MORE than 100 of Scotland’s leading authors, writers, poets and playwrights have urged the Scottish Government to save literature from “devastating cuts”.

An open letter from luminaries such as Ian Rankin, Irvine Welsh, Val McDermid, Ali Smith, Don Paterson, and the Makar Jackie Kay, says that without continued support from the government, Scotland will damage one of its prize assets, its “world-renowned literary heritage.”

The letter, signed by 111 writers, notes that it would be an “irony” to cut funds to writers in a country whose First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has her own reading scheme, the Reading Challenge.

The First Minister is an avid reader, answering questions about reading and books on Twitter, and has chaired sessions at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Other signaturies include Liz Lochhead, Denise Mina, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Alasdair Gray, Alexander McCall Smith and Janice Galloway. They calls for the government to “to increase funding for the arts and literature, for the good of everyone in Scotland”.

The arts world in Scotland is increasingly anxious about the upcoming Scottish budget, as crucial arts funding from the National Lottery has fallen, and the national cultural funder Creative Scotland has warned that fewer companies will receive regular funding in the future.

The chair of Creative Scotland, Ben Thomson, has warned of a “significant loss of jobs” due to the diminishing lottery income, and last week a board member, Ruth Wishart, warned of the “cultural carnage” which will be wrought by government cuts.

In the new letter, the writers say: “Of course there are difficult budget decisions to make in times of austerity, but the cost of supporting literature only amounts to a tiny fraction of the overall money the government will spend.

“When it comes to the arts and literature, for a modest investment from the government our work generates enormous financial and cultural dividends.”

It adds: “Will future generations look back on the early 21st century and lament the absence of the next Muriel Spark, the next Robert Louis Stevenson, the next Edwin Morgan? We can’t be certain.

“But without support from the government, Scotland will surely damage one of its prize assets: its world-renowned literary heritage.

“What an irony we could be facing: a country which trumpets its First Minister’s Reading Challenge on the one hand, but which cuts funding to new writers on the other.”

On Friday a petition, penned by the Scottish playwright Rona Munro, and signed by more than 600 people, was delivered to Derek Mackay, the finance secretary.

Munro, who wrote the acclaimed James Plays for the National Theatre of Scotland among other works, has written the petition which warns that cuts would “slaughter a vibrant young industry with a huge growth potential which supports more than 70,000 Scottish jobs.”

The new literary letter says that as successful writers, the signatories have benefited from Scotland’s “long-standing commitment to making culture and the arts accessible for all – both in building readership for our work, but also in supporting the creation of our books.”

Funding for writers allows them to write books, or benefit from training and mentoring schemes, the letter says.

It adds: “Supporting literature is not a drain on the country’s resources: books make an enormous contribution to the country, financially and reputationally.

“Our writers tour the world, talking about Scotland and its culture at book festivals from Guadalajara to Jaipur and from Reykjavik to Auckland. Our books are an advertisement for Scotland, attracting tourists to visit the landmarks they’ve read about, and foreign students to come on summer schools here – not to mention the visitors who come especially for our festivals.

Harry Potter; The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; The Gruffalo – these are just some of the many international success stories that have been helped by Scotland’s literary support system. At the same time, key works of non-fiction such as Tom Devine’s The Scottish Nation and poetry from authors including Liz Lochhead and Jackie Kay have helped us better understand Scotland and its place in the world today.”

The Scottish Government has said it is “continuing to do all we can to protect Scotland’s arts and culture and to ensure our diverse and evolving culture scene continues to thrive.”

A spokesman last week added: “Some arts projects are funded by the National Lottery and the Scottish Government has written to the UK Government, which has responsibility for the National Lottery, about concerns regarding the potential impact of reductions in receipts from the lottery on arts and sports organisations.

“The Finance Secretary will set out the Scottish Government’s draft budget plans to parliament on 14 December.”