Scottish independence: SNP’s literary white paper

Some of Scotland’s greatest literary talents are to be asked to help write the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, Alex Salmond revealed yesterday.

William McIlvanney is admired by First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Stephen Mansfield
William McIlvanney is admired by First Minister Alex Salmond. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

The First Minister insisted that the document could “resonate down through the ages” when the Scottish Government publishes it this autumn.

The Scottish Government says that part of the white paper should be “composed by one of Scotland’s great literary talents” to help capture the imagination of Scots ahead of the referendum on 18 September, 2014.

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It should, said a spokesman, contain “prose to inform, but also poetry to inspire”.

Senior nationalist figures have suggested that the celebrated Scottish novelist William McIlvanney could be a candidate for Mr Salmond’s literary project.

The SNP leader is known to be a keen admirer of the 77-year-old novelist and poet, and enjoys reciting a line from the opening of the second in McIlvanney’s acclaimed Laidlaw trilogy: “It was Glasgow on a Friday night, the city of the stare.”

McIlvanney, whose other works include the Papers of Tony Veitch, and Walking Wounded, that portray Glasgow in the 1970s, has backed SNP campaigns.

The UK government has published a series of papers on the implications of independence.

Mr Salmond has insisted that his government’s white paper would answer critical questions on independence over key issues such as defence, pensions and the economy.

However, he suggested in an interview yesterday that the white paper would set out a vision for independence with a literary twist.

He said: “I believe in this document and I also believe in its importance for the Scottish people and people beyond our shores. I want it to resonate down through the ages.”

A Scottish Government source confirmed that Mr Salmond wanted to make the most of the nation’s literary giants to increase the impact of the white paper.

The source said: “The independence white paper will be one of the most important documents in Scottish history, arguably the most significant since the Declaration of Arbroath [the 14th-century manifesto affirming Scottish independence].

“Inevitably, the document will be long, informative and redolent of civil service expertise and attention to detail.

“However, there should also be a precis or interpretation, written for the people and designed to capture the imagination. It would seem appropriate to see this composed by one of Scotland’s great literary talents. To win independence we need prose to inform, but also poetry to inspire.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Perhaps the Nationalists would have liked JM Barrie to write a fantasy like Peter Pan, but with Alex Salmond as the boy who rules forever.

“They should stop inventing schemes to avoid giving straight answers on their plans to split Scotland from the UK. This shows Alex Salmond is prepared to say and do anything to win.”

Speak out

A CAMPAIGN to encourage more artists to “speak out” in favour of the union in the independence debate is to be launched in the coming weeks.

The move comes amid concerns among unionists of a perception that the cultural scene in Scotland is overwhelmingly independence-friendly, with a host of writers, actors and musicians having declared their intention to vote Yes.

The most significant cultural voice to emerge in the referendum debate so far has been the pro-independence National Collective, which was founded two years ago by a group of Edinburgh-based artists and writers and now has branches across Scotland.

However, Eddie McGuire, flautist with Scottish folk band the Whistlebinkies and a respected classical composer, said many of his colleagues are for “British unity”.

He has met Better Together to discuss setting up a pro-unionist group. “We decided that we would start to look into setting up a Better Together group in arts and culture,” he said.