THE novels, plays, poems and short stories chosen for the new compulsory question on Scottish literature in future English exams are revealed today by The Herald.

Pupils sitting Higher English from 2014/15 will answer questions on works by Robert Burns as well as more modern writing by Liz Lochhead, Janice Galloway, John Byrne and John McGrath.

Candidates studying new National 5 exams, which replace Standard Grade in 2013/14, will face questions on a range of literature from Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped to poetry by Edwin Morgan and the 2006 novel The Testament of Gideon Mack, by James Robertson.

Other include Rona Munro, who wrote Bold Girls, a play about three women in war-torn Belfast; Ann Marie di Mambro, who was famous for Tally's Blood, a Scottish-Italian romantic comedy set during the Second World War; Ann Donovan, who penned Hieroglyphics and Other Stories and Ena Lamont Stewart who wrote Men Should Weep set in Glasgow during the Great Depression.

The list of works has been compiled by Scotland's exams body – the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) – which is overseeing changes to English assessments.

Here is the full list of chosen works:

National 5


Bold Girls by Rona Munro

Sailmaker by Alan Spence

Tally’s Blood by Ann Marie di Mambro


Short stories (a selection of) by Iain Crichton Smith

Hieroglyphics and Other Stories by Anne Donovan

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson


Carol Ann Duffy, Edwin Morgan, Norman MacCaig, Jackie Kay




The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil by John McGrath

Men Should Weep by Ena Lamont Steward

The Slab Boys by John Byrne


Short stories (a selection of) by Iain Crichton Smith

Short stories (a selection of) by George Mackay Brown

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins

The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway


Carol Ann Duffy, Robert Burns, Don Paterson, Liz Lochhead, Sorley MacLean (in English)

In January, Education Secretary Michael Russell said candidates sitting future English exams would answer at least one question on a Scottish novel, play or poem following a recommendation from the Scottish Studies Working Group.

The move aims to ensure future generations of young Scots grow up with an understanding of their culture and literary heritage. However, there has been criticism from teachers who argue they already use Scottish texts alongside established classics, but need flexibility to allow them to follow the interests of pupils.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said providing a set list could actually restrict study of Scottish works, while others suggested literature from other countries, such as Shakespeare, could be pushed out.

There have also been fears from headteachers that providing a set list of texts will encourage some schools staff to "teach to the test".

Robert Quinn, of the SQA's qualifications development team, said the list was designed to reflect as wide a range of Scottish literature as possible within the confines of an exam. There is a lot of angst about this, but we have had set texts for years in Advanced Higher without any difficulty," he said.

"Any list by its very nature has to be limited, but we wanted to include both popular Scottish texts and some that were a little more unusual to provoke thought and discussion. It would not have been practical to compile a list of 20 or 30 titles. There are always examples of teachers teaching to the test, which does not do the candidate any favours, but our guidance to schools is that we expect to see a wide range of texts being used – including Scottish, UK, European and world titles."

Mr Quinn said the SQA would revisit the list in future to ensure it did not become too predictable or if what was being taught became too narrow.

However, Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, attacked the introduction of the "limited" list of texts calling it a return to the "failed" format of the 1990s.

He said: "While there are some excellent texts on this list, there are many writers who have not been included. Overall, the selection is far too narrow and will lead to the same texts being taught year after year."

Under the current English Higher, candidates answer two critical essay questions using different texts from two different genres – such as poetry and drama. Under the new system, one essay question will remain the same, but pupils will have to answer the second essay question on a one of the Scottish texts on the list.