to life in Scotland.

 Graham Watt speaking on accepting his award

For contribution to Science: Professor Graham Watt CBE FRSE, awarded for his distinguished career in public health and general practice.

Graham Watt has had a very distinguished career in both public health and general practice, mostly spent at the University of Glasgow. A distinguishing feature of all his work has been a concern for social justice, especially for the most socio-economically deprived people of Scotland. That theme runs throughout his academic career.
A decade ago, he founded the Deep End movement, to describe the challenges of GPs and their teams looking after these most deprived populations, and to develop professional support for the GPs and better resourcing for the people living in these areas. They suffer from problems of poor housing and intergenerational poverty, as well as educational challenges and drug and alcohol problems. Life expectancy, and also healthy life expectancy, is some 20 years below that of the most privileged Scots.

Recently this important Scottish initiative has been emulated in other deprived areas, including Liverpool and Dublin. It is well described in the website below.

Professor Watt is both an important academic in the tradition of the democratic intellect,
and a major figure in Scottish, UK and international medicine.,g
Chris van der Kuyl with his award

For contribution to Science: Chris van der Kuyl, awarded for his entrepreneurial work and commitments to encouraging enterprise education.

Chris van der Kuyl is a highly experienced Chief Executive and Non-Executive Director whose expertise combines the start-up, development and market listed business arena in the technology, media and entertainment sectors. He grew his first business, VIS entertainment plc ("VIS"), out of a bedroom in Dundee to become a global player in the creation of leadingedge entertainment property for computer, television and video games platforms worldwide. Through the development of VIS, as CEO and President, he took the business through substantive growth. Chris is currently Chief Executive Officer of Brightsolid Limited (formerly Scotland On Line), one of the country's Internet pioneers. He is also Chairman of the Tayforth group which has interests in Video Games development, Technology and Intellectual Property; Chairman of 4J Studios a next generation video game development studio. Chris is widely recognised as one of the UK's the leading entrepreneurs. Chris is a member of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow Programme at the World Economic Forum.

Chris is fully committed to building the next generation of business people by encouraging enterprise education in Schools, Colleges and Universities. He was Chairman of Young Enterprise Scotland and is a member of the Smith Group advising the Scottish Executive on educational matters. As one of the youngest Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Chris sits as a member of the Scottish Scientific Advisory committee who advise the Scottish government on all areas of science and technology.Chris also Chairs the Creative board of the Education Wing at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow and is a Director of Dundee Science Centre.


All photos by Ryan McGoverne Photography