Culture and creativity have more value than merely as instruments for Scotland’s economic success

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.

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