Declarations: On Freedom for Writers and Readers

Join us marking the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath with our anthology and prize exploring issues of freedom, independence and the free exchange of ideas.

“It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”

Declaration of Arbroath

The year 2020 marks the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath in which the Scottish nobility appealed to the Pope to support Scotland in the nation’s fight for freedom from ‘the rule of the English’. The need to hear and understand each other is as urgent now as it ever was, for the nourishment of open minds and healthy democracies. Today, an issue vital for democracy that concerns the whole world is freedom of expression. Every day we hear of writers being silenced, by censorship, surveillance, imprisonment and sometimes death

PEN International has for nearly a hundred years been campaigning for freedom of expression. Scottish PEN has for most of that time contributed to that international effort defending the rights of readers and writers in Scotland and across the globe to speak out and speak up.

What is Declarations?

To commemorate this anniversary, Scottish PEN is bringing together writing influenced by the Declaration of Arbroath for a collection of poetry and prose to be published in August 2020, with an award of three prizes of £250 for pieces selected by Scottish PEN and Sir Tom Devine.

Previously unpublished contributions are invited exploring a range of issues that could include exploring fights for freedom; the independence of thought, writing and reading; the consequences of censorship; the need for the free exchange of ideas; for supporting suppressed and marginalised voices; for enabling access to the written word; or the concept of ‘declaration’ and what it might mean in today’s world.

Contributions can be in any language provided a translation into English is included. Contributions in all Scottish indigenous languages are welcome, alongside an English translation.

Poems should be no longer than 50 lines.

Prose should be a maximum of 1,000 words.

Where to send your submission?

The deadline for submissions is Monday 13th January 2020. An initial selection will be made by four Scottish PEN trustees with final judging by Sir Tom Devine. Submissions should be sent to or to Declarations, Scottish PEN, The Writers’ Museum, Lady Stair’s House, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2PA.

The final selection will be made by the end of March 2020 and prize winners announced on 6th April 2020 at an event in Arbroath as part of the Arbroath 2020 celebrations.