1. The Great VAT Debate
Mark Buckland, Director at Cargo Publishing: Publishing Scotland have cautioned that if Scotland were independent, the EU would demand that Scotland adds VAT to its printed goods – books and newspapers would rise accordingly and Scotland’s publishing industry would suffer with higher prices than those south of the border.
A bit of perspective on these very clairvoyant scare stories – stuffed with ifs, maybes and buts. The EU is not due to rule on this issue until 2020; so even if we’re in the UK then, it could still be brought in. Alternatively, if Scotland has its own representation at the EU top tables and the number of MEPs it should have for its size (see Finland, Malta et al for how we’re massively underrepresented), we can resist it or at least have a voice in tempering it. Another timeline to this scare story is that we stay in the UK and exit the EU in David Cameron’s referendum – where would that leave all this business? Disappointing to see a trade body arguing on a issue that might come up in six years, when there are much more pressing issues facing Scottish publishing in the union.
2. The Market Isn’t Going Down; But Our Tax Might Be
MB: If you believe Better Together, Scottish authors will not see their books in the rUK ever again. Because border control and a complete shut down of Scottish trade to the UK will have put paid to that.
Look, the UK market is not going to vanish for Scotland. Even better, if, as the White Paper outlines, a 3% drop in corporation tax would give Scottish publishers a huge advantage to press into the UK and world markets, as they’ll have better margins than their UK counterparts.
3. LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT US!
Karyn Dougan, Journalist: Our arts are determined by a London-centric market, our best-sellers replicated throughout every story in the UK. Scottish identity is swallowed into a London-centric market and under the collective term of “British”. We need to stop living in the shadow that London casts over us. An independent Scotland gives us a new platform, one we don’t have to shuffle over and make room for anyone. We will have a refreshed identity, and the opportunity to showcase our culture with all the world watching.
4. Looking Outward – As Others See Us
MB: Independence might encourage Scottish authors and publishers to try beyond these shores. Currently, very few publishers venture out into the wider world, preferring to focus on the English speaking market within our borders. Why not focus on the USA? Or Canada? Or any of the other umpteen English speaking markets. Currently, there exists little provisions to do so. The British Council, as you would judge by its name, is spread between many artists in the four corners of the UK; a Scottish Council or equivalent gives us a chance to showcase our work alone, as an individual cultural entity.
5. Selling Books
MB: Currently, the Scottish market is dominated by three major players: WH Smith, Amazon and Waterstones. To begin, couldn’t independent booksellers enjoy the benefits of a corporation tax cut? I personally don’t agree with the Scottish Government giving Amazon money to come here; it creates local jobs but at the expense of how many in the creative industries? At least in an independent Scotland, I would be closer to my parliament, to my representatives to raise this specific issue. Compare that with a dismal meeting with my MP many years ago, to discuss the question of ebook pricing and a National Book Agreement. A Yes vote would almost certainly galvanise retailers into treating Scotland as a nation, rather than an afterthought in central buying. Who knows, it might even open a market to allow new, independent retailers to emerge.
6. Scottish Talent Stays In Scotland
KD: I’ve been involved in EVERY part of the book industry: publishing, editing, PR, proofreading, reviewing, bookselling, writing, the works. I have been lucky that I’ve managed to keep the creation of books as the centre of my life – something I’ve always wanted since I read my first book. I got my BA Hons in English Studies (with a damn good grade) and yet, for all my education, experience and talent, most of this I’ve had to do freelance. Every time I’ve looked for an editing assistant job or something along these lines, any opportunity for full-time work has been in London. In an independent Scotland with full power over finances and budgets, we will have money to invest and to experiment. Scotland’s biggest resource is its people, which we are losing due to lack of opportunities – something that an independent Scotland would not be short of.
7. Literature as The Heart of Life
MB: How much Scottish literature did you read in school? How much Scottish history did you study? For me, the answer to both is zero. Twelve years of state education and not one lesson on the Scottish Enlightenment? I do believe in a well-rounded, outward looking education, but to know nothing of the joy of your own country’s history and writing is a sin. We’re famously a highly literate nation, statistically we read more than nearly every nation in Europe. Why not bring our words and ideas back to the heart of Scottish cultural life?
KD: Despite being a huge reader, I was ignorant of my own culture until a specific Scottish Literature module at university, where I was introduced to Banks, Welsh, Galloway, Kelman, Spark and Gray. My eyes were opened up to a world I never knew existed – Scottish culture. I devoured as much as I could, exhilarated by the thought that men and women from my own country had written amazing pieces of literature. Why weren’t these voices a part of my education growing up? In an independent Scotland, I hope there would be a new focus on our country and the literature it produces, to inspire future writers and show them that the world DOES want to read what the Scots have to write.
8. Ditch The Kitsch
KD: Working in a Scottish bookshop, it’s very easy to spot Scottish books. It’s the ones draped in tartan or plastered with the saltire. Can be great for the tourists, but does nothing for the locals. Independence gives us the chance to show the world we’re not all tartan, whisky and bagpipes.
MB: If we are forever viewing ourselves as a nation that can only produce these types of books, then why are we surprised that few seem to know our literature or if they do, don’t take it seriously? Let’s shake off the cringe. Let’s assert ourselves in the world as a confident nation of multiple opinions, voices and stories. Let’s take them the visions of Alasdair Gray, the wit of Liz Lochhead, the verbosity of Jim Kelman, the inquisitions of Ewan Morrison, the gravitas of Janice Galloway, the passion of James Robertson, the pure gallus glory of Chris Brookmyre. Ditch the kitsch; it’s time to reshape the world’s vision of us.
9. It’s Not Really About Books
MB: A book to me represents an idea – an idea that can be passed from person to person. I’m voting Yes because I want to see a country take shape, to see ideas, concepts, creative visions passed from person to person. I want to see debate unfold, I want to see us take control of our own destiny. I’m voting Yes, not for myself, but for my children and their children. I’m voting Yes because I believe in the power of ideas and the greatest idea of all is to control your own fate.
KD: I was a No voter, but through reading, I realized that Yes was the only way forward for my country. No more feeling too wee, too poor, too stupid – we will stand up and be able to shake hands with our English brothers and sisters. We want independence so we can grow, be counted for and be equal. I want free education and healthcare for my children. I want my culture to thrive and grow. There’s a new Scotland on the horizon. Don’t be afraid of what awaits us on the 19th, whichever way it goes.
Karyn Dougan, Mark Buckland
Photo: Fergus Ray Murray