Leah Hazard’s Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began

and Liz Lochhead

Winners at 2023 Scotland’s National Book Awards

The Saltire Society announced the winners of 2023 Scotland’s National Book Awards at a ceremony in Glasgow on Thursday 7 December. 

Leah Hazard received the prestigious Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award for Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began (published by Virago).  Liz Lochhead, poet, playwright and former Scots Makar, was awarded the 2023 Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to Scottish literature.

Leah Hazard’s Womb:  The Inside Story of Where We All Began, which won the Saltire Society Non-Fiction Book of the Year before going on to claim the overall Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year prize, was described by the judges as “A searingly compassionate, transformational, and aspirational piece of work that is inclusive of all the different experiences of everyone who has a womb. Womb: The Inside Story of Where we all Began combines lived experience and deep human compassion with exacting research and persuasive argumentation.” 

Sarah Mason, Executive Director of the Saltire Society, said, “The 2023 Saltire Society Literary Awards illustrate the amazing talent Scotland has and offer us an invaluable opportunity to celebrate that quality and creativity of the work.

Each of our award winners and shortlisted authors, publishers, and designers deserves huge congratulations for contributing exceptional works to Scotland’s literary canon. Our judging panel discussions were challenging and enthusiastic.

Congratulations to all those recognised this evening. The Saltire Society and our partners are thrilled to be able to celebrate, recognise, and raise the profile of Scotland’s literary community in this way.”

Poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, recipient of The Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award 2023, was born in Motherwell in 1947.  She began to write while studying at the Glasgow School of Art and her first book of poetry was publishing in 1972, selling 5,000 copies and winning a Scottish Arts Council Book Award.  She has published many plays including Blood and Ice, Dracula, Cuba and possibly most famously Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.  She translated and adapted Molière's Tartuffe into Scots, which premiered at the Edinburgh Royal Lyceum in 1987, and the script of her adaptation of Euripides' Medea for Theatre Babel won the 2000 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year Award.  Her work for television includes Latin for a Dark Room, a short film, screened as part of the BBC Tartan Shorts season at the 1994 Edinburgh International Film Festival, and The Story of Frankenstein for Yorkshire Television. Her latest collection of poetry, A Handsel: New and Collected Poems was published in October this year.

Lochhead was Writer in Residence at Edinburgh University (1986-7), Writer in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988 and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Edinburgh in 2000.  In 2005 she was made Poet Laureate of Glasgow and in 2011 became Scots Makar.

The Judges commented “Liz Lochhead is the very epitome of an exceptional and versatile writer who has made an outstanding contribution to the Scottish literary ecology. She has been a literary trailblazer, inspiring generations of young people who study her work, and writers wishing to emulate her authenticity.  Liz has inspired and impacted the careers and creativity of countless contemporary poets around Scotland, and beyond. We owe her a debt of gratitude, particularly on the day we learn that Gaelic and Scots will be the official languages of Scotland. Liz embodies language and its potential for change and empowerment.”

Liz Lochhead said “I am even more surprised than I am honoured at the news I am to receive this award.  I will accept it with gratitude of course, although I genuinely don't feel that I deserve it.   But then I have been very, very lucky all my writing life -- particularly with the timing of when I was first published.   Very few women poets were being published then -- and there was a hunger for a female voice. I was a novelty! I am very glad there are at least as many women as men writing and being published today.”


Awards were presented in six literary categories including The Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year, won by Martin MacInnes for In Ascension (published by Atlantic Books) and The Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award awarded to Victoria MacKenzie for her For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on my Little Pain (published by Bloomsbury Publishing Inc).  The Judging panel called it. “Sublime is the only word that could be used to describe this book. It sets itself apart by the both the unusualness of its story (God, visions, the rejection of a regular life) and the quality of its telling. At some points, with its condensed, accurate language and sense of beauty, it veered close to poetry.”




The Saltire Society Poetry Book of the Year was presented to Taylor Strickland for his collection Dastram/Delirium (published by Broken Sleep Books).   The Saltire Society Research Book of the Year Award was won by The Old Red Sandstone or New Walks in an Old Field by Hugh Miller, edited by Michael A. Taylor and Ralph O’Connor (published by NMS Enterprises Limited) and The Saltire Society History Book of the Year Award was awarded to David Taylor for ‘The People are not There’: The Transformation of Badenoch 1800 – 1863 (published by Birlinn).


Three publishing industry awards were also announced this evening.  The Saltire Society Book Cover Design of the Year was won by designer Thomas MacGregor for Rub-A-Dub-Dub (published by P&H Books), The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year was awarded to Edinburgh University Press and Charco Press jointly.  The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year, awarded in Partnership with Publishing Scotland, was also presented jointly to two of the shortlisted nominees – Grace Balfour-Harle, Desk Editor at Edinburgh University Press and Melissa Tombere, Editorial Assistant at Canongate Books.


Scotland’s National Book Awards have been awarded by the Saltire Society since 1937.  All entrants must be born in Scotland, live in Scotland or their books must be about Scotland.  The winner of each category receives a bespoke Award created by Inverness-based artist Simon Baker of Evergreen Studios and the winners of the Literary Awards each receive a cash prize of £2,000 with the winner of the Saltire Society Book of the Year receiving a further £4,000.  Full details of all the award -winning books and publishers, together with the judges’ citations can be found at HERE.

Ceremony starts at 29:00