IT is difficult, bearing in mind the grim news concerning the Scottish Review of Books, not to cast one’s mind back to the giddy events of October 2004, when, at a ceremony in Paris, Edinburgh was named as the world’s first city of literature.

The accolade was granted by Unesco in recognition of the Scottish capital’s peerless reputation for literary excellence. It was home, after all, to such contemporary bestselling novelists as JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith; and in the past the city was strongly linked to not just Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but also to Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns.

Thus Alan Taylor’s pained observation yesterday makes perfect sense. “So here we are in the world’s first so-called City of Literature,” said the editor of the Scottish Review of Books, “with no printed publication dedicated to reviewing Scottish books. It is shameful.”

Mr Taylor is understandably bitter that Creative Scotland, the magazine’s part-funder for the last 15 years, should now have decided to reject its funding application. He accuses the body of taking its decision in secret “and with the names of those who took it redacted.”

No-one is surprised that in the last few days the magazine has been inundated with expressions of support and regret. Since its inception in 2004 it has been a vigorous and tireless promoter of Scottish literature. Free of charge, it has reached the hands of tens of thousands of Scots who are interested in literature, via a range of methods including insertion in The Herald.

The point is well-made, too, that with many newspapers now devoting less space than once was the case to all matters artistic and/or literary, there is a genuine need for publications such as the S.R.B. Authors, publishers and journalists have a special place in their affections for the S.R.B. Scotland’s literary scene needs as diverse a range of voices and outlets as possible. If the S.R.B is lost entirely, we shall all be the poorer. Writing needs critics and critical writing; the book industry needs reviews and previews and interviews. We need more literary discourse, not less.

Mr Taylor made the wider point that, in his view, Creative Scotland is a “dysfunctional organisation” which “professes to support Scottish culture when what it actually does is hinder it in the most destructive manner.”

It has to be acknowledged that Creative Scotland faces a difficult tasks when assessing the many funding applications that land on its doorstep. It is responsible for less than 0.5 per cent of the Scottish Government’s entire budget, and has to weigh up each bid on its merits and then say either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There will, of course, be losers as well as winners. Creative Scotland is in the middle of a major review of its funding methods and how it spends its limited money. It will be a useful exercise. But for the time being it is hard to fathom its reasons for shutting off funding to the S.R.B. Is it too much to hope that it might reconsider?

And so it continues ...

THERE are those who believe that the Brexit saga is every bit as interminable and impossible to kill off as The Mousetrap, the London West End hit that has been running for 66 years. Every time we think we’re finally, blessedly, witnessing an end to the Brexit drama, it turns out to be a mere intermission, with further acts to be endured. Recent events follow this script: the cross-party talks have collapsed, with the PM blaming Labour divisions over a second referendum. May herself is facing eviction demands. Boris wants to replace her, convinced that only he can halt the rise of Farage’s Brexit Party. This Thursday we have Euro elections, which few people actually want. There might be even indicative Brexit votes in the Commons next week. It’s all an entertaining farce in its own way, but it has to end sometime. Surely?