SCOTTISH writers of literary fiction are struggling to be recognised despite Douglas Stuart winning the Booker Prize with his novel Shuggie Bain, it has been claimed.

Author Lesley McDowell told the Sunday National that they are caught in a “double-bind” because of the “near impossibility" of being reviewed by London-based newspapers and the fact that books perceived as “literary” do not sell well.

“It’s only a good thing for Scottish writers when one wins a prize like the Booker but ‘Scottish’ writers of ‘literary’ fiction are caught in a real double-bind,” she said. “‘Literary’ doesn’t sell well, whether published by London or Scotland, and so sometimes London prefers a ‘Scottish’ precedent (urban, white, working-class, male) if it’s going to take a risk.

“Factor in the near-impossibility of a London newspaper giving a review to a Scottish writer published by a Scottish publisher – as was the case with Graeme Macrae Burnet a few years ago – which can affect sales hugely, and you see why Scottish publishers feel that publishing ‘literary’ fiction just isn’t worth it, and so they cut their lists. There are exceptions – Sandstone Press, for example – but it’s a real struggle for Scottish writers of ‘literary’ fiction right now.

“Given the weak market, it’s so important for state assistance for Scottish publishers – more like the way Ireland does regarding writing and writers, and less like London. That requires state aid.”

Author A L Kennedy said the problem was compounded by a perception that if writers were not published by a Scottish publisher they were not viewed as authentically Scottish.

READ MORE: Despite flaws Shuggie Bain is a worthy winner of the Booker Prize

“That’s a bit of a headf**k when there aren’t that many options, especially if you want to earn a living,” she said, adding that she assumed the Daily Mail would be outraged that “a barbarian has stolen something noble Englishmen should possess”.

Kennedy said she tried to keep far away from the Booker and was winning mainly European prizes.

“They’re trying to support our arts and keep an eye on us as we become a failed state,” she said. “Here’s to Indy. Being stuck in England and watching what it has become is endlessly sickening. No one English I know isn’t sickened even more. Their country has been stolen.”

Writer and editor, Alan Taylor, said it was “wonderful” Stuart had won but “regrettable” so many good writers in Scotland were forced to go to London publishers.

He said there were only a handful of very good general publishers in Scotland and those published very few literary novels.

Although it was “astonishing” that Stuart was only the second Scot to have won the Booker since its inception over four decades ago, Taylor said there was no infrastructure in Scotland to support good writers.

“The real regret I have is that Scotland itself and the Scottish publishing industry have lost faith with literary fiction and find it very hard to sell for whatever reason,” he said.

“In a way it is quite instructive that James Kelman, who I think is our greatest living writer, is published by a tiny Glasgow-based publisher. If this country does not really give recognition to great writers like Kelman then what can you expect?”

Taylor was critical of the publishing industry in general for abandoning good writers if their books do not sell well.

“If a book does not sell a considerable number of copies you are immediately judged,” he said. “It’s like clickbait.”

He said judging a book on those terms would have meant writers like Salman Rushdie and Graham Greene would never have been recognised.

“I have a copy of Rushdie’s first novel signed by him and it says ‘to one of only eight original readers’,” said Taylor.