A clampdown on visas for visiting writers and artists is diminishing the UK's worldwide reputation, the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival has said.

Accepting a special award at The Herald's Angels festival awards, Nick Barley said the Home Office's handling of visas is damaging both culture in the UK and its reputation abroad.

Mr Barley was given a special Little Devil award, as was the Palestinian activist and writer Nayrouz Qarmout, for their parts in the campaign against rejected visas.

Ms Qarmout, from Gaza, made it to the Book Festival only after repeated visa refusals: her event was re-scheduled after she missed her first scheduled appearance.

Mr Barley spoke out about the repeated visa rejections - a dozen writers were affected - before the festivals began, and now says the Home Office must stop its "deliberate" clampdown on artists.

Holding twin Devil statuettes, Mr Barley said: "I accept these awards on behalf of all the writers, performers, artists, musicians, and theatre folk who struggled to get to these festivals this year, and on behalf of all the festivals, and festival organisers, arts organisations who work in Scotland and in the UK, who are battling against the system.

"I think this is deliberate, and they have to change the way they are going about it.

"This is not party political point I am making, it is about the future of culture in the UK: so I accept these on behalf of all of us have stood up for culture."

Mr Barley said he did not want the book festival to have the "permit free" status of other large festivals.

He added: "I don't see any value in being part of a scheme which is only available to the larger organisations, by not being part of that I think I can help speak for organisations of all sizes.

"Whatever your politics, you need to have cultural dialogue....this is about the future of the UK.

"People have been in touch with me from all over the world about this story, and saying that from their perspective, Britain is looking like a diminished nation."

The final Angels awards for the festival season of 2018 were presented by Orla O'Loughlin, the departing director of the Traverse Theatre.

The Angels were organised and led by veteran Herald arts writer and critic Keith Bruce, chosen by the newspaper's arts writers, and presented with the vital support of the Festival Theatre, the venue and host for the three ceremonies.

Mr Bruce said: "The Little Devil awards exemplify the spirit of 'the show must go on', whatever stops you getting to Edinburgh and putting on your show.

"We've given this for all kinds of things - from technical difficulties, to the leading lady running away with the producer, from people who have overcome serious ill health to be here - this year it is probably the most political of any we have ever given."

Angel winners this week included Scottish Chamber Orchestra and their performance of Des Canyons Aux Etoiles by Olivier Messiaen at the Edinburgh International Festival, conducted by Matthias Pintscher.

The musician and director Greg Lawson, who set up and led the GRIT Orchestra, picked up an Angel for its performance of Martyn Bennett's Bothy Culture.

Light on the Shore, the ground-breaking series of contemporary music concerts at the Leith Theatre, also received an Angel.

Mr Bruce said: "It will be one of the reasons why the 2018 festival will be remembered."

Programme organisers Bryn Ormrod and Jen White received the Angel for the series of concerts.

Mr Ormrod said: "This is one of the most ambitious and audacious series I have worked on at the EIF, and at the heart of it is the Leith Theatre, which is a remarkable place.

"It was truly inspirational, to bring Leith Theatre back to life, and I really hope we can go there again, and this is a landmark which means we can programme there again.

"It is a truly wonderful place, and I think Edinburgh needs it, and Leith needs it and I hope we can work there again."

Canada Hub, at Summerhall, received an Angel for its panoply of acclaimed productions, as did the show Zugunruhe, at the Zoo Southside, by Tom Bailey and his collaborators.

Finally an Archangel, for a sustained contribution to the Edinburgh Festivals, went to Joanna Baker, the managing director of the Edinburgh International Festival, who has worked at the EIF in various key roles for 27 years, and who will leave her post later this year.