Scotland’s collective cultural leadership should not ignore the UK dimension

Oor Willie: An inward looking view of Scottish culture?

Scottish arts unions and industry bodies give various reasons for not getting involved in the UK I value the arts campaign, quoted in the Sunday Herald. Some because of circumstances and others because they dont think its worth it.   Certainly its essential that there is a Scotland campaign as we approach our own cuts in public expenditure and the May elections for the Scottish Parliament.  The arts and culture are devolved matters and the main focus of any campaign to highlight the value of the arts should be fought on Scottish soil.  But to ignore the UK context would be foolish.

1. The arts  – artists, arts organisations and arts participants – operate within a broader cultural and creative economy

  • A playwright or actor working now in a Scottish theatre was yesterday working in a film made in London or LA and tomorrow writing a television play.  A textile designer will apply her designs to virtual and physical artefacts sold throughout the world.  Our artists don’t work within an economy defined by Scotland’s boundaries or single-art form formats.  We need the best conditions for our artists throughout the UK. These conditions are not simply those enabled by public subsidy, either.  It equally important that fiscal policy is used to create favourable tax controls and breaks.

2. Key parts of the cultural and creative economy are governed, controlled and funded with powers reserved to Westminster.       These include:

Fiscal powers

  • Westminster reserves the power to tax and provide tax breaks.  For the arts, culture and creative industries these powers currently do or in future could signicantly improve conditions through:
  • tax breaks for the film and video games industries
  • tax incentives for individual and corporate patronage and philanthropy
  • tax breaks for individual artists


  • Broadcasting is a reserved power but remains the most  influential and pervasive system of communicating culture 

International Affairs through the Foreign and Conmmonwealth Office

  • the FCO funds the British Council, which takes responsibility for promoting Scotland’s arts, culture and creative industries throughout the world

3. Scottish MSPs and MPs talk, share ideas and policy. 

  • The current balance of political power, where we have a minority SNP administration in Scotland and the Coalition in Westminster could change in May. It is not outside the realms of possibility that we could see Labour-led governments in Holyrood and Westminster this decade.  Why would we want to give MPs the idea that Scotland’s arts bodies aren’t interested in the arts in a UK context?

We do need a coordinated approach in Scotland.  This should involve not only arts industry bodies and unions, but colleagues in the games industry, the private and voluntary sector, museums and heritage.  Collective cultural leadership could deliver powerful advocacy to support Scotland’s arts, culture and creative industries.  But this needs to happen not only within Scotland, but also in the UK and in Europe.

  1. Lorne Boswell said:

    I think the issue here might be that the NCA, who initiated this campaign, have not managed to get many Scottish Organisations involved as their members. Before the last UK General Election, I was at a briefing they were giving about the forthcoming election and they were surprised to hear that the subsidised arts were devolved in Scotland and therefore not an issue for a Westminster election. A lot of organisations still do not understand what devolution means!

  2. I would like to assure everyone that the NCA is, and always has been, aware that culture is a devolved responsibility.

    We will continue to engage with politicians and policymakers in all of the Parliaments and Assemblies of the United Kingdom to encourage the promotion and protection of the arts.

    We encouraged Scottish members to engage their General Election candidates at the election as Members of Parliament (from any nation) can be strong advocates for the arts across the UK.

    John Munro
    Campaigns Manager
    National Campaign for the Arts (NCA)
    020 7287 3777

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