SCOTLAND’S writers have joined forces to urge ministers to increase funding for the arts and literature in next month’s Budget “for the good of everyone”.

The Makar Jackie Kay, Lanark author Alasdair Gray, Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, Irvine Welsh and Alexander McCall Smith are among the internationally acclaimed figures who have signed an open letter which argues books have an essential role in promoting the country economically and culturally.

Their intervention is over growing fears the arts could be seen as a soft target by Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, who unveils his budget on December,

It comes against a background of real-terms cuts to Scotland’s budget for public services coming from the UK Government, which the First Minister has said amount to a decrease of around £200 million next year.

A total of 111 writers have put their name to the letter, published in full in The National today, and include several born in Scotland but no longer living here, such as Andrew O’Hagan and Irvine Welsh.

“We are calling for the Government to increase funding for the arts and literature, for the good of everyone in Scotland,” it says.

“Supporting literature is not a drain on the country’s resources: books make an enormous contribution to the country, financially and reputationally.

“Our books are an advertisement for Scotland, attracting tourists to visit the landmarks they’ve read about, and foreign students to come on summer schools here – not to mention the visitors who come especially for our festivals.”

It adds: “With more public support, writers can encourage diversity, inclusion and literacy, not to mention boosting Scotland’s economy. Of course there are difficult budget decisions to make in times of austerity, but the cost of supporting literature only amounts to a tiny fraction of the overall money the government will spend. When it comes to the arts and literature, for a modest investment from the government our work generates enormous financial and cultural dividends.”

The letter goes on to point out that it would be ironic for Nicola Sturgeon’s Government to reduce funding for literature while championing reading for children and young people.

“Without support from the government, Scotland will surely damage one of its prize assets: its world-renowned literary heritage,” it says. “What an irony we could be facing: a country which trumpets its First Minister’s Reading Challenge on the one hand, but which cuts funding to new writers on the other.”

Novelists AL Kennedy and Ali Smith, crime writers Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Denise Mina, prize-winning poet John Burnside, as well as historian and cultural thinkers Tom Devine and Willy Maley are among the writers who put their name to the letter.

Next week’s Budget will be the first time the Scottish Government will be able to use new powers over income tax handed to Scotland following the 2014 Independence Referendum and the establishment of the Smith Commission to review devolution.

The Scottish Government has set out options on altering income tax bands and rates amid a consensus from all the opposition parties, other than the Scottish Conservatives,

that some option to increase income tax is required to protect public services.

Previously a Scottish Government spokesman said it will do all it can to protect Scotland’s arts and culture and ensure the sector thrives.