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Just because the arts are devolved to Scotland it doesn’t mean that the UK election manifestos for the arts, culture and creative industries are irrelevant. Time was, the arts hardly appeared in a political manifesto. Time was, the implications of a political manifesto for Scotland would have to be extrapolated by reading between the lines from the one-size- fits-all version.  Not now. With the Labour Manifesto published yesterday, not only is there a whole section on Communities and creative Britain but there is also a Scotland version.  And there are some important differences.

So much of the UK manifesto for culture and creative industries is excluded from the Scottish version because arts and cultural matters are devolved to the Scottish Parliament as is education and the allocation of lottery revenues. 

Specifically, the commitments for England which will not apply in Scotland are:

1. Operational independence of major museum and galleries

Currently, national cultural institutions throughout the UK are run by trustees as Non Departmental Public Bodies and the like which in effect means that trustees have the majority of the responsibility but not all of the operational authority. The largest costs are those of payroll where NDPBs do not have the authority to make arrangements and settlements outside of the government’s  directions and framework.

If this commitment means that payroll arrangements for museums and galleries will become within the galleries’ own operational control, then they will have more freedom to become more effective.

2. More lottery funding returning to the arts sports and culture after 2012

Lottery funding for the arts and culture across the UK was diverted to fund the Olympics . One of the proportionately greatest casualties of this was the film and screen industries in Scotland, because Scottish Screen’s investment funds almost all came from the Lottery.  An inheritance of loss for Creative Scotland which subsumes Scottish Screen and its activity this Spring, reinstatement of such funds could generate important wins for Scotland.  The allocation of Lottery funds in Scotland is devolved and so the UK parties commitments – and Jeremy Hunt has already promised that, as in so many areas, the Tory policy will run along similar tracks and that funds will be increased to the arts – may mean a situation where it is better or worse in England.

There are also more initiatives to increase universality of access in education, training and free ticketing, library membership and the like.

Rather bizarrely, there is a UK commitment contained in the Scotland version which is not in the UK one, (unless it is somewhere else in the Manifesto and I have missed it) and its this:

‘to recognise and reward the greatest artistic achievements, we will work with the Royal Household to develop the Queen’s Awards, dedicated to excellence in arts and culture”

The recognition of creative talent is a critical factor in the success of a creative nation.  Ireland does it, France does it, and Scotland is working out just how best to do it.  Surely the UK Queen’s awards are not in the Scottish version just to keep Scots talent under the GB banner?

Most of the commitments in the UK manifesto for the arts do not apply.  But they are highly relevant.  Creative talent is mobile and the creation of a significantly better or worse environment  for arts and culture will lead to border hopping.  When tax breaks were introduced for artists in Ireland, there was some high profile migration of talent to the Emerald Isle from which Ireland has benefited.  Creative industries of scale follow the money, hence films are made in Ireland and Bulgaria and video games in Canada.

Alex Salmond has been reported in Brian Taylor’s blog as suggesting

” that voters endorsing one of his candidates would not be choosing a politician in the usual sense.Instead, they would be picking a “champion” of both local and national interests.Mr Salmond went further still. The SNP campaign, he suggested, would be like an “insurgency”, a sustained protest against politics as usual at Westminster: such politics having, he argued, landed the UK in a mess and the reputation of politics in the mire

For the arts, culture and creative industries, its essential to pay attention to the UK picture and employing guerilla tactics is to ignore the bigger picture.

 

One could be forgiven for equating the creative economy in Bizkaia with the iconic Frank Gehry Guggenheim museum, fabulous outside, famous internationally and generously accomodating great works of art of epic and primal scale, from the permanent steel  Matter of Time by Richard Serra  to the temporary and equally powerfully seductive and provocative Anish Kapoor.

The economic impact is over €200m each year with a further €25m to the Basque Treasury, the total impact since the Museum opened in 1997 is phenomenal, justifying the high level of risk and invesment made by the Basque administration.  As a tax raising government, with a nationalist administration at that time, the major investment of 100% funding and exclusive deal with the Guggenheim was part of a plan to regenerate the declining Bizkaia region at that time.  

It has firmly established Bilbao on the international cultural map and spearheaded growth in the creative economy. Gehry’s museum glitters and generates gold for state coffers.

But man cannot live on gold alone. The long term success of a nation or region’s creative economy is more complex and tied up with cultural identity and Bizkaia needs to complement its global offer with the local.  75% of businesses in the creative economy are small or micro businesses, bringing diversity and texture to a region’s creative offer and they need nuanced support to blossom.   

Bizkaia Creaktiva’s forum last week explored the possibilities for this, opening up ideas for supporting entrepreneurs in a country where a legacy of the Franco dictatorship is a guardedness from small municipalites and creative organisations –  a residual fear of sticking your neck out. 

Representatives of the spectrum of creative industries shared their perspectives of the global challenges of the web 2.0 world, much the same as in any other European city but truthfully, a bit more gloomy.  But two bright sparks glimmered.  One was the representative of the traditional craft makers connected through Arbaso where they have kept their heads down, ‘thinking with their hands’ creating Basque crafts throughout the changing times and which now could be opened up to the wider world..  The other, the sparky animator Alvaro Barrios who saw the opportunity for the local talent to band together to create a more diverse and textured Bizkaia creative economy.

Bravo Bizkaia Creaktiva!