THE publication of the core reading list for the new Scottish Qualifications Authority Scottish Literature examinations for secondary pupils is an act of cultural significance ("Works chosen for Scottish literature question named", The Herald, November 28).

Without a popularly-read national literature how can we expect to be called a nation? Indeed, for many of us who missed out on an early meaningful introduction to Scottish literature the present Scottish Library Book Week is a worthwhile exercise. Also, the Canongate Classics series has had considerable influence on the availability of important Scottish texts.

For schools and their teachers the novels and poetry selected will have their own challenges but at least the text and its layered meanings sits on the page to be discovered, analysed and enjoyed. The plays, however, are a different kettle of fiction.

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Cairns Craig and Randall Stevenson in the introduction to Twentieth-Century Scottish Drama, an anthology, write in the very first sentence: "Scottish literature has often been seen as significantly weakened by the lack of a strong native tradition of drama." More significantly is the almost vital need for students to experience the dramatic texts off the page and on the stage in order to discover the inherent meaning through the action of the play.

While Ena Lamont Steward's classic Men Should Weep had a recent airing by our own National Theatre (and prior to that by the National Theatre of England) there is now a major opportunity for our several theatres (particularly state-funded companies) to offer us all revivals of the texts on the Scottish Qualifications Authority list, with 7:84's The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil being an ideal choice for the incoming director-designate of the National Theatre of Scotland, Laurie Sansom.

Thom Cross,

64 Market Place,


I READ with interest about the reading taste of Anne McTaggart, a Glasgow Labour MSP ("McTaggart bills taxpayer for book on public speaking for dummies'', The Herald, November 28). It is said that the books one chooses to read reveals much about the character, personality, and intelligence (cerebral and emotional) of an individual.

I think that we will leave to her party and, if necessary, to the electorate to decide on her re-electability in 2016 following the acquisition, for her edification and improvement, of Public Speaking and Presentation for Dummies.

Having watched a number of debates at the Scottish Parliament, I would suggest that a copy of that guide could be put to advantage in the Christmas stocking of many MSPs.

I read with even more interest that she and other MSPs indulge their literary predilections at the expense of the hard-pressed taxpayer. Is public funding of three copies of books about Barbara Castle, exceptional politician as she was, not a touch excessive ?

Surely the time has come for this indulgence at public expense to come to an end. If our Holyrood representatives want to buy a book, to enhance their knowledge of the world and its workings, let them buy it at their own expense out of their not-insignificant salaries. If they feel that they cannot find the wherewithal, then let them use the public libraries.

Ian W Thomson,

38 Kirkintilloch Road, Lenzie.

SHOULD taxpayers' money fund MSPs' reading? Might they not take advantage of their own Scottish Parliament Information Service, or the two fine libraries a short walk away on George IV Bridge, or indeed their local public library (assuming it's open, of course)?

Graeme Forbes,

12 Longformacus Road, Edinburgh.