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Search for new national poet will dispense with ‘lovely old Scots name’ Makar

Liz Lochhead is standaing down as Scotland's Makar.
Liz Lochhead is standaing down as Scotland's Makar.

An award-winning singer and actress has branded moves to rename the title of Scotland’s top poet as “perverse”.

Liz Lochhead is stepping down as the Scots Makar after a five-year stint and the search has begun for her replacement.

But the third incumbent may be known as the National Poet for Scotland, after selectors described the original title as “rather backwards-looking”.

Robyn Marsack, the outgoing director of the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh, explained that the first Makar Edwin Morgan was uncomfortable with the title.

Gerda Stevenson said she was “disappointed” by the decision and defended a “beautiful Scots word” which offered an opportunity to raise awareness of the Scots language.

Stevenson was nominated as one the Saltire Society’s “outstanding women of Scotland” in 2014.

She said: “Much as I admire the great poetry of Morgan, I don’t agree with this point.

“Makar is a beautiful old Scots word, and offers (us) a great talking point, inside and outside Scotland, giving the opportunity to raise awareness of the Scots language.

“(It) seems perverse that when the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland are declaring an intention to raise awareness of the Scots language, they should choose to ditch the lovely old Scots name for this post.”

Ms Marsack said: “The national poet is a Scottish Government appointment. We are following the same selection process as we did with Liz.

“We are calling the role the National Poet for Scotland, not Scots Makar.

“Eddie (Edwin Morgan) always felt it was rather backwards-looking as a title. Makar has to be explained outside Scotland.”

Morgan produced a “fantastic poem” for the Scottish Parliament building’s opening in 2004 and influenced Scottish cities to create their own makars, including Magi Gibson in Stirling and Sheena Blackhall in Aberdeen.

Dundee appointed its own first makar, Professor Bill Herbert, in 2013.

Dundee-born Don Paterson is among names touted to succeed Lochhead in the post, along with Kathleen Jamie, James Robertson, Jackie Kay, and Aonghas Macneacail.

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