AN anthology of prose and verse has been launched to mark the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.

The volume is a joint publication between the Scottish centre of the freedom of speech group PEN International and Scotland Street Press.

It is introduced by historian and author Sir Tom Devine (below) and features James Robertson and Chitra Ramaswamy as well as many other authors from Scotland and across the globe.

The National:

This year marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in which the Scottish nobility appealed to the Pope to support Scotland in the nation’s fight for freedom from “the rule of the English”.

In these difficult times, PEN said the need to hear and understand each other is as vital as it ever was.

PEN International has been campaigning for freedom of expression for almost 100 years and Scottish PEN has, since 1927, contributed to that international effort along with similar centres throughout the world.

The anthology from Scottish PEN and Scotland Street Press features more than 50 writers on a range of themes, all of which explore freedom of expression.

A launch event due to take place in Arbroath on April 6, the exact date of the declaration 700 years ago, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the anthology will be available to purchase from Scotland Street Press. On the same day, three prize winners from the published pieces, selected by Devine will be announced on social media.

Professor Emeritus Devine, who has written a preface to the anthology, said: “I was honoured to be invited to help to judge the entries for Scottish PEN’s writing competition to mark the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and to select the three best submissions in poetry and prose.

“The Declaration is now regarded across the world as the most eloquent statement of the right to national self-determination ever written.

“What better way to celebrate this noble expression of human freedom than by asking the writers of Scotland to present their own views in 2020 on the time-honoured principles of that remarkable document and their relevance today?

“The response to the public invitation was beyond expectation. Eighty submissions were received and no fewer than 50 were shortlisted, such was the overall high quality of the entries.”

Independent publisher Scotland Street Press was founded in Edinburgh by Jean Findlay in 2014.

In its relatively short existence, it has won PEN awards for books in translation, became a finalist in the Small Press of the Year British Book Awards in 2019 and was shortlisted for the 2020 British Book Awards.

The National:

This new anthology includes contributions from Karen Campbell, Carl MacDougall, Ramaswamy (above) and Robertson, with the contents ranging from Scotland to southern Africa, from Myanmar to Mexico and from Ireland to India.

Devine added: “My responsibility to decide on the best three was uniquely challenging. I can only say that I did my best.”

“My congratulations go to Scottish PEN for this inspiring idea and its successful realisation and to Scotland Street Press for its splendid work in producing the anthology.”