Scottish publisher behind book of Nicola Sturgeon speeches goes into liquidation

Highland outfit taken over by Sheffield-based publisher

An independent Scottish publisher behind a book of speeches by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon has gone into liquidation.

Dingwall-based Sandstone Press pulled the plug months after leading figures in the Scottish publishing industry warned they were facing a “perfect storm” of factors behind cost increases, including the impact of Brexit and the Covid pandemic.

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All of its assets and stock of Sandstone’s fiction and non-fiction books have been acquired by a Sheffield-based publisher, Vertebrate.

Robert Davidson founded Sandstone Press in Dingwall in 2002 with Moira Forsyth.Robert Davidson founded Sandstone Press in Dingwall in 2002 with Moira Forsyth.
Robert Davidson founded Sandstone Press in Dingwall in 2002 with Moira Forsyth.

Sandstone was founded in 2002 by Robert Davidson and Moira Forsyth in the spare room of their home in Dingwall.

Cameron McNeish, Peter Ross, Ajay Close, Zoë Strachan and Matthew Zajac were among the other writers that were published by Sandstone.

The firm was previously twice crowned publisher of the year at the Saltire Society’s annual literary awards. It enjoyed huge success in 2019 when one of its authors, Jokha Alharthi, won the Man Booker International Prize for her novel Celestial Bodies.

Mr Davidson edited a book of speeches exploring issues, including climate crisis, education, human rights and the European Union by Ms Sturgeon, which Sandstone published in 2021.

Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

However, the book and the publisher became embroiled in controversy after it emerged Sandstone had received public funding from the Scottish Government’s arts agency, Creative Scotland, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Sandstone insisted the book, Women Hold Up Half The Sky, was published and financed independently, without any public funding support.

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Sandstone was among the Scottish publishers to warn in February about the potential impact of rising costs on their business.

Mr Davidson said at the time: “If we and other small publishers put our price up now, and larger publishers manage to hold their prices down because they are printing in much bigger numbers for very successful authors and television series and celebrities and the like, will the public keep on buying our books?"

An official announcement by Vertebrate on its takeover of Sandstone described the company as “a success story for Scottish publishing”.

Sandstone is reported to have been put into voluntary liquidation due to “difficult trading conditions”.

Jon Barton, managing director of Vertebrate, said: “I hope that the Sandstone authors will settle into their new home and we can continue to give them the excellent service provided by their previous publisher.”

A spokeswoman for Creative Scotland said Sandstone Press had received a total of £18,724 in funding in recent years.

The spokeswoman added: “Current trading conditions are undeniably difficult for independent publishers and the loss of Sandstone Press will leave a noticeable gap in Scotland’s publishing landscape.

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“They have achieved several significant accolades across the past twenty years, most notably winning the Man Booker International Prize in 2019, for the translation of Jokha Alharthi’s Celestial Bodies.”



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