Mark Fisher is warmed by the idea of a Scottish hothouse to nurture the talent of young European writers.

FOR those who know how to press the right buttons, the European Union has all sorts of pockets of cash to aid enterprising, trans-national projects. You can see them listed in Communication, the bimonthly bulletin produced by Glasgow's International Cultural Desk. One such pocket is a scheme called Kaleidoscope, designed to facilitate cultural links across the European community, and the first Scottish organisation to capitalise on it - to the tune of #30,000 - is Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre. From today it will be home to 21 young playwrights from across the continent for a full three weeks.

The event, called Colours of the Chameleon, is described as a ''new writing hothouse'', and will involve 21 writers - all of whom are at an early stage of their careers - from Scotland, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Each day will begin with a workshop, gravitate towards a lunchtime discussion, and explode into an afternoon of creativity as the writers busy themselves over one of the word processors generously supplied by Laptop Larry. By the final weekend, they'll each have produced a 10-minute script which will have been translated into English in time for a professionally directed rehearsed reading for the public, and then publication under the Traverse's own imprint.

Before they arrive, the 21 writers (selected from more than 50 applicants) will have produced short reflections on their impressions and prejudices about Scotland. While they're here, they'll be developing work that considers the question of national and cultural identity (so it's appropriate they'll get to see Nicola McCartney's Heritage, and Steven Greenhorn's Dissent during their stay). John Tiffany is also organising a spin-off

education programme, and pupils at the nearby St Thomas Aquinas High are busy creating plays on the same theme.

The eight Scottish participants include sometime Herald arts page contributor Paul Welsh, Ronan O'Donnell (author of The Chic Nerds, produced by the Traverse), and Jan Nathanson (author of Californian Poppy, produced by the Byre Theatre). There are five Dutch writers, three from Italy, two each from Spain and France, and one from Germany. They'll be working with established ''mentor'' playwrights, among them David Greig (Scotland), Giuseppe Manfidi (Italy), Ger Thijs (The Netherlands), Oliver Bukowski (Germany), Serge Kribus (Belgium), and Line Knutzon (Denmark). Each of those playwrights will contribute a play to a series of public readings, rooting the three-week session in the Traverse's long-running Windows on the World programme.

''It's like a punctuation in the Traverse's work so far,'' says John Tiffany, literary director, who has organised the event with associate Ella Wildridge. ''Ella has been making a lot of European links over the past few years through Windows on the World.

''This is a chance to invite some of the people we've been corresponding with back to the Traverse for a much longer period.''

Every contact the theatre develops abroad, adds Wildridge, is of potential benefit to homegrown playwrights, several of whom - notably David Harrower and David Greig - are hot properties in Europe.

One of the interesting points of discussion during the three weeks is sure to be about why the new wave of British playwrights is currently better regarded by foreign theatre managements than the writers on their own doorsteps. ''There is an extraordinary amount going on the ground that you don't hear about through official festivals,'' says Wildridge. ''The vitality is fantastic. There are really gifted young writers, and the important thing for them is to work with theatres which will allow their work to come through, and not simply direct classical drama.''

n Colours of the Chameleon, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until November 14. Theatre open day Saturday 31.