I visited the Port Seton Writers’ Group last night, along with the East Lothian Librarian. Midlothian and East Lothian Libraries jointly administer the Writer-in-Residence post, and support Tyne & Esk Writers. Earlier this year the Scottish Arts Council Literature Department had turned down – for the second year in succession – our funding application for a Writer-in-Residence, and all the groups had expressed concern over the situation. The seven groups are all very different, but all share the view that they benefited from the regular visits from a professional writer, to provide encouragement, feedback, information and instruction. They feel this has helped their writing to develop. Being knocked back like this by the SAC, without adequate explanation, has been very disappointing, but we’re exploring different funding avenues, and we’re hopeful that we can secure a part-time post for one year, pending another application to SAC.
The Scottish Arts Council’s decision-making processes, certainly in Literature, are not transparent, and yet this was one of the arguments they presented when they scrapped the Literature Committee. The situation now is much worse. We don’t know who is making decisions, what their criteria are, and how they go about it. And of course they’re not accountable to the literary community, or any other. The usual excuses about limited budgets don’t bear close scrutiny – the literature budget is by far the smallest element of their expenditure.