The Church of Scotland has put forward proposals which would see its St Andrew Press arm run by an established religious publishing house.
Under the plans, St Andrew Press would be operated by Hymns Ancient and Modern, but, says the Kirk, would "retain its own unique identity in Scottish publishing."
The move comes after considerable concern about the future of the Church of Scotland's publishing arm in the light of the Presbyterian denomination's need to address a substantial financial deficit of £1.2 million.
It had been proposed that the St Andrew Press would be axed, with the loss of ten jobs. Nine redundancies have already been implemented. But the move caused furore both inside and outside the church.
The former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus of the Scottsh Episcopal Church, Richard Holloway, said it looked as if the Kirk was “pulling up the drawbridge”.
Meanwhile, John Brown, the brother of the former Prime Minister and a lay member of the Church of Scotland’s Publishing Committee, which has the 50-year-old publishing house, resigned in May 2010 over the issue.
At the Kirk's General Assembly, the Rev Mark Johnstone, convener of the Mission and Discipleship Council, had said the Church subsidised the St Andrew Press by £163,000 1n 2009.
Between 2005 and 2009 the cost to the denomination was £696,000, and it was expected to lose £130,000 in the next two years.
Under the new proposals, which require to be approved by the Kirk’s Council of Assembly in September 2010, the Church would continue to publish a range of material aimed at the market in Scotland and overseas.
Hymns Ancient and Modern already runs the publishing arm of the Church of England and is a charitable organisation with an international reputation and an annual turnover of almost £6 million.
As of 2001, Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd has been operating as a group with 54 staff in East Anglia and London. Its two subsidiaries are SCM-Canterbury Press Ltd for book publishing, and G.J.Palmer & Sons Ltd for newspapers and agency advertising.
Mr Johnstone commented: “These proposals would place St Andrew Press with an established publisher in the religious market and open up new markets for our books and our authors here in Scotland, in the UK and in all major international markets."
He continued: “With the full weight of this successful company behind us we would be able to provide better service and support to our authors while retaining the knowledge and expertise of staff."
“Importantly, control of what St Andrew Press publishes would remain with the Church of Scotland,” Mr Johnstone added.
The Kirk had considered three bids for St Andrew Press, which was reduced to just one member of staff following this year’s General Assembly. The bid from Hymns Ancient and Modern was felt by the Mission and Discipleship Council to be the best option and a final decision will be made by the Council of Assembly.
The plan is that the Church will receive a share of sales from books published under the St Andrew Press brand and hold none of the costs associated with running such a company.
Mr Johnstone claimed today: “This is a win win situation for the Church as we get to retain our valuable St Andrew Press brand, increase our market reach and raise money for the Church, all at no cost to us.”
Dominic Vaughan, the Group Chief Executive of Hymns Ancient and Modern said: “The Trustees of Hymns Ancient and Modern are delighted to be given the opportunity to pursue a successful relationship with the Church of Scotland and to be associated with such a great publishing house as St Andrew Press.”