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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 August, 2004, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Authors back writers' city plan
Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith called for recognition for Edinburgh
Four of Scotland's most famous writers have thrown their weight behind moves to make Edinburgh the world's first capital city of literature.

JK Rowling, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith and Dame Muriel Spark are all backing the project.

It is the brainchild of Scotland's literary world and has been funded by the Scottish Arts Council (SAC).

The idea will be debated by the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in the autumn.

The backers want Edinburgh to become the permanent Unesco world city of literature and serve as a model for other cities to celebrate books.

Attracting visitors

Harry Potter author Rowling said of her adopted home: "It's impossible to live in Edinburgh without sensing its literary heritage everywhere.

"It seems eminently sensible to me to recognise this, along with the contemporary literary life here, with a permanent title that can inspire and inform other places around the world."

Rebus author Rankin, who sits on the committee steering the bid, said: "I feel part of a tradition which is as vibrant now as ever before. Edinburgh remains a city of the mind, a writer's city."

Celebrated figures from Edinburgh's literary past, including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are also to be placed at the centre of Edinburgh's bid for the title.

JK Rowling
JK Rowling has backed the bid by her adopted home
Landing the prestigious recognition from Unesco would be worth about 2.2m a year to Edinburgh and 2.1m to the rest of Scotland, it is estimated.

The cash would come from staging major new festivals, events and conferences in the city, as well as attracting extra visitors and book sales.

Backers hope to lure the Whitbread and Booker prize award ceremonies, as well as the Nobel Prize for Literature, to Edinburgh on the back of the Unesco bid.

Alexander McCall Smith, author of the popular No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, said: "Such recognition is, I think, deserved, as outside interest in Scottish literature is at as high a level as it ever has been."

Prime of Miss Jean Brodie writer Dame Muriel Spark said Edinburgh was "a city of books and learning, open to all knowledge".

A formal proposal will be presented to Unesco on 13 October this year and the body could award accreditation as early as April 2005.

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