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Bücher aus Schottland bei der Frankfurt Buchmesse.
Image: DW/E. Grenier

What Brexit uncertainty means for Scottish publishers

Elizabeth Grenier
October 18, 2019

With the details of Brexit still unclear, many businesses are wondering how to proceed. At the Frankfurt Book Fair, DW asked Publishing Scotland representatives how Brexit developments are affecting their industry.


DW: How are Scottish publishers reacting to the developments surrounding Brexit?

Vikki Reilly: The main issue is that we don't know anything yet. I feel like we've been getting ready to prepare all this time, yet at the same time we can't do any detailed preparation because we don't know the details. Things like the fluctuation of the pound is something our publishers have to deal with constantly. Coming to book fairs like this is going to become more expensive, and there's going to be more hard work to put it all together because we just don't know…

Lucy Feather: For example, we might need to get a visa for every single person at the stand to come to Europe for work…

Lucy Feather and Vikki Reilly, Scotland Publishing, at the Frankfurt Buchmesse
Lucy Feather and Vikki Reilly from Publishing Scotland, the network body for the book publishing industry in ScotlandImage: DW/E. Grenier

VR: But we don't know, because we don't know the details of what's going to happen with how we're going to work with Europe now. That's frustrating.

In Scotland — and I'm sure all the British publishers as well — we've got strong relations with the international publishing world. And that's a great thing, because hopefully, whatever happens politically, we'll still have those relationships that we've built and nurtured. We like to promote our books all over the world: Scottish books are just too good to keep for ourselves!

How polarized is Scotland about Brexit?

VR: There's less polarization about Brexit than there is about independence in Scotland! [laughs] Pretty much every region in Scotland voted to remain in the EU, I think people voted for Remain by 62%. Our government is particularly active in making that message clear to our EU counterparts to say that we're still open for business and we still want to trade with you and we still want our relationships with you.

LF: Nicola Sturgeon recently held a panel with publishers and she wanted to ask them what were some of the challenges in Scottish publishing, and one of the main issues was Brexit and what was going to happen after Brexit. So the First Minister is definitely invested in the cultural industry and wants to support publishers as much as she can.

VR: Yes, she's very much a supporter of the Scottish book industry. So it's great that you have somebody of that caliber and profile fighting in our corner.

What else might change for Scottish publishers?

LF: Some publishers will probably find their relationships with the likes of printers and people overseas will change. It'll maybe become more expensive.

VR: It could potentially harm export relationships and production, but we hope that doesn't happen. We do have publishers that deal with other publishers in Europe, so it's something we have to keep a watch of — but we have to keep a watch of that around the world as well, if you think, for example recently, about the tariffs that Trump was bringing in for books…  So it's just constant vigilance!

But you know, you can't be daunted by these things because you have to adapt to how the world changes.

So in a way you don't sound particularly anxious — or are you just resigned by now?

VR: Yeah, I think it's got to the point where we're more resigned about it. Because there's been that sort of uncertainty for so long already — and there still is, actually. There's still the possibility that it might not happen. Things change on a daily basis. It's quite tiring to keep up with it all. As long as you stay abreast of what is actually happening…  And hopefully, there will soon be a clearer idea of how the future is going to lie.

In the end, it's just sad for us because culture is usually about reaching out and being open internationally so it just feels like a pity to be creating barriers — and just a waste of time.

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