“Enhance Live Literature Scheme”
Again, sure. I’ve had money through LLS and it’s a good scheme. A school or writers’ group pays 50% of your fee and the Scottish Book Trust pays 50% of your fee, your travel and expenses. It seems the Society of Authors in Scotland is ticked off at this one, because it also suggests that some writers should be paid more than others. That, they claim, is “demeaning”. But would a “fledgling” writer prefer £150 and an empty hall, or £100, a full hall, a share of the door and the chance to be associated with an Ian Rankin, A L Kennedy or Iain Banks?
“Establish a Gaelic Literary Magazine”
We had one. It was called Gairm. And then there was Gath, but it’s now been dormant for a while. Now there’s An Guth, covering Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic and other Celtic languages. If ever there was a case for an on-line magazine, it would a proper Gaelic one, which connected the entire diaspora rather than just being sold at poetry readings in Inverness.
“Introduce compulsory question at Higher Grade on Scottish Literature”
Not my favourite topic. My heart screams “no” at my head, and my head says there are good reasons for it. I was lucky enough to have two great English teachers – Alec Beaton and Alan Sleater – who did Scots work alongside Shakespeare, Keats, Fitzgerald and T S Eliot. These were guys who were kind enough to lend me my first Balzac novel and my first Pinter play. We even did From Glasgow to Saturn, and at the time I knew more about Saturn than Glasgow. When I briefly helped out one of my old English teachers, we found Frank Kuppner inspired the students more than Irvine Welsh. As long as it’s the broadest possible sense of “Scottish Literature”, with teachers capable of nuancing the curriculum, fine. If it’s Grassic Gibbon from Stromness to Langholm, then it’s flawed and foolish.
“Create an e-portal for Scottish literature”
There was one – Andrew Crumey’s brillaint Scottish Writers, now no more. There is one. It’s called Wikipedia. Pay some academics a retainer to keep it up-to-date, relevant and impartial. Oh, there is that other one as well: Books From Scotland. You know, I’m often in bookshops saying to myself – “I really fancy a bit of Uruguyan Literature today”. I’m sure Uruguyans are going in to Waterstones and wondering about what’s up with the Scots these days. But Books from Scotland is a kind McAmazon, not a Scot Lit website, and if it’s not self-supporting, I don’t see why it gets a taxpayer bailout. I mean, it’s not the Royal Bank of Scotland.