History of Scottish PEN

For nearly 90 years, Scottish PEN has been committed to fostering a dynamic literary culture in Scotland. This is vital for the nation to play its part on the international stage.

For nearly 90 years, Scottish PEN has been committed to fostering a dynamic literary culture in Scotland. This is vital for the nation to play its part on the international stage.

“PEN works hard to allow writers around the world freedom of expression. Scotland has an active community of writers who support PEN. The written word explains us to ourselves and others. Every nation, large or small, needs free speech – and to support PEN.” – Ian Rankin, member of Scottish PEN

Our history

In 1921, in the aftermath of World War One, an international writers’ organisation was founded with the aim of building fellowship and support across frontiers. That organisation became PEN International, which has for over nine decades promoted literature, fostered cross-cultural exchange and championed freedom of expression. It is now the world’s strongest voice in support of writers and readers everywhere. With continuing attempts in many parts of the world to silence writers, its work is needed more than ever before.

Scottish PEN, founded in 1927, is the Scottish centre of PEN International. It was initiated by Hugh MacDiarmid and supported by many of the leading writers of the time. Today it includes among its members leading figures in Scotland’s literary community, from best-selling novelists to award-winning poets, biographers, historians and critics.

What does Scottish PEN do?

At Scottish PEN we are committed to promoting literature and defending freedom of expression.

We campaign on behalf of writers imprisoned and exiled, and bring Scottish and international writers together to share experience.

We promote Scottish writing in all its languages, encouraging translation and the promotion of writing from traditionally underrepresented communities.

We play an important role in the PEN International community, including participating in the international congress which is hosted each year in a different country.

Events

Events are organised throughout the year in different parts of Scotland. Regular highlights include Scottish PEN events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the annual Naomi Mitchison Memorial Lecture at the University of Glasgow, and an annual symposium to mark International Women’s Day in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

Scottish PEN is a member of the Literature Forum for Scotland and works with other Scottish literature organisations to promote writing and reading in Scotland.

How is Scottish PEN run?

Scottish PEN is run by an executive committee which meets about six times a year. Elections are held at the annual general meeting, usually in September. Our work is coordinated by a Project Manager, and four committees:

“All my experience as a woman of Scottish background leads me to believe that the principles of PEN are especially natural to the Scottish character, with its independent-mindedness, its will to sincerity in public affairs, its sense of our being unquestionably born free.” – The late Muriel Spark, honorary member of Scottish PEN

Scottish PEN’s future

Membership of Scottish PEN is open to all who subscribe to the PEN International charter. We always welcome new members!