Creative Scotland is significant, but a small part of Scotland’ s cultural pie

scotch pie

The Public Sector Reform Bill was granted Royal Assent last week, the last link in the chain of legitimising Creative Scotland.  With the CEO now officially in post, the vacant roles in the structure are now being filled.  The Chair and board should be appointed imminently. In parallel, the senior team is being recruited, with three key posts of Creative Development Directors advertised externally.  How much new blood there will be and how much its a shuffling of the existing pack remains to be seen but with casting almost complete, its time to look at the bigger picture of culture, arts and creative industries in Scotland. 

Creative Scotland has been the focus of attention for the arts and cultural world, media and politicians for more than three years now, a moving target as passed from one political administration to another.  The lack of clarity over its remit, its relationship with Scottish Enterprise with regard to the creative industries, and its costs contributed towards a difficult birth, played out in public.  Much of the lack of clarity was caused by the loud messages conveyed by politicians in manifestos, and the muted tones thereafter, specifically, the SNP before the election committing to transferring public support for the creative industries from Scottish Enterprise to Creative Scotland. After the SNP formed its administration, it changed tack, but quietly, and it took many a discussion to finally come up with a framework for all public agencies to work together to support the creative industries.

Some of the confusion was created by the introduction of the new language of the creative economy, a term used internationally to encompass arts, culture and creativity in all aspects of life, but one which frightened artists who felt that creative and economy, like arts and industries, were oppositional and irreconcilable concepts.

The discourse and debate has been a necessity and Creative Scotland will be stronger for it, its role clear, its consultation with the cultural community extensive. Against the backdrop of declining lottery funding and increasing squeezes on the public purse, talking about Creative Scotland has sometimes been a distraction for arts managers from focussing on the business of making a more creative Scotland through artistic endeavour.  And for the wider cultural community, it has also served as a decoy from scrutiny of the wider cultural policy of the Scottish Government. Because Creative Scotland, influential as it will be in its roles as champion and supporter of the arts and creative industries in and for Scotland, is not the whole Scotch pie.  In fact, its only a small slice.  And, while there are thousands of words describing Creative Scotland, its remit, roles and responsibilities in the Public Service Reform Bill, the Scottish Government’s published cultural policy is succinct if not scant.

“The Scottish Government wants to see a culturally cosmopolitan Scotland, capable of attracting and retaining gifted people, where our creative community is supported and their contribution to the economy is maximised.

The creative industries generate more than £5 billion of turnover in the Scottish economy. Scotland has talent in abundance and we need to support success.

Creative Scotland’s budget will be around £60m in its first year but the overall culture budget is £207m.

This culture budget represents only some parts of the public funds allocated to culture.  Scottish local authorities invested some £100m  into culture in 2009. 

And then we have the British Council.  One of Creative Scotland’s key roles is to promote Scotland’s arts internationally, a role already played by the British Council Scotland, part of the British Council funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the tune of £750m. Looking at this bigger pie, Creative Scotland represents 18%.

So we have a Ministry of Culture with a much wider influence than Creative Scotland and a much bigger budget.  Its led by various Culture Ministers, (9 in the last 9 years) and various officers from the civil service with generic skills in public administration equally applicable to fisheries as to culture, none of whom are publicly recruited to fill specific cultural posts.  And we have a much bigger pie of cultural public expenditure taking into account local authorities and the British Council. But its there where the power lies, there where cultural policy is made, if not articulated. So its time for the cultural community to look at the bigger picture and not the side show for Scotland’s cultural policy.


1 comment
  1. This is a very important point and helps to highlight one of the less frequently discussed aspects of Creative Scotland – its role to “lead co-ordination activity in developing the creative industry sector” as the ‘national development body for arts and culture’. The definitions of ‘lead’ and ‘coordination’ are of most interest here as its precisely the intended relationship between CS and the rest of the cultural pie that remains rather vague. As a key advisor and source of intelligence to Ministers, the extent to which CS’s views on the role and performance of Local Authority support for arts and culture will influence policy is a moot point. All the talk of partnership working, Local Community Planning Partnerships or ‘the creation of a local cultural strategy’ suggested in the Government’s Creative Industries Framework Agreement sound good but it will take a determined and confident organisation to esnure there truly is a national cultural strategy.

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