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A view from outside

The Saltire Society - Making Progress

Jim Tough (Executive Director, The Saltire Society)

It has been an exciting year of change and progress for the 'post Cullen' Saltire Society. Lord Cullen's Commission set the scene and offered a mandate for a radical reconsideration of our role in contemporary Scotland. During the last year we are pleased with progress on many fronts. Some highlights to note on the journey!

Meaghan Delahunt
The overarching ambition of the Society is to re-establish our role as an advocate, commentator and occasional provocateur in relation to the issues that concern civic Scotland. To that end we have revived the great Saltire tradition of the pamphlet. Small, perfectly formed and beautifully designed by Alasdair Gray, we have released three of the new Saltire Series in a limited print edition of 500. The formula is to match an exceptional author to a major theme. In 'A Plea for a Secular Scotland' by Richard Holloway, 'The Artist and Nationality' by Meaghan Delahunt (right), and 'Freedom of Speech in the New Scotland' by Jean Rafferty and Alan Bissett we believe we have succeeded in that ambition. The last of these was produced in partnership with Scottish PEN. This is another aspect of our new approach; to work with others of like mind and shared passion. Our new Affiliate Membership is a manifestation of that approach and we are delighted that our good friends at Scottish Language Dictionaries have joined the family! Our pamphlets are available through Word Power and from our office.

One of the benefits of Affiliate (and Individual) Membership is the free use of our beautifully refurbished Head Office tucked away in an oasis of calm just off the High Street. We have begun to use the space for what I am describing as 'boutique' authors events where the intimacy of a small group in conversation with the Pamphlet authors has been very well received.

Many know us by our awards and that continues to be at the heart of our work to celebrate the Scottish imagination. Of course the credibility of the awards depends on the expertise of our panels who all give their time voluntarily. Recruiting fresh voices into those panels has been important; for example we are delighted to have Professor Chris Whatley take up the chair in our History Book of the Year panel. One big change has been to, by and large, end our role as a book publisher; the need for that work on our part has passed. However the importance of an indigenous publishing industry remains an interest and so we introduced a new award this year. The Saltire Scottish Publisher of the Year has been well received and the inaugural award in memory of our much missed friend Dr Gavin Wallace was won by the wonderful Saraband books.

All this and more will be evident in another new initiative, 'Saltire Celebrates' on 30th November in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. This will be a unique occasion for members and affiliates to hear from all of our award winners; from Saltoun of Fletcher winner William MacIlvanney to young Arts and Crafts bursary winner Jamie Wilson. It will also see the launch of a new pamphlet by Magnus Linklater. Our doors are enthusiastically open to new members; events such as 'Saltire Celebrates' is an example of what we offer in return for your support!