Scottish publishers rally to the defence of Publishing Scotland
18.02.10 | Catherine Neilan

A number of Scottish publishers have requested their names be removed from a list of contributors to the Literature Working Group’s report into Scottish publishing, in a bid to distance themselves from the report’s recommendations, including that of bringing trade body Publishing Scotland under the aegis of the Independent Publishers Guild.

The report suggested two possible future paths for PS, with merging it with the IPG seen as a “more workable option”. 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 it has emerged that the IPG was unaware of the proposal until shortly before the report was published. Marion Sinclair (pictured), chief executive of the PS, told The Bookseller that the recommendation had come as “a surprise” to both her organisation and the IPG, which had not been told until “the day before publication of the report”. IPG executive director Bridget Shine declined to comment.

The report listed Scottish presses Canongate, Mainstream, Dunedin Academic Press and Publishing Scotland itself among its contributors and advisors.

But Canongate’s Jamie Byng said it was “extremely misleading” to have described the company as a contributor and adviser to the proposals. “To be seeing this document after it’s been released, and to be described as contributor and adviser is something I’m not happy about,” he said. “The way they have put our name on it suggests we are in favour of these recommendations. But the report is in no way representative of our views.”

Anthony Kinahan of Dunedin Academic Press is similarly requesting the removal of his name as a contributor. “I was somewhat surprised to find my name listed as a contribtor to the paper, as I didn’t make a submission to them – I merely expressed some opinions,” he said.

Mainstream’s Bill Campbell added: “The whole report is resonant with in-fighting and back-stabbing that has gone in for years”. He described the proposed merger of PS with the IPG as “an absolute nonsense”.

Marion Sinclair, chief executive of Publishing Scotland, said “several” publishers had complained about their inclusion. “In fact, they made written submissions, which did not appear in the report,” she said. “It would help if all the submissions received could be posted up on the government website.”

Sinclair also criticised the report for its failure to include “objective” information. “It should contain a remit, terms of reference, methodology, quotes from submissions, analysis of data, an audit of present provision: all these are absent,” she told The Bookseller.

Birlinn’s Hugh Andrew, one of 10 panel members who put the report together, said the group had taken on board points raised by publisher submissions – such as the importance of PS’s training schemes and its presence at the various international book fairs. He said: “Both of those issues we took on board and have offered a solution to them; we cannot be said not to have listened.”

Andrew said he was “profoundly insulted” by the “insidious suggestion” that the report was not objective. “There are nine other people who have signed off something they thought was in the best interests of Scotland and Scottish publishing,” he said, stressing the recommendations had been decided “unanimously”.

In a statement, PS chairman Keith Whittles said he recognised there were issues over funding, saying that in light of the recession “the PS cloth will be cut accordingly”, but warned of concomitant costs for setting up a new body. Whittles added: “In general, we deplore the personal nature of this debate – it should focus on the issues for the membership.”

The Scotsman reports that that Society of Authors in Scotland (SAOS) has accused the Literature Working Group of aiming to “dismantle” the Edinburgh Unesco City of Literature organisation and attempting to “kill off” the loss-making Books from Scotland website.

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