DAVID Alston’s Slaves And Highlanders: Silenced Histories Of Scotland And The Caribbean was named as Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year at a ceremony in Edinburgh last night.

Alexander McCall Smith was awarded the 2022 Saltire Society Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Scottish literature.

Alston’s book, published by Edinburgh University Press, also won the Saltire Society History Book of the Year. It was described by the judges as “the best book to date on Scottish involvement in chattel slavery and the impact of the gains from this on Highland Scotland”.

They added: “From his local Cromarty base, the author engages forcefully with major historiographical debates relating to Scottish participation in the slave economy and challenges presentations of this in tourist literature and major heritage institutions. An informative book based solidly in research but immensely accessible.”

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Sarah Mason, director of the Saltire Society, said: “The last year has not been the easiest of times for our literary community but the winners and shortlistees from Scotland’s National Book Awards exemplify the astounding talent and resilience of our creative communities. The Saltire Society and our partners are thrilled to be able to celebrate, recognise and raise the profile of Scotland’s literary community in this way.”

McCall Smith is a novelist, poet, playwright and librettist and has written more than 150 books on a wide array of subjects across novels, poetry, short stories and children’s books. He regularly writes for BBC Radio and pens screen scripts and stage treatments as well as libretti for music by Edinburgh composer Tom Cunningham.

He wrote a sequence of poems based on Edinburgh’s Seven Hills and is working closely with St Mary’s Music School on a three-year project with students, putting his poetry to music.

The National: Slaves and Highlanders - David Alston.

McCall Smith is Professor Emeritus of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and holds honorary doctorates from 13 universities. In 2007, he received a CBE for services to literature and in 2011 was honoured by the president of Botswana for services through literature to the country. McCall Smith was unable to attend the ceremony in person but said: “This award. It means a huge amount to me and I am deeply grateful for the kindness of all involved.

“The work of the Saltire Society in encouraging the arts in this country is something I admire greatly. The hard work undertaken by the team throughout the year creates a space in which we can come together not only to celebrate the creative achievements of individuals but also a nation that values that creativity and grows because of it.

“When I write about Scotland and from Scotland, through fiction and through poetry, my hope is that people in far-flung places in this world might discover a little more of who we are and what makes us tick – hear our voice, feel the passion we have for our country and share in a little moment of our humour.

“I am published in Scotland by the fine publishing house Birlinn Ltd and I am so proud to call this country home. Being honoured in this way in your home country is very special.”

Awards were presented in six literary categories including The Saltire Society Fiction Book of the Year, won by Mara Menzies for her novel Blood & Gold: A Journey Of Shadows (Birlinn Ltd), and The Saltire Society Non-Fiction Book of the Year, awarded to Chitra Ramaswamy for her memoir Homelands: The History Of A Friendship (Canongate Books).

The Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award was presented to Will McPhail for his graphic novel IN (Hodder & Stoughton (Sceptre)). The judging panel called it a remarkable first book, effortlessly blending the beauty of its art and the poignancy of its well-told, powerful story.

Poetry Book of the Year was awarded to Claire Askew for her collection How To Burn A Woman (Bloodaxe Books) and the Research Book of the Year Award was won by Surveying The Anthropocene: Environment And Photography Now, edited by Patricia Macdonald (published by Studies In Photography in partnership with Edinburgh University Press).

Three publishing industry awards were also announced yesterday evening. The Saltire Society Book Cover Design of the Year was won by Robert Dalrymple for Alison Watt: A Portrait Without Likeness (National Galleries of Scotland).

The Saltire Society Publisher of the Year was awarded to 404 Ink, with the commendation from the judges saying: “404 Ink are brave and honest publishers, working to ensure under-represented writers and works are published.”

Birlinn Ltd and Charco Press were highly commended.

The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year, awarded in Partnership with Publishing Scotland, was presented jointly to Harley Griffiths, senior commissioning editor, Times Books at HarperCollins Publishers, and Robert Lovell, general manager at Scottish Mountaineering Press.