Monthly Archives: September 2011

Masters of plate spinning and illusion

The Scottish Government is the master of spin.  The Spending Review and Budget presented yesterday is fulsome in its description of successful achievements. It also kicks off with an analysis of the settlement from Westminster, blaming it for the scale of the cuts, pointing out that the cut amounts to 12.3% in real terms over the next four years. This is fodder for the arguments that Scotland needs more fiscal autonomy to succeed.. It then highlights the achievements of the Government  and focusses on good news.  The figures are arranged for display through several lenses with the clearest being the three year figures in real terms.

Real terms take into account  the impact of inflation. Much of public sector budgets are tied up in rising salaries and in the costs of escalating gas, electricity and transport  and these costs will be met before any other expenditure.  This will hit the arts particularly hard. Unlike social work, for example, the salaried workers are not the ones who deliver the life changing experiences.  Its artists, prop makers, musicians and dancers who are nearly all self-employed freelancers for whom there will be less cash.

There are some good news stories for culture in Scotland, for capital expenditure on the V & A in Dundee and  the preservation of international touring and Expo funds, all of these being obviously valuable in enhancing Scotland’s international reputation.

But behind the smoke and mirrors, the direct cuts to culture are moderately severe and are higher than to most other Government Departments, with the percentage of the overall Government budget allocated to culture reducing from .59% in 201o.11, to  .55% in 2011/12, to 51% in 2013/14 to .50% in 2014/15.

Next year, 2012/13, there is a decrease in the culture budget of £5.4 m, which is 3.6%.

2011/12 2012/13 cash % £m

Creative Scotland and Other Arts





Cultural Collections





National Performing Companies










 Table 12.04

In real terms this is 5.9% or £9.1m.

Over the period of the spending review, which is 2011/12 to 2014/15, the culture budget decreases by £22m which is 14.2 % in real terms

Real terms

2011/ 12 to 2014/15













Creative Scotland

and Other Arts

















National Performing

















For Creative Scotland, there is a 2% cut in core revenue while other initiatives favoured by the Government are ringfenced. At £10m pa, the Youth Music Initiative is the the most significant of these.  This means that, after the ringfencing and the commitments already made by Creative Scotland in its corporate plan, the funds designated for strategic commisisoning are likely to take the hit.  This strategic commissioning fund is shown in the corporate plan as being £7m, and replaces the £8m currently allocated to flexibly funded organisations -including many small arts organisations.  If this fund bears the full blow of the 2%, it will be down by about £800,000.

The cuts to local government are £7.1bn over three years.  This bodes darkly for culture.  Culture is neither a statutory obligation on councils and neither are councils asked specifically to support culture as it is noticably absent from the Performance Framework.  Government’s  own justifcation for spending on culture is  for its instrumental benefits to other, often economic, outcomes.

COSLA,  the local authority association,  has responded to the cuts giving a flavour of the challenges the arts and culture will face:

“The hard nosed facts are that in reality Scottish local government is going to be 7% down over the period of this spending review.

“When you add in £1bn worth of demand on the vital services we provide that takes us to 15% down, and that can mean only one thing a significant reduction in local services and local spend, neither of which is good news for local economies throughout Scotland.”

Without a requirement to provide for participation in culture locally through the outcome agreements, the arts and culture are significantly exposed.

The Scottish Government are masters at managing the show and on past performance they are likely to produce a dazzling diversion from the bad news.   Will they pull the rabbit out of the hat in the shape of additional lottery funds for Creative Scotland to spend? Possibly. But that will not be a substitute for local authority cuts.


Homecoming Scottish Cup Cheerleading Team 

“Everyone is part of the cheering section”: Andrew Dixon  

There has been a lot of cheering for the arts, culture and creative industries in Scotland this week.  First we had the Scottish Government’s Government Economic Strategy GES  which identifies creative industries as  one of the six growth sectors.  GES aims to create an environment in which the creative industries can deliver economic growth for Scotland, some through general changes which will only happen if Scotland has more fiscal and taxation powers and some which are specific investments already announced though Creative Scotland.  In the GES, Culture Minister  Fiona Hyslop champions the sector for its growth and influence.

Then yesterday, Andrew Dixon, the cheerful CEO of Creative Scotland  met the Education and Culture Committee and was full of good new stories about the creative sector in Scotland and the achievements of Creative Scotland in its first year:

  • the business model works
  • 87 per cent of its current clients are satisfied
  • the move to new offices at Waverley Gate has been transformational
  • savings of £2m and ongoing savings of £1.5m which so far has been reinvested in the arts, film and television
  • staff numbers down from a high of 155 combined Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen to 95 now
  • new funds have been levered from Paul Hamlyn, Baring and McKendrick

In response to a question prompted by  Culture Counts’ campaign for culture to be made an explicit outcome in the Scottish Government’s performance framework, Andrew Dixon stated that local authorities  are THE most important partner for Creative Scotland.

Indeed. Creative Scotland is a significant but small part of the creative pie and local authorities spend almost twice as much each year on culture.

While the Culture Minister and Creative Scotland are cheering loudly, COSLA, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities,  the representative voice of Scottish local government, is largely silent on the importance of the arts, culture and creative industries.  COSLA lost earlier battles with the Scottish Government: it advocated for cultural entitlements during the Cultural Commission; it asked for a seat on the board of Creative Scotland and was granted neither.   While COSLA is a full partner in the Scottish Creative Industries Partnership  SCIP,  it does not promote an overall vision for arts, culture and creative industries in local government.  The danger of  this lack of leadership regarding culture is that vital facilities and provision may not be sustained and supported as public monies shrink further, except in several leading  individual authorites where there is a clear vision, evidence and understanding of the benefits.    Local authorities’ support for culture is neither obligatory, not being a statutory requirement, nor is it required by the Scottish Government.  The current National Performance Framework  Scotland Performs contain National Outcomes and National Indicators.  None of these are about culture.  Participation in cultural activity is measured by its instrumental value to achieve other outcomes.

All of these outcomes point towards achievement of the Scottish Government’s single ‘Purpose’ . That  ‘Purpose’ is ‘to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.’ .  For the Scottish Government, achieving economic growth is the key to everything else and will, amongst other things

stimulate higher government revenues and a virtuous cycle of re-investment in Scotland’s public services. and..  bring a culture of confidence, creativity and personal empowerment to Scotland.

Cultural participation in Scotland is vital to our creativity, identity, social cohesion, confidence and wellbeing.  Its value can not always be measured in monetary terms and it has a value beyond acting as an instrument to deliver Purposes or outcomes. This surely chimes with COSLA’s beliefs, as it considers culture as part of its  Health and Wellbeing portfolio. Let’s hear it.

Cultural Instruments:Ceòlas Fiddle & Step~Dance Night, South Uist

There are eight references to culture in the Scottish Government’s Programme for 2011 -12 published yesterday, four refer to the role of the arts and culture in supporting the plan for economic growth.  The other four are used in the other sense of the word, referencing the drive to change performance or management culture in public services.  There are more references to creativity and, while some of these references are to the creative industries, the dominant use of the word in the document is to describe a core trait of the Scots character which can be harnessed to achieve, yes, economic growth.

Scotland is a country rich in economic potential. Our people are creative, ambitious and resilient …Our vision is for a nation where the skills and creativity of all our people contribute to a growing and sustainable economy in our communities, villages, towns and cities.

While its great to see the recognition of the power of creativity and culture in contributing towards economic success, there is a distinct lack of reference to the vital importance of participation in culture for the general and rounded success of Scotland.

The Programme sets the scene not only for the specific legislative programmes planned but also for the forthcoming budget.  Markers are being set down for spending priorities all within the headings of making Scotland Wealthier and Fairer, Healthier, Safer and Stronger , Smarter, Greener and which will be measured on their ability to meet the 15 national outcomes.  Culture is not specified as a national outcome and therefore a commitment to it is not explicitly required by public agencies or local government.

Reducing the value of culture to its impact on other public policy and primarily on the economy is becoming common practice.  The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)  for example, has been accused of being too narrowly focussed on using planning to support wealth generation.  In its response to the current parliamentary consultation on the draft  the Theatres’ Trust has highlighted the dangers of the NPPF which is ‘silent on culture’ while recognising the value to planning and community well being of sports and heritage, for example.

Recognising the value of culture as an instrument of economic growth is a positive outcome after five years of  research and influencing from bodies like NESTA .  Beyond Creative Industries in 2008 proposed measuring the ’embedded’ value of creativity in all aspects of work, for example. This is only one dimension of  an interconnected and interdependent creative economy which includes a rich mix of  creative experiences and creative products; the diverse grass-roots, high art, experimental, individual artists, writers and  designers, and subsidised arts venues and companies.  The ecology is dependent on the existence of all of these elements and all have value.

Some of that value can be measured in terms of its contribution to economic growth. Indeed all almost every study commissioned by cultural bodies over the last thirty years has set out to measure economic impact.  These piles of economic evidence are balanced neither by evidence of the intrinsic values of participation in culture nor by evidence of instrumental values beyond the monetary.  The unique benefits of participation in culture on individuals and communities have not been subject to a robust process of valuation.

So it’s no surprise that culture and participation in culture appears in government policy as simply a means to an end as opposed to being an essential element of a rounded and healthy society.  The Theatres Trust has suggested some redrafting  to the NPPF.  In Scotland, a national outcome which explicitly states that our arts and culture are enjoyed and valued would go a long way to recognising that culture and creativity are  more than instruments to achieve economic success.