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Academic win for 2014 Saltire Literary Award


 Photo caption (left to right)

Jenny Niven, Creative Scotland, Richard McKean, son of the late Professor Charles McKean, Professor Bob Harris and Ian Campbell, Convenor of the Literary Awards panel

  An exhaustive piece of academic research co-authored by history Professors Bob Harris of Oxford University and the late Charles McKean of Dundee University has beaten off stiff competition from an array of new and established names in contemporary Scottish literature to claim the 2014 Saltire Book of the Year Award, sponsored by Creative Scotland.

Winning book “The Scottish Town in the Age of Enlightenment 1740-1820” explores how Scotland’s eighteenth century burghs improved themselves and the significance of this for modern understanding of a society in a state of transition. Described by the judging panel as ‘magisterial’ and considered ‘a pioneering study of Scottish urbanisation’, the book was the product of an extensive three-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It also won the 2014 Saltire Society Scottish Research Book of the Year award, supported by the National Library of Scotland. Professor Bob Harris collected both awards and an accompanying cash prize of £10,000 at a special ceremony at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh on 11th November 2014.

Other writers shortlisted for the prestigious award this year included well-known broadcasters Sally Magnusson and Kirsty Wark as well as new writing talents such as Niall Campbell and Kirsty Logan and established Scottish writers and past winners including A L Kennedy and Martin MacIntyre.

Now firmly established as Scotland’s most prestigious annual book awards, the Saltire Literary Awards have been supported this year by an expanded list of partners and sponsors including Creative Scotland, the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Historical Review Trust and Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

The awards celebrate and support literary and academic excellence across six distinct categories with the winner of each of the five individual book categories going forward to be considered for the Saltire Book of the Year award.

Alongside the overall winner, a further five category winners were announced. Each individual book category winner received a £2,000 cash prize while the winner of the Publisher of the Year award received a £4,000 cash prize to support the ongoing development of their business:


  • The Saltire Scottish First Book of the Year Award supported by Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky:

Moontide, [Bloodaxe Books], a collection of verse from Edinburgh-based Niall Campbell and strongly influenced by his upbringing on the Western Isles


  • The Saltire Scottish History Book of the Year Award supported by the Scottish Historical Review Trust:

Scottish Gods, Religion in the Modern Scotland 1900-2012 [Edinburgh University Press] by leading social historian Steve Bruce, exploring how religion in Scotland has become more varied over time


  • The Saltire Scottish Literary Book of the Year Award (new for 2014) supported by the Saltire Society:

How to be Both [Hamish Hamilton], a set of two novels which interpenetrate each other despite being set centuries apart, by Inverness-born writer and 1995 Saltire First Book of the Year award winner Ali Smith. The book was also shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize.


  • The Saltire Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award (also new for 2014) supported by the Scottish Poetry Library and Creative Scotland:

Bones and Breath [Salt], a collection that savours the music and heft of language, including and especially Scots, written by Buckie-born and raised poet Alexander Hutchison


  • The Saltire Society Scottish Publisher of the Year Award supported by Creative Scotland:

Sandstone Press, a small enterprise based in Dingwall, Sandstone Press has quickly established a reputation for quality and innovation


The Awards ceremony also included an announcement of the winner of the Saltire Society’s 2014 Ross Roy Medal. Established in 2009, this award commemorates the outstanding contribution to Scottish literature by Professor G Ross Roy of the University of South Carolina. Supporting the next generation of academics, the medal is awarded to the best PhD thesis on a subject relating to Scottish literature. This year’s winner was Barbara Leonardi from Stirling University for her thesis, ‘An Exploration of Gender Stereotypes in the Work of James Hogg’.


Winner of the 2015 Saltire Society Literary Travel Bursary, supported by the British Council was also announced. Lenore Bell, from St Andrews University, intends to use the £1,500 cash prize towards research for a novel set in Edwardian Brooklyn in the USA.


Commenting on winning his Award, Professor Bob Harris said:

 “To win this award in a country with such a rich tradition of writing, making and reading books is a huge honour, and also a wonderful way to mark the major contribution made by my co-author, Charles McKean, to understanding Scotland’s very distinctive urban and architectural history.”


Executive Director of the Saltire Society Jim Tough said:

 “The Saltire Literary Awards have a proud history of celebrating and bringing wider attention to excellence in all literary forms. This year exemplifies that commitment. Scotland’s most prestigious literary awards became wider in scope and greater in impact through generous support from new sponsors Tamdhu Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Historical Review Trust.

“The judging panels were deeply impressed by the quality and range of books that made it onto the 2014 shortlist. From poetry and plays to novels and non-fiction, extending the length and breadth of the country and far beyond, this year’s shortlist is a testament to the outstanding calibre of modern Scottish literature in all its varied forms.”