three excellent reasons for not indulging readers to post online comments at the end of articles in the Scottish Review prompt a fourth, and it is perhaps the most persuasive of all: namely, the convention that such comments generally shelter behind the coward's shield of anonymity.
The letters published by newspapers required, as Kenneth rightly relates, several demanding provisions: ink (not always green), paper, postage, grammar, and some nodding familiarity with the facts of the matter under discussion. But they also required something else: a name and address.
These could be withheld from publication, at the request of the reader and the discretion of the newspaper, where sound reason was offered for doing so. But the newspaper insisted on knowing who 'Angry of Anstruther' really was and where s/he could be contacted, which is not customarily the case with DeputyD*wg97, spitting illiterate bile in an online forum.
Some might see this condition as intrusion, but it was actually a service to readers. For sure, the newspaper knew that it could be held responsible in law should a reader letter cross the line into defamation or contempt. It therefore, not unreasonably, expected correspondents to take some responsibility themselves for the views it was enabling them to vent.
But this also spared readers the excesses of the ill-informed, the spiteful, the mendacious and the deluded. Did it involve value judgements? Sure, but they were primarily about quality not rectitude.
It was the same service performed at every desk of a newspaper – news, features, sport, arts – and it involved a piece of kit for which every reader should have given thanks. The device was typically cuboid, metallic, three feet by two by one, and often needed replacement several times a day. It was the one item that the internet most grievously lacks. We called it a wastepaper basket.
writes in his column about Creative Scotland: 'It is salutary to remember that in the first 30 years of its existence, from 1967-97, the Scottish Arts Council was not the subject of one parliamentary debate or question.' This is incorrect, as at least one question was asked, in July 1988. I was then on the editorial board of the political magazine Radical Scotland.
We must have been getting on the nerves of the Tories, because the late Allan Stewart, then MP for Eastwood, asked the minister of state for the arts, Richard Luce (now Baron Luce), if he would 'set out the criteria under which the Scottish Arts Council disburses grants; and how these criteria have been applied in the case of grants to Radical Scotland.' Mr Luce replied: 'The two main criteria which the Scottish Arts Council uses in the assessment of an arts body are the artistic quality of its work and the efficiency of its management. The council satisfies itself that these criteria are met by all arts organisations to whom a grant is made.' Somewhat ominously, he added: 'I am drawing my hon. friend's concern about Radical Scotland to the attention of the chairman of the Scottish Arts Council.'
Mr Stewart wanted to know the current level of grant to the magazine. '£900 for the literary content of six issues of the publication' was the reply. We published poetry and a short story in each issue, but my memory is that most of the money went on the short stories. Anyway, the SAC continued to fund us. Among the writers whose work we published were Iain Crichton Smith, Dilys Rose, Brian McCabe, Donald S Murray and Janice Galloway.