What does the Scottish Liberal Democrats Manifesto mean for the arts, culture and creative industries?

The Scottish Liberal Democrats today launched their manifesto for the elections on 5 May 2011.  For those of us that believe Culture Counts for Scotland its good to see that the LibDems include commitments to the arts, culture and creative industries with The Most Creative Country Action Plan. But  could the proposed abolishment of Scottish Enterprise take us back to the years of confusion and the lack of coordination of support for the creative industries that we saw during the last restructuring?

First the good news, specifically:

Arts and culture currently contribute at least £5 billion to the Scottish economy. A thriving creative sector provides jobs and economic benefit in its own right. Yet its wider impact is greater still. A thriving arts and cultural movement improves the quality of life and acts as an attraction for inward economic investment. We want to support and develop Scotland as a country that treasures innovation and creativity in arts, culture
and recreation.
The Most Creative Country Action Plan will:

  • Establish a Creative Industry Fund within Finance Scotland for near-to-market creative companies or product and ask Regional Development Banks (part of proposals to scrap Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland, dealing on a regional level with regeneration, skills development and tourism)  to work with the creative industries in their areas to capture the benefits of economic spin-offs of local cultural events.
  • Continue to support the Edinburgh Festivals Expo during the next parliament to make sure that Scotland gains long-lasting benefit from internationally renowned cultural events.
  • Maintain free access to Scotland’s national museums.
  • Step up efforts to engage with the 2012 Olympics to make sure that Scotland benefits from an inspiring UKwide sporting event and cultural Olympiad.
  • Build the partnerships necessary to ensure that a cultural and sporting benefit comes from Glasgow’s staging of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
  • Make the most from the tourism potential of the 2014 Ryder Cup.
  • Support 2014 as a second year of homecoming for those people around the world with Scottish ancestry.
  • Make sure that Scottish public agencies are able to support online genealogy to help encourage a global interest in Scotland.
  • Support Gaelic medium education where there is demand and promote the language in cost effective ways.
  • Support Scotland’s valuable video games industry, with greater emphasis on the development of computing and artistic skills throughout the education system, closer working between the computer science industry and Scotland’s schools, colleges and universities and more professional development for lecturers. We will work with business to introduce a new schools competition to engage young people in the industry and support their career choices.
  • Support the expansion of creative collaborations and initiatives through a super-fast broadband network across Scotland. The opportunities for Gaelic language teaching and learning, online music tuition and communitybroadcasting are examples.
  • Encourage greater investment in quality Scottish network production and regional programming.
  • Replace VisitScotland and Scottish Development International with a new body – Scotland International – to promote Scottish industry globally, and promote Scotland around the world for tourism, creativity and research.

The other most signficant pledge is to making Scotland the most digitally connected region in Europe, “recognising that high speed technology gives new opportunities for teaching and learning, for cultural creativity” under a dedicated Minister for Science, Innovation and Digital Economy and with funds attached to this and to the Science Nation Fund which will support the video games industry.

So is it all good news? Certainly the general commitment to arts, culture and creative industries are to the welcomed as are the ambitions in the digital economy.  But what about proposals to abolish Scottish Enterprise and create Regional Development Banks? The role and responsibilities of the enterprise agencies in relation to that of Creative Scotland and local authorites was the subject of confusion at the last election and its only now that a strategy has been agreed through the Creative Industries Partnership Agreement that we are getting anything near a joined up approach.

A question for the forthcoming hustings event in Glasgow on 19 April must be how these proposed changes will support creative industries and not allow them to be dropped by a further reorganisation.

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