The Herald has long backed Scottish writers, whether writing in Scots or 'standard' English. In recent years, young Scots poet and Herald columnist Len Pennie has popularised the language via her online Scots Word of the Day. And, of course, we run a Scots Word of the Week each Saturday from our friends at the Dictionaries of the Scots Language.

So we are delighted to get behind annual McCash Scots Poetry Competition, run jointly by The Herald and Glasgow University.

The contest celebrates our traditional language in all its forms, and aims to support it. This year a first prize of £200 and three runner-up prizes of £100 are to be won. Poets can submit material on any theme of their choice.

The prize was endowed by a former engineering graduate of Gilmorehill, James McCash, who had himself won an earlier Herald poetry competition in the 1970s. In the last 20 years it has become a major landmark in Scotland’s cultural calendar after the university joined forces with the Herald to promote it to readers worldwide.

There have been entries from as far afield as Hong Kong and Alaska, the Caribbean, Finland, and the United States, as well of course as the Scottish heartlands. And the poets have ranged in background from North Sea oil worker and ex-miner to artists, teachers, academics, housewives, and the retired.

Scottish folk as a whole seem very at ease with poetry. Perhaps it is the consequence of having a poet for national hero instead of a warrior, not to mention the celebratory suppers with his songs and poems as popular entertainment in the dead of winter.

From the start of the McCash joint initiative with Glasgow University, it has been obvious that spoken, everyday Scots is in vigorous health, despite the homogenising effect of the mass media and the internet.

It is equally clear that it lends itself to contemplating the most serious current issues, from wars and refugee tragedies, to the evergreen matters of love (and loss thereof), nature, ageing, and mortality. The Smeddum Test, a collection of the best poems of the first 10 years of the McCash Prize (Kennedy and Boyd, 2013) shows what a lively and thoughtful bunch our poets are.

All varieties of the Scottish language are welcome, from echoes of the sixteenth-century masters Dunbar and Henryson to the regional dialects of Aberdeen and Orkney, Fife and the southwest. The vernacular patter of the cities is also acceptable (“Cum oan get aff the bus”sort of quip); the sharp humour of Scotland should certainly have a place.

The judges will take a liberal attitude towards the predominance of Scots in the poems, as long as there is a sufficiency of Scottish vocabulary and/or idioms. After all, the great exemplar of the language, Burns himself, did not hesitate to use English words when they suited his purpose!

Poets can submit three original, as yet unpublished, entries, up to 30 lines long. They should be typed or handwritten legibly on A4 paper with address and contact details on the back, and sent to McCash Scots Poetry Competition, c/o Lesley Duncan, the Herald, 125 Fullarton Drive, Glasgow East Investment Park, Glasgow G 32 8FG, to arrive by Burns Night, January 25, 2023.

The judges are Professor Alan Riach of the chair of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, Lennie Pennie, and me, The Herald's poetry editor.

We look forward greatly to hearing from you.