Row breaks out in Scotland over publishing report
17.02.10 | Philip Jones

Hostilities have broken out in Scotland after a government think-tank recommended restructuring its trade body Publishing Scotland “under the direction” of the Independent Publishers Guild. According to the Times, there have been “allegations that committee members could benefit from some of its recommendations” of the report, with IPG members among those who helped compile the report.

One option recommended by Literature Working Group was to keep Publishing Scotland in its current form but reduce its funding “gradually but significantly” over a period of three years, including cutting staffing and accommodation costs. But the report stated that a “more workable option would be for Publishing Scotland to be restructured under the direction of the IPG – either fully integrated within the current IPG structure or closely affiliated to the organisation. It could either retain its current name, or become IPG Scotland.”

The group compared the activities and costs of Publishing Scotland with those of the Independent Publishers Guild, finding that its costs were about £100,000 less.

But Marion Sinclair, director of Publishing Scotland, said she had been dismayed by the report, which the Times claims had been leaked to the IPG before it had been made public in Scotland. Sinclair added that in a survey of its membership in December, only one out of 104 suggested closer links with IPG, and she accused the report’s committee of descending into a “morass of subjectivity”.

Publishing Scotland was involved in damaging row with Hugh Andrew, the owner of publisher Birlinn, over its launch of a retail website some years ago. Andrew was mentioned in the Times as one of the committee members behind the report. The report recommends removing “the loss-making e-commerce business.”

Rosemary Goring, chairwoman of the panel, denied that the committee had been led in its deliberations by individual members, adding: “These are not diktats — they are ideas there for discussion.”

In its introduction to the report, the group stated: “The Literature Working Group has had a few months in which to come up with recommendations. As anyone who works in this large and complex field will appreciate, in such a short space of time we have been able to do little more than scratch the surface of the relevant issues. Given our timescale the group has focused primarily on writers, readers and the publishing industry, where we saw particular problems. We have touched on other areas, but in many cases believe that further and far more extensive research is required than we have been able to undertake.”

“We realise that some will not agree with our suggestions, and we are neither so arrogant as to think that our proposals are the only way in which support for literature can be offered, nor to think that these suggestions are exhaustive.”

Among the other things, the report recommends establishing a National Academy for writers of all genres, making the Scottish Review of Books into a UK and international showcase for Scottish books, and establishing a Gaelic Literary Magazine.

Snapshot of the main recommendations

Establish a Scottish Academy of Literature
Use libraries as writers’ centres
Establish a Gaelic literary magazine
Set up country-wide network of Literature Development officers
Make grants to publishers investment-based
Encourage Scottish Enterprise to fund the publishing industry
Create an e-portal for Scottish literature
Encourage publishers to publish work in Scots, and create separate imprint or
separate publishing house for literature in Scots
Recommend Publishing Scotland to come under aegis of Independent
Publishers Guild
Promote Edinburgh UNESCO World City of Literature brand through existing
literature organisations rather than a dedicated EUWCL office

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