The Saltire Society takes its long-established role as the custodian and administrator of Scotland’s National Book Awards seriously.
We have been disappointed by some recent coverage that called into question some aspects of this responsibility.
All judges are selected based on their expertise, knowledge and integrity. In order to allow for honest
conversations and judgements, confidentiality in meetings is vitally important.
As is our annual process, we will be reviewing the Awards, including procedure, with our partners and other experts.
The judges and the Society would like to reiterate their commitment to rigorous and fair judging and that the Award
was presented to the winning book in line with all Saltire Society criteria and based on a majority agreement.
Every book on the shortlist is excellent and shows it has been a phenomenal year for writing in and about Scotland
Scotland's National Book Awards
The Saltire Society announced the winners of the 2019 Literary Awards at a glittering ceremony at the National Museum of Scotland tonight (Saturday 30 November). Kirstie Blair received the prestigious Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award for her Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community (published by Oxford University Press), and in a new award for 2019 Alasdair Gray was awarded the inaugural Saltire Society Scottish Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Scottish literature.
In a ceremony presided over by BBC Presenter Cathy MacDonald, Awards were presented in six literary categories including The Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year won by Ewan Morrison with his novel Nina X (published by Little Brown Group/Fleet Imprint) and The Saltire Society Scottish Non Fiction Book of the Year won by Melanie Reid for her memoir The World I Fell Out Of (published by Fourth Estate, Harper Collins). The Saltire Society Scottish Poetry Book of the Year was presented to Janette Ayachi for her collection Hand Over Mouth Music (published by Pavilion Poetry), The Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year Award, supported by the Scottish Historical Review Trust, was presented to Norman H Reid for Alexander III; 1249-1286, First Among Equals (published by Birlinn) and The Saltire Scottish Research Book of the Year Award, supported by the National Library of Scotland was won by Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community by Kirstie Blair (published by Oxford University Press).
The Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award was presented jointly to two authors – Stephen Rutt for his book The Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds (published by Elliott & Thompson) and Clare Hunter for her Threads of Life (published by Sceptre/Hodder & Stoughton). The panel of Judges for this Award were taken by Rutt’s personal journey from an overwhelming job to being among seabirds, “the book’s transportative aspect means the reader not only learns new things but experiences them”. On Threads of Life they commented “A work that weaves the political, communal and complex history of needle craft. Hunter shares her personal relationship to this craft while shining a light on an often-overlooked aspect of the creative arts, one brilliantly stitched into women’s history, and larger global politics.”
Sarah Mason, Programme Director for the Saltire Society, said “Scotland’s National Book Awards 2019 have again shown the astounding literary talent of Scotland and we congratulate all our recipients and shortlistees. As well as being a vital opportunity for the Saltire Society and its partners to celebrate and recognise creativity in literature and publishing, the Awards raise their wider profile both nationally and internationally.
“Our special congratulations go to our inaugural Lifetime Achievement recipient, Alasdair Gray, whose influence runs deep within Scotland and much further afield. We are delighted to be able to recognise his contribution in this way.
“The breadth of talent shown by the winners of the Saltire Society’s Awards show that Scotland’s literary scene is in very safe, very gifted hands. “
Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press, Community was selected as The Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year by a panel of judges from the winners of the five Literary Awards. The judges found its accessibility in subject and in its writing profound. The fact that it is an important, significant piece of research did not discolour its enjoyability, with laugh out loud moments and fascinating facts. The judges felt a warmth from it and to it.
The National Library of Scotland support the Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year, and The National Library of Scotland’s Associate Director of Collections and Research, Robin Smith said “It’s not every day the winner of the research category scoops the overall Saltire prize, which demonstrates just what a compelling and important read Ms Blair’s work is. Research adds to our collective understanding of the world around us, and sharing the resultant knowledge is just as important as the activity itself. We encourage and promote research on every subject imaginable at the National Library, and we’re delighted to continue to support this award.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, “Scotland’s distinguished literary culture is a notable part of our national identity and the Saltire Literary Awards do an excellent job of recognising our talented writers and authors. I’d like to offer my warmest congratulations to all of the award winners.”
Winner of the inaugural Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award Alasdair Gray, who was born in 1934, graduated in design and mural painting from Glasgow School of Art. His acclaimed first novel, Lanark, written over almost 30 years, was described by The Guardian as ‘one of the landmarks of 20th-century fiction’. Since the publication of Lanark in 1981 he has written, designed and illustrated seven novels, including Poor Things which won him a Whitbread Novel Award and Guardian Fiction Prize. several books of short stories, a collection of his stage, radio and TV plays and a book of his visual art, A Life in Pictures.
The Saltire Society judges commented “Before the publication of Lanark, Alasdair Gray was best known for his painting. A seminal piece, Lanark is often referred to as the Glasgow Ulysses. This however was not a one-off masterpiece. For over 40 years, Alasdair Gray’s plentiful and diverse work has influenced writers and the literary scene worldwide.”
Mairi Kidd, Head of Literature, Languages & Publishing, Creative Scotland said “In awarding the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award to Alasdair Gray, the Saltire Literary Awards have recognised a true iconoclast. Gray‘s work blazed a trail for rich and experimental Scottish writing, and this year’s winners list is packed with precisely that. Gray, of course, is a polymath with an incredible body of illustration, visual art and design to his name; it therefore seems particularly apt that the Awards should recognise book design for the first time this year. Congratulations to Alasdair, Kirstie, and all the other winners.”
Two publishing Awards were presented – The Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year was awarded to Sandstone Press, based in Inverness who have provided a platform for Scottish subjects and taken risks with translated fiction, resulting in publishing the winner of this year’s Man Booker International Prize. 404 Ink were Highly Commended. The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year Award, presented in partnership with Publishing Scotland, was awarded jointly to Kay Farrell of Sandstone Press and Alan Windram of Little Door Books. Jamie Norman of Canongate books was Highly Commended.
In a new Award for 2019 The Wind That Lays Waste by Selva Almada (translated by Chris Andrews), published by Charco Press and designed by Pablo Font was awarded The Saltire Society Scottish Book Cover of the Year, with judges saying “The design echoes the story within while allowing the viewer room to take from it their own meaning. The use of colour and an evocative image creates a strong, bold cover.”
Finally, The Calum Macdonald Memorial Award for the publisher of an outstanding example of pamphlet poetry published during the previous year was won by Sarah Stewart for Tapsalteerie, Glisk. This Award is administered by the Scottish Poetry Library and it is the first time it has been presented as part of the Saltire Society Literary Awards.
The winners of each category received a bespoke Award created by Inverness based-artist Simon Baker of Evergreen Studios and a cash remuneration.
The Awards have had an eye for early talent with internationally renowned writers including Ali Smith, AL Kennedy, Kate Clanchy, Louise Welsh and Michel Faber being some who have been celebrated by the Saltire Society for their debut books in previous years. 404 Ink, winners of the Emerging Publisher Award in 2017 are shortlisted for Publisher of the Year Award in 2019. Submissions for the Awards this year have come from publishers across Scotland and the UK and as far afield as MIT in the USA. All entrants must be born in Scotland, live in Scotland or their books must be about Scotland.
Shortlisted books for 2019 include Threads of Life (Sceptre) by Claire Hunter in the First Book Category to Dr David Wilson’s My Life with Murderers (Little Brown) in Non-Fiction, seemingly disparate topics but both relevant to current Scottish culture. Two Gaelic books have made the shortlist - Còig Duilleagan na Seamraig (Five Leaves of the Shamrock) by Ruairidh MacIlleathain (published by CLÀR) in the Fiction category and Seòl Mo Bheatha (My Life Journey) by Dòmhnall Eachann Meek (also published by CLÀR) in the Non-Fiction category.
The Saltire Society has been celebrating the best of Scottish literature annually for over 35 years with past winners including Louise Welsh, Leila Aboulela and Graeme Macrae Burnet. Louise Welsh won the Saltire First Book Award in 2002 for The Cutting Room and, in 2018, she won Most Inspiring Saltire First Book Award Winner by public vote. This special award celebrated 30 years of the First Book Award. Leila Aboulela has now been translated into 15 languages and has won the Caine Prize for African Writing and been Long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Graeme Macrae Burnet was named Author of the Year at the Sunday Herald Culture Awards and shortlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2015.
Previous winnersof the Emerging Publisher category have gone on to become influential members of the Scottish literary community. 2017 Emerging Publisher winners Laura Jones and Heather McDaid, directors of 404 Ink, have gone on to make their independent publisher a success with a global reach and several members of staff.
2019 will also see the Saltire Literary Awards expanded with more exciting announcements to be made over the Summer.
Now firmly established as Scotland’s National Book Awards, the Saltire Literary Awards are supported by Creative Scotland.
The Literary Awards will be open to submissions of non-fiction, fiction, history, poetry, first books and research until Monday 5 August. THe Publisher Awards will be open until Monday 12 August