Two cheers for Scotland’s art, culture and creative industries – come in COSLA

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.

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