Four Scottish Authors in the Running for Scotland's Biggest Literary Prize

Four Scottish authors have been shortlisted for the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book of the Year. Selected from 16 category finalists, the winner of each of the fiction, non-fiction, poetry and first book categories receives £5000 and the chance to receive a further £25,000 and overall book of the year accolade.

The category winners comprise:

Fiction:           John Aberdein – Strip the Willow (Polygon)

Non–Fiction:  Donald Worster – A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (Oxford University Press)

Poetry:            Tom Leonard – Outside the Narrative (Word Power/Etruscan Books)

First Book:     Sarah Gabriel – Eating Pomegranates (Jonathan Cape)

One of these four authors will go on to win Scotland’s biggest literary prize; The Book of the Year, which will be announced as part of the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Award ceremony. The ceremony will be hosted by broadcast personality James Naughtie on 18 June 2010, as part of the Borders Book Festival.

Covering themes of love, passion, hope and memories and laced with wit, humour and insight the four winning books cover a range of genres and writings styles. Newcomer Sarah Gabriel’s Eating Pomegranates is a tragic memoir about a devastatingly common disease while John Aberdein’s dark political satire has also been described as a ‘wry, salty love story’. Donald Worster’s A Passion for Nature provides the most complete account of the great conservationist John Muir to date and poetry’s category winning Outside the Narrative collates the great majority of Tom Leonard’s poetry to date.

Dr Richard Holloway, Chairman Joint Board Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen commented on the selection; “What an intriguing and unexpected list! The distinguished judges of this year’s prize have resisted the impulse to go with what might be described as the bookie’s favourites, and have gone for quality from not entirely expected sources. This is evidence, if any is needed, that Scottish writing continues to gang its ain gait. 

John Aberdein, author of Strip the Willow said: I guess readers will readily feel the hot rivets of connection between the political themes in Strip the Willow and what is happening on the ground in our cities now. But it is as a wry, edgy, salty love story, seen through the prisms of time, lust, idealism and exhaustion, that I hope it will become best-known.”

Donald Worster, author of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir said:John Muir was one of history's greatest nature lovers and conservationists, and his life was lived in extraordinary times and places. I have tried to ground that life in the Scotland of his youth and in the broader Transatlantic world he knew after he migrated to America and became a world traveller. He is today an inspiration for people everywhere who care about the environment.

Tom Leonard, author of Outside the Narrative said:“I am pleased that this gathering of my poetry from the 45 years of my writing life has been brought out through this publishing union for the occasion. I could not ask for a better, or I hope more appropriate, publishing duo than this smallpress (formally progressive poetry) publisher with Scotland’s only independent politically progressive bookshop.

‘Etruscan have done their usual beautiful production job, allowing me as always complete control of my page and design of the cover; WordPower, a crucial driving force in Scotland for politically-aware internationalist culture, has been for years the only bookshop in Scotland where one could reliably expect to find my work.”

Sarah Gabriel author of Eating Pomegranates added:“I began this book genuinely unsure about whether I would survive to finish it. As I neared the end, and the book sold not just in the UK, but also in Canada and America, I had the extraordinary experience of watching something begun in breakdown – a breakdown of physical as well as mental health – pick itself up and start running all over the world. It was exhilarating, thrilling, and – given that at the time I was still shuffling between the sick room and 'normal' life – more than a little unreal.

‘But nothing has given me greater pleasure than the book's homecoming, which is what winning this award for the Best First Book in Scotland feels like. It is my first major literary prize and I am immensely proud and happy about it.”

The category winners were announced as part of the launch of the Borders Book Festival Programme. Running from 17 – 20 June, the 2010 Borders Book Festival highlights include Chris Mullin, Shirley Williams, Douglas Hurd and Rory Bremner, all sharing their particular experiences of political life as well as acclaimed novelists Hilary Mantel, William Fiennes, Andrew Greig and Robert Harris discussing their work. Victoria Wood, Kathy Lette, and the QI team John Lloyd and John Mitchinson also feature in the programme, alongside much-respected broadcasters John Simpson, Fergal Keane and James Naughtie. 

James Budden, Marketing Director for Wealth Management, Baillie Gifford said: “Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust is delighted to be sponsoring these book awards once again. They celebrate the powerful affiliation Scots have with literature and reward the rich vein of Scottish writing talent we have available today. Our research shows that Scottish Mortgage’s investors are typically educated and erudite and this association is attractive and engaging to them as a group.”

Booking is now open for the Book Awards ceremony, which will take place in Harmony Garden, Melrose on Friday 18 June at 5.00 pm. Contact Paula Ogilvie at or telephone 07929 435575 to book your place at the event.

Full biographies and synopses of the books are available on request 


Notes to Editor

  1. Full details of the awards and shortlist are available of the Scottish Arts Council website
  2. The overall Book of the Year award will be announced on Friday 18 June at the Borders Book Festival, Melrose.
  3. Since their establishment in 1972, the Scottish Arts Council Book Awards have recognised and rewarded literary excellence in literary fiction, poetry, and literary non-fiction by Scottish authors resident in, or out with, Scotland. In 2009 the book awards were re-branded the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards, to represent a long term sponsorship commitment. The Book of the Year award is worth £30,000, and is the biggest literary prize of its kind in Scotland.
  4. The Scottish Arts Council is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) which was established by Royal Charter in 1994 and is also a Lottery distributor. The organisation serves the people of Scotland by fostering arts of excellence through investment, development, research and advocacy. Our corporate aims are: to support artists to fulfil their creative and business potential; to increase participation in the arts; and to place the arts, culture and creativity at the heart of learning. We invest £60m each year, including £15 million of National Lottery funding.
  5. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC is one of the largest investment trusts listed on the London Stock Exchange. The trust was launched as The Straits Mortgage and Trust Company Ltd in 1909. Today Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust invests on a global basis and has net assets of over £1.6bn*.
  6. Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC is managed by the Edinburgh based investment management firm Baillie Gifford.  Baillie Gifford is one of the UK’s leading investment managers, and has more than £55 billion* of funds under management and advice in active equity and bond portfolios for clients in the UK and throughout the world.Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC can be invested in directly and also through Baillie Gifford’s Investment Trust Share Plan, ISA and Children's Savings Plan. Further information about the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards can be found at or   
  7. Further information about the Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust PLC can be found at


*as at 31 December 2009.The value of a stock market investment and any income from it can fall as well as rise and investors may not get back the amount invested.  Investments with exposure to overseas securities can be affected by changing stock market conditions and currency exchange rates. 

Contact: Charlotte Rowland
Phone: 0131 2402498