Scotland's National Book Awards judges are writers, critics, booksellers and readers. Every one is passionate about writing and comes to the table with a positive attitude to the entries. 

 

The judging process is confidential and the Saltire Society cannot enter into correspondence on individual entries, judging or Awards.  

In order to get the best from our judges, we remind them of a few things before they start. Firstly, we ask that they sign a confidentiality agreement. Everything agreed in the meetings is recorded but those minutes are sealed by the Society for 30 years. After this time, the records are available to view through the National Library of Scotland who kindly keep our archive. 

From 2021 onwards, we will be asking our judges to complete training on unconscious bias before we begin work on judging the Awards. We will offer two dates and times for remote viewing and, should a judge not be able to join either, we will have to ask them to step down. The Society wants our Awards to be equal and accessible and we know that the responsibility for making that a reality lies with us. We also ask all judges to accept our general equality and diversity policy. Our Literary specific EDI policy work is still ongoing. The independent chairs manage these processes and ensure everyone is working cohesively. While the Saltire Society team have no judging role, and are at meetings to record decisions and processes, they are expected to step in should they see a breach of these agreements and to inform the panel of any transgression. 

Next, we ask the judges to declare any conflicts of interest they may have. The Scottish literary scene is small and fantastically close-knit but sometimes this means an entrant is well-known to a judge. This must be declared so that the judge can make themselves absent for the discussions of that book. When meetings are in-person, the judge removes themselves to our Reading Room with a few extra biscuits and remains there until the book or author in question has been discussed. With Zoom meetings, the judges will be moved into the waiting room or a breakout room where they are no longer able to be heard or to hear what is discussed. Sadly, they must provide their own biscuits for this bit. When the judge returns, they are informed of the decision taken by the others on the book and they re-join. They can not exhibit any influence at this juncture as the decision has been made and will not be revisited unless the book has progressed to the next stage. If it is longlisted, the above process is repeated. If, however, it is shortlisted the judge in question will not join the panel for the final winner meeting, but will send their thoughts on the shortlisted books (minus the one they have a conflict of interest with) in order to support their fellow judges if needed. These are held by the team and reviewed by the other judges on request. In order to avoid this situation, the team make every effort to mitigate any serious conflicts of interest and have judges free of major conflicts. 

The judges all work to the same criteria. Although there is a lot of room for nuanced opinions, there are some key elements that the Awards are keen to celebrate such as literary quality, use of language and originality. The Awards always rely on the knowledge, critical understanding and experience of our judges to make the final decisions. 

You can read Dr Stevie Marsden's doctoral synopsis on the subject of the Saltire Literary Awards here. Dr Marsden worked with the Society to take an incredibly in-depth look at the Literary Awards. Her findings,  published in 2021 as 'Prizing Scottish Literature: A Cultural History of the Saltire Society Literary Awards' [get your copy], helped us to take more steps to improve the Awards for everyone. 

If you have a question, or you think we missed something from this page please email Heather at [email protected]