THE 2015 James McCash Scots Poetry Competition, announced today, offers total prize money of £3,500, making it among the UK's major poetry prizes.

The total has more than doubled since last year, when it was £1,500.

The free-to-enter competition, which has been run jointly by The Herald and Glasgow University since 2003, aims to celebrate and encourage the use of the Scots language in all its rich diversity.

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This year's awards comprise a first prize of £1,000, a second prize of £750, a third prize of £500, a fourth prize of £300 and a fifth prize of £250.

There are also four special prizes for junior entrants - a first prize of £200 and a second prize of £150 for primary-school children, and a first prize of £200 and a second prize of £150 for secondary-school students.

Lesley Duncan, Herald poetry editor, said: "We are particularly keen to encourage participation from these younger age groups, who are of course the future guardians of Scotland's cultural and linguistic heritage.

Previous competitions have drawn entries not only from all parts of Scotland but from the global Scottish diaspora.

"Year after year they have been proof, if proof were needed, of the irrepressible vitality of the Lowland language in all its variants, and how readily it adapts to contemporary issues as well as to the evergreen themes of love and loss, nature and mortality.

"All forms of the language are equally acceptable, from the classical cadences of the sixteenth-century Makars and MacDiarmid's literary Scots, to the Doric of the north-east, the everyday speech of Burns country and the south-west, the distinctive voices of the Northern Isles, and, not least, the witty, irreverent, demotic of Scotland's cities."

There is no theme this year. The poems (up to three from each entrant) can be in any form, from sonnet to free verse, with a 30-line maximum.

Entries, printed on A4 paper with name and contact details on the back, should be sent to Lesley Duncan, c/o The Herald, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB, to arrive before September 1.

Contestants in the junior categories should add their age and the name of their school. Entries may be emailed to lesley.duncan@heraldandtimes.co.uk with the same information included.

The judges are Professor Alan Riach, of the Department of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, Professor Kirsteen McCue, co-director of the university's Centre for Robert Burns Studies, and Lesley Duncan, who added: "Many entrants will already write instinctively in Scots, but for younger contestants particularly, it may be worth quoting the advice of one Fife dominie: 'Dinnae be feart' of the language, but savour its pithy vocabulary and colourful idioms. Enjoy writing. We look forward to hearing from you."