Our National Poet

Liz Lochhead © Norman McBeath 2011

About the National Poet position

The position of Scots Makar – the National Poet for Scotland – was created in February 2004 by the Scottish Executive. ‘Makar’ is the Scots word for the author of a literary work, and particularly for a poet or bard. Announcing the creation of the post and the first holder, the First Minister Jack McConnell said:

It is vitally important that we recognise the significant contribution of poetry to the culture of Scotland. This position will symbolise the success and of Scottish poets in the past and the potential of Scottish poetry in the future. I hope that the Scots Makar will inspire young Scots to enjoy, and indeed to write, poetry. Professor Morgan's work has done just that. Generations of Scots have had their lives enriched through his poetry, his vivid imagination and incredible use of language have sparked many an image into life. Edwin Morgan is an exceptional human being whose talent has touched the lives of thousands of people around the world. He is not just a poet for Scotland - he is a poet for our times.

Edwin Morgan was to hold the post for three years, but this was later extended as a lifetime appointment. The Scots Makar was asked ‘to represent Scottish poetry in the public consciousness, to promote poetic creativity in Scotland, and to be an ambassador for Scottish poetry.’ Morgan was commissioned to write a poem for the opening of Scotland’s new parliament building in October 2004. He rose to the challenge with For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 October 2004, a poem that brilliantly encapsulates both the historical context of this fresh start and the hopes of the Scottish people invested in their representatives.

After Edwin Morgan’s death in August 2010, it was decided by the Scottish Government that the post should be continued, and in January 2011 the First Minister, Alex Salmond, together with former first ministers Lord McConnell and Henry McLeish, met to decide on the next Makar from a shortlist complied by representatives of Scottish literary organisations. The appointment of Liz Lochhead was announced by Alex Salmond on 19 January:

In creating the post of national poet, the communities of Scotland demonstrated the importance it places on the many aspects of culture which lie at the heart of our identity. As an author, translator, playwright, stage performer, broadcaster and grande dame of Scottish theatre, Ms Lochhead embodies everything a nation would want from its national poet.

With a natural ability to reach all ages and touch both sexes through her writing, Ms Lochhead has also been immensely successful at championing the Scots language. She continues to reach out to school pupils through her work which is widely read in Scotland's schools and she is also a much valued role model, advocate and inspiration for women who are given a strong voice in her writing.

The tenure of the post was specified as five years and the role is to advance the role of poetry in the lives of the people of Scotland, from all ages and walks of life. The post of National Poet is now supported by Creative Scotland. The post is administratively based at the Scottish Poetry Library.

Image permission

Image of Liz Lochhead © Norman McBeath www.normanmcbeath.com
Please contact colin.waters@spl.org.uk for permission to use the official National Poet image of Liz Lochhead.