Archive

arts politics

Glasgow's Red Road Flats before demolition

Creative Scotland’s  failure to ensure that arts companies felt valued and understood has generated much anxiety and attracted much criticism.  Announcing the end of the medium term funding stream which its predecessor The Scottish Arts Council euphemistically termed ‘flexible funds’ for 49 organisations BEFORE sharing with the majority of  those companies the names and priorities attached to replacement short and medium term funding streams has naturally threatened the stability of the sector. Its like a local council who has plans for a brand new housing scheme or a new town serving eviction notices to residents of tenements without first showing them the lovely new homes and gardens in which they will live.  While not all of the residents will want to leave behind their old loved but run-down homes, the town planners will genuinely believe its better  for health and wellbeing and for many that will be true.  Of paramount importance is that the families always have a home and are never threated with being thrown out on the street.  Many artists now feel that they are being evicted without a home to which to go .

The arts community always protests when there are cuts.  But the outcry from artists to this situation differs significantly from past protests.  The varied and intelligent blogs, tweets, letters and comments shared digitally has raised the level of debate from being a single channelled protest to a sophisticated identification of key issues.  These are not only from artists such as the playwright David Greig but from other cultural leaders and commentators who, in being freelance or portfolio workers, have more in common with the artistic community than with the salaried and pensioned executives of some of the foundation funded organisations or the staff of Creative Scotland.  Equally importantly, contributors from the wider political media have reflected on ideological elements as well as the more traditional lampooning.

When we change the way we communicate, we change society

Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody

In the past, such protests have always been dealt with behind closed doors.  The arts community would make representations to the Culture Minister in a private manner .  That Minister might then direct its cultural intermediary to make changes in an equally non public forum, communications advisors would work  with individual trouble makers to allay concerns and the old order would be restored.

This time, David Greig responds to a request from Creative Scotland to have a meeting by publishing an open letter.

Scottish Cultural workers feel they are part of a success story, making world class work on thin resources. This is not a career to us, this is our life. By approaching the sector as a problem, or as recalcitrant, or as slow thinking luddites you have immediately put them on the defensive. You need artists to be open in order that together you can explore imaginative ways to respond to the funding issues

The chief of CS communications responds on twitter. CEO Andrew Dixon comments on blogs.

All of this creates an unprecedented open conversation which, if it continues, could have a powerful effect on how the arts community in Scotland can play a full part in leadership and decision making instead of having to react angrily to poorly communicated decisions.

Bella Caledonia c Alasdair Gray

After a very shaky and uncertain start, 2011 got better and better for culture in Scotland. At the beginning of the year, the cultural sector was braced for slashings and cuts and for possible political change with the associated churn of culture ministers and policies.  At the beginning of 2011, arts organisations in England were embroiled in the maelstrom of the Arts Council of England’s ground zero approach to creating a new national portfolio in the wake of major cuts from the Westminster government. For many in Scotland, with an ingrained memory of Scotland always being a step behind England  – as it always seemed to be before and in the early days of devolution – and within the uncertainty associated with the Scottish Government’s single year pre-election budget, similar swingeing cuts were anticipated.  Creative Scotland, although finally constituted, had still not produced plans and the cultural community remained  as cynical and sceptical as it seems to have always been.  And, pre the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, the stomachs of many in the cultural community sank, dreading yet another change of cultural policy and, perhaps, more, a new Culture Minister.  Before Fiona Hyslop took on the then junior role in 2009, there had been 9 Culture Ministers since devolution in 1999 and many a complimentary ticket and hour was spent trying to induct new ministers into the arts and culture in Scotland before the successor made an appearance.  With the prospect of yet another newbie, the cultural community deepened its apprecation of  Hyslop, who had proved energetic, politically astute, open minded and genuinely committed and conversant with culture in Scotland.

The shaky start of 2011 may have been the last judder in  the  Scottish Government’s  12 year  iterative expedition to express the public value of  culture to a devolved Scotland.  The territory was identified in 2003 by  Jack McConnell ‘s in his St Andrew’s Day Speech which was astounding as it was the first time that any senior politician in Scotland had even mentioned culture like they meant it, let alone expressed a political commitment to its value:

I believe we should make the development of our creative drive the next major enterprise for our society. Arts for all can be a reality, a
democratic right and an achievement of the 21st century. I believe this has the potential to be a new civic exercise on a par with health, housing
and education – the commitment to providing and valuing creative expression for all.

First Minister Jack McConnell, MSP; St Andrew’s Day 2003

The journey to placing culture “on a par” with health and education has been tortuous and has involved not only 10 ministers and a cultural commission but also the coming together of agencies and groups from across the whole spectrum of Scotland’s arts, culture and creative industries to form Culture Counts. Culture Counts has a simple purpose, that of ensuring that culture’s importance is reflected in the stated policies and objectives of both the Scottish Government and local government and its three requests in the lead up to elections were:

  • Culture and creativity is specifically included in any national outcome structure, strengthening  the framework for local authorities to support culture.
  • Maintain continued core investment for culture.
  • Maintain and develop incentives for growth through specific initiatives locally and nationally.

At the very end of December 2011,  its clear that the ground work has been completed at last.  The SNP ‘s success at the May elections have provided an overall majority and a clear mandate which has stoked further the confidence of Alex Salmond and an SNP leadership which is so comfortable with Scottish culture that artists, poets and writers are frequently cited in speeches and at Holyrood and adorn Christmas cards.  Fiona Hyslop has continued and her role has been promoted to Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, with Culture no longer seen as a junior post. Fiona Hyslop has listened to the arguments on the vital importance of being explicit about culture when it comes to the National Performance Framework.  And in the budget, culture has not been singled out for the greatest punishment as it appeared in England.

There were several important cultural announcements, openings and events in Scotland in 2011 including the openings of the Burns Museum , the revamped Scottish National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of Scotland;  the 5th birthday of the National Theatre of Scotland, the accession of Liz Lochead to the role of Makar; a a cultural exchange partnership with China. Further investment was announced for the new V and A in Dundee.

The quitest announcement is perhaps the most significant. A new national indicator, to increase cultural engagement, was announced as part of a review of the national performance framework, Scotland Performs.

Cultural engagement impacts positively on our general wellbeing and helps to reinforce our resilience in difficult times. Cultural participation is known to bring benefits in learning and education; there is a significant association with good health and satisfaction with life. Our culture is key to our sense of identity as individuals, as communities and as a nation. Maintaining the quality and diversity of our cultural offerings in conjunction with enabling a strong level of engagement with culture helps to promote Scotland on an international stage as a modern dynamic nation. These factors also encourage visitors to come to Scotland, creating and maintaining jobs in cultural tourism; and support the conditions for Scotland’s creative economy by encouraging creative industries to be leading edge in their field, particularly as part of maintaining and growing city economies.

Scottish Government December 2011

The new cultural indicator is one of 12 new priorities, the others being to: improve digital infrastructure, improve levels of education attainment, increase the proportion of babies with a healthy birth weight, increase physical activity, reduce deaths on Scotland’s roads, improve the responsiveness of public services, reduce children’s deprivation. widen use of the internet, improve end of life care, reduce pre-mature mortality and to mprove self-assessed general health.  The incorporation of the cultural indicator in a set which includes matters of life, death, education and the internet marks the coming of age of culture within the policy framework of the devolved government of Scotland.

The new indicators supercede a bunch of indicators judged redundant including that which fuelled the bonfire of the quangos on which the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen perished. Creative Scotland, under the leadership of Andrew Dixon, has published its first corporate plan, made lots of postive announcements and proved a champion for the arts, screen and creative industries. The corporate plan and the budget cuts will mean the end to ‘flexible funding’ and this Christmas over 60 organisations are preparing the case for survival. But quietly.   Dixon and Hyslop stand shoulder to shoulder waving the Scottish cultural flag in a sea of positive spin so powerful that the less positive stories are submerged and the artistic community is less negative than before on the whole with many leaders positive about culture in Scotland now.

Culture in Scotland is finally on a firm footing as we enter 2012. The focus for the cultural community is now shifting to local authorities where further cuts are looming, armed with the new national indicator for cultural engagement.  Culture counts in Scotland.

Violin cases: is the case for public investment in music greater
than for other cultural forms?

Although the level of cuts to the arts and culture vary across the wealthier nations of the world, the story of how they are applied is becoming familiar. Priorities for public investment in the arts are now focussed on three areas: 1. Funding the core, or what are sometimes called ‘frontline services’, 2 investing in cultural activity which is seen to have a demonstrable economic impact; and 3, initiatives which are politically driven, where a minister or local councillor can make their mark through targetted investment to meet key national or local objectives.

Scotland follows this pattern,  in the context of a 5.4% reduction in the Scottish Culture budget and dark fears that some local authorities will withdraw arts funding in some areas.  The Culture Minister, Fiona Hyslop MSP has fought the culture corner within Holyrood and maintains that the Scottish Government is committed to culture, even though culture has a higher cut than other areas of the budget.  Giving evidence to the Education and Culture Committee scrutinising the budget in Holyrood this week, she referred to the challenges of protecting investment in culture while taking collective cabinet responsibility for delivering the Scottish Government’s ‘Single Purpose’, to grow the economy.  Her priorities in the budget have been to protect what she referred to as ‘frontline services’, a term applied not only to the core revenue budgets of the national collections and national performing companies but also to the  clients of Creative Scotland referred to as foundation organisations.  These provide much of the back bone of cultural infrastructure throughout Scotland, although not all, as the previous Scottish Arts Council division between ‘foundation’ and ‘flexibly funded ‘organisations means that some important organisations are missing from the cohort Hyslop describes as the front line.  One off investments include capital expenditure for the V & A in Dundee and in Glasgow music venues in time for the Commonwealth Games.

Marshalling all her arguments in support of contributing towards economic success, Ms Hyslop partly justified continued £10m investment in the Youth Music Initiative in terms of its contribution to the development of skills. YMI was an initiative introduced during the leadership of Jack MacConnell and Scottish Labour to provide free instrumental tuition to primary school pupils across Scotland in the face of a sharp decline and huge discrepancies in the services offered by local authorities, a scope since widened to include diverse projects to involve young people in music in community contexts.
The YMI fund is £10m annually, itself equivalent to 20% of the overall grant in aid received by Creative Scotland and, as a ringfenced fund, like the ‘front-line services’ is protected from the 2% cuts which Creative Scotland must manage. This puts it into the super -league of national performing companies, where funding is ringfenced and protected from cuts.

The arguments Ms Hyslop uses are wider than skills development. Such is the political commitment to this scheme that YMI is defined as a front-line service:

“At a time when Scotland is facing deep cuts in public spending imposed by the UK Government, my first priority has been to protect the provision of frontline services such as the Youth Music Initiative.By maintaining funding for this scheme, we are investing in Scotland’s young people. As well as fostering and developing their musical skills and unlocking their creative potential, the Youth Music Initiative teaches our young people to be innovative, resourceful, confident and responsible.

There can be do doubt that a universal engagement in music by young people has benefits to individuals and society, a view shared by the Scottish Government. But  does the proportionately large investment in music signal a belief that investment in music has higher value to the public pound than investment in other areas?

Philosphers and critics including Walter Pater, and  Shopenhauer have argued that

All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music

(Walter Pater).

Any such stratification is out of tune with the neo-egalitarianism which defines the public cultural community. Cultural leaders advocate for public investment wielding two blunt instruments: a combination of general statements about the transformational power of the arts and some often-dodgy evidence of economic impact thus avoiding the need for any competition with cultural colleagues.

But there is a handful of studies which have attempted to establish IF  there is a relationship of cultural participation to well-being, studies which are based on an academic framework of enquiry as opposed to a gathering of evidence which can be spun in an argument.

The findings of these neutral studies can be controversial and unsettling.  One of the common threads is that engagement in some art forms has a higher degree of impact on health and well being than others.  This is particularly true for music.

The most recent of these studies looks at the relationship between culture and well being on the Italian  ‘Happiness Index’. The Impact of Culture on the Individual Subjective Well-Being of the Italian Population by Enzo Grossi & Pier Luigi Sacco & Giorgio Tavano Blessi & Renata Cerutti, and the follow up data mining provides wide, deep, statistically robust and algorythmically athletic evidence.

The level of subjective psychological well being in 1500 Italians was  measured by means of an index validated by decades of clinical practice: The Psychological General Well Being Index (PGWBI). The study concluded that, of all the social, economic, education, geographical and health factors which contribute towards well being health status and cultural consumption are the dominating factors that potentially affect well-being.

The research

shows that the contribution of cultural access is not simply related to other well known determinants of subjective well-being, like levels of education, income, or age, as it is contended by conventional wisdom in the field

culture ranks third, right after (absence of) diseases and income, and turns out to be substantially more relevant of categories like age, education,gender, or employment,


The study looked at the differences according to the art form and found  engagement with Jazz Concerts, Opera/Ballet,and Classical Music were much higher predictors of happiness than other art forms and that there were some activities for which high access entails a negative (though modest) impact, Poetry Reading and Cinema d’essai.

Classical music improves the Well Being Index score by 9.7%, and the more often the greater the benefit:

Grossi Sacco et el: music and well being

Whereas the same score for theatre is 2.38% and for visual arts its 3.89%.

As the authors point out, some of these results may have a particularly Italian flavour.

Such research moves on from the transformational arguments with cultural magicians sprinkling their fairy dust of engagement in the arts to bring vitality into the grey lives of recipients. It moves on from the instrumental.  It provides empirical evidence that culture is linked to well-being and provides particular evidence of the positive relationship between health and happiness and culture.

But some culture is more equal than others when it comes to health and well being, as these studies suggest and that makes for uncomfortable reading for cultural leaders vying for public investment.


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

53

51.9

-2.1%

-1.1

Cultural Collections

77

73.4

-4.9%

-3.6

National Performing Companies

24.6

23.9

-2.9%

-0.7

total

154.6

149.2

-3.6%

-5.4

 Table 12.04 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/358356/0121130.pdf

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

2010

/11

2011

/12

2012

/13

2013

/14

2014

/15

 

£m

Creative Scotland

and Other Arts

59

53

49.88

46.83

45.46

-14%

-7.54

Cultural

Collections

87.5

77

72.47

68.03

66.04

-14%

-10.96

National Performing

Companies

26

24.6

23.15

21.74

21.10

-14%

-3.50

total

172.5

154.6

145.5

136.6

132.6

-14%

-22

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.

Stairs at side of Sydney Opera House by Mister Peterman on Flick'r 

There is no surprise that the latest report from Arts Development UK shows that local authority arts expenditure has decreased to two thirds of the levels reached in 2008. It is interesting that, in this second slicing of arts budgets, much of the cuts have been own blows to local authority arts services rather than to grants to independent and front-line arts organisations, like theatres and arts venues. Surgery is now being routinely applied to the soft underbelly of local arts services, including development projects and now to arts officers, whose activity is not obligatory for local authorities and whose presence is often unseen.

During the last two decades of growth in public investment in the arts with the funding of new infrastructure, ambitious events and audience development programmes, those we entrusted to spend our taxes enjoyed a relative largesse which allowed investment which often did not need to evidence an impact.   Research and evidence gathered by arts organisations and arts councils have largely been used as advocacy tools, with hard evidence often being buried if it doesn’t prove the required point.  This devalues the research process and diminishes its validity.  But a new cold dawn is rising as investors apply the scrutiny which is applied in science, medical treatment and engineering and technical fields.

The Paul Hamlyn commissioned report ‘Whose cake is it anyway’ sends out the first chill signal of this new order.  The report into the outreach and participation activity in museums and galleries finds that

this activity exists on the fringes of the sector’s activities, rather than at its core, and suggests that decades of investment in participation related activity, have not only failed to embed participatory practices in museums and galleries, but appear to have been instrumental in keeping this part of their work on the periphery

The report marks a distinct shift in tone from most of the usual research reports published which emphasise the positive. The BOP report on the impact of the Edinburgh Festivals, for example, is an excellent document which seeks to demonstrate benefits of investment much more widely than the economic measurements.  In talking up the positives, the report is used as an advocacy tool – and we are all for flag waving for funding festivals.  But, in sweeping under the carpet the fact that the relative economic impacts relative to invesment is reduced ( Every £1 public investment in 2004  generated  £61 new output. Using the same measures, every £1 of public investment generated £35 new output (table here), the report goes the way of most research reports commissioned by cultural agencies.  It needs to serve the purpose of the commissioners and not to seek the truth.

Respected researchers and consultants have been chipping away at this for some time, but they are largely ignored.

There was an interesting provocation from John Knell and Matthew Taylor challenging ‘the Arts’  to create a new currency with which to weigh the value of the arts in making citizens .  But although it was published for the most recent State of the Arts Conference run by ACE and the RSA which Taylor leads, it wasn’t even discussed .  There were few deaf ears thouugh in Galway last week  at  the Irish Theatre Forum conference.  The Irish National Campaign for the Arts have proven themselves streets ahead of England in expressing the value of the arts and its leaders are aware of the need to express and communicate the true value of the arts, which goes beyond instrumentalism.  But that value needs first to be established in a rigorous and scientific manner and not just in the rhetoric.

In Its not Rocket Science, (2010), Hasan Bakhshi, Radhika Desai and Alan Freeman challenged

two entrenched prejudices which block arts and cultural organisations from playing their full role in society and economy. First, arts and culture are largely excluded from R&D by definitions based on its Science and Technology (S&T) origins. Second, the arts and cultural sector relies on a conception of creativity that mystifies too much of its work, preventing it from accessing valuable public resources

The reality is that much of the arts and cultural community views gathering evidence of impact as a tiresome diversion. The feature on Arts and Health in the latest Arts Professional magazine  explains that the NHS requires proof of impact and includes several citations of the woeful lack of rigorous evidence gathered to date to demonstrate the benefits of engagement in the arts as a positive healing activity.  There are several calls to arms for the arts to get together to provide the evidence the NHS needs to justify investment in the arts rather than in some other health interventions.  Dr Jenny Secker, Professor of Mental Health highlights the need to move beyond the anecdotal.

Measuring instrumental impact on health is important but there is a more fundamental issue.  We need to get down to the basic life-enhancing benefits of art, describe that and then set up research to measure it.  Take empathy for example. Long-known as one of the core processes of being part of a theatre audience, empathy is a capability which leading neuroscientists fear  lost in a  video gaming  world.

Seeking to find empirical evidence of the positive impacts of engagement of the arts on active citizenship and wellbeing must become a clear objective for the arts and cultural community over the next few years.  To do this, there need to be a substantive independent and objective research programme which seeks the truth rather than seeks to make the case for more funding of current practice.  The research needs to include longitudinal elements and comparisons of the costs and benefits of engagement in different types of creative and arts activities against engagement with other activities.

Such an investment needs a research programme which is rigorously defined, conceived, planned, executed, analysed and communicated.  This means harnessing the skills of research scientists and academics and means being honest about the results.

International star Alan Cumming has endorsed the SNP campaign:
seen here in National Theatre of Scotland's The Bacchae

The Scottish culturati has, until this point, largely shared the characteristics of their English counterparts when it comes to political allegiance, with a traditional leaning towards the left and the liberal. Support for the Scottish Nationalists was, until recently, largely confined to some of the more traditional arts sectors with a preconception from others that nationalism would be too inward looking and narrow minded to understand art and the internationalism of culture in Scotland.    But any voter whose primary interest is the success and support for Scotland’s arts, culture and creativity will be drawn to vote SNP in the Scottish elections on 5 May. The SNP can demonstrate a good track record in funding and championing Scotland’s culture and are running a strong campaign with endorsements from artists and creative leaders including Alan Cumming, Mark Millar and Jack Vettriano.  Several more artists who have been courted by the party leaders may not be so comfortable about being wheeled out but that doesn’t diminish the pride and gratification they feel about being listened, recognised and valued.

And Scottish writers, actors, comedians and Jonathan Mills, Director of the Edinburgh International Festival signed an open letter to the Sunday Herald in support of the Scottish Digital Network, a central plank of the SNP manifesto:

Scottish viewers should enjoy the kind of dedicated broadcasting service that is taken for granted in comparable territories all around Europe.  There is clear audience demand, there is all-party support in the Scottish Parliament and there is a glaring public service deficit in the current arrangements.

During the 1980 and 90s, the arts and cultural community in Scotland, like the rest of the UK, used to always vote Labour with a generous peppering of Liberal, because these parties expressed values shared around egalitarianism, because the Conservatives since Thatcher’s government were oppositional to the growth of state funding and because many artists aligned politically to the left.

But the unreconstructed Scottish Labour arts voter is now in the minority.  All the major parties have culture writ in their manifestos and the Labour manifesto makes specific pledges particularly to music.   Its not so much that the SNP creative mini manifesto is significantly more advanced than Labours as that the SNP manifesto mainstreams commitment to creativity, creative industries, and culture in its vision for the economy, for education and for international engagement.

Of course the notion of an arts vote is simplistic as voters make judgements taking into account the overall expression of values, and the context locally and in the UK.

And manifesto commitments aren’t everything. The SNP did not stick to its original commitment last time round to transfer the budget and responsibility for the creative industries from Scottish Enterprise to Creative Scotland, setting in train an ante-natal turbulence and confusion for the new agency.

And direct support for the arts, culture and creative industries is only one part of the story.  We need the Scottish Government to support education, economic growth, environmental sustainability and the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities.  But on the basis of track record, manifesto commitment and cultural champions and connections, the SNP is likely to attract many arts voters.

The Scottish Labour Party Manifesto published today states that culture matters.  In  a substantial section on culture, the Manifesto declares the importance of the arts, culture and creative industries as a driver for economic growth, commits to the continuance of free access to museums and galleries and modernising libraries.  It also makes specific commitments to particular areas, in what might be seen as highly interventionist in some areas and perhaps a little out of touch in others, specifically the idea of rolling out a theatre ticket initiative from London’s South Bank.

The greatest commitment is made to support music, music in education, more of the Youth Music Initiative and an instrument fund as well as a Music Investment Fund for the music industry. The Manifesto commits to the first ‘joined-up’ music policy for Scotland which it will lead on with the music industry, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise not forgetting Creative Scotland.  This suggests  a much more interventionist role in the arts and creative industries than the position we have got to now with Creative Scotland charged with leading the coordination of the Creative Industries Strategy which has been agreed by the enterprise bodies, government and local government.  The problem with a Government weighing in on one art form is the potential for an imbalance across the sector. The problem with a Government leading on an art form policy and asking its new and shiny arms length agency to contribute and not lead, is that it undermines the effectiveness – and therefore the efficiency – of that body.  We taxpayers are paying good money for experts in Creative Scotland – lets utilise that expertise please.

The Manifesto also commits to a Scottish Film Champion to” promote collaboration between drama and film and drive forward new thinking as a first step”. Drama and film use many of the same skills and creative writers, actors, directors and production staff. Drama and film are now both part of the remit of Creative Scotland so it will be interesting to understand what ‘new thinking as a first step’ means.

Even more specific is the commitment to ‘build on the success of the National Theatre’s £10 season, working with theatres and sponsors to provide reduced-rate tickets for theatre performances across Scotland’. I presume that they mean the £12 Travelex scheme at the National Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames, where the top price ticket is £45.  A ticket for a National Theatre of Scotland production rarely reaches the £20 mark, and tickets at most of our theatres hover around the £10 – £15 mark. Rolling out a scheme from London’s National Theatre is wide of the mark. Are the other commitments better informed?

 

 

The Manifesto reads…

“From Burns in the 18th century, to T in the Park today, Scotland’s cultural life is world-renowned. The talent of Scottish artists continues to shape the world around us But it is perhaps the most difficult period in our recent history to argue the case for investment in art and culture. But Labour believes that culture matters.

“Scottish Labour believes that we need strong leadership in this area more than ever as we pass through the difficult times. Not only has the accessibility of arts, music and culture defined our nation’s heritage and culture, it has enhanced the quality of our lives. Scotland has a strong and proud track record as a nation of creative talent and we must capitalise on this potential to become world leaders in the creative industries.

“Scotland’s capacity for creative innovation is our ticket to economic growth. Investment in the creativity of our people is an investment in our future prosperity. And the vanguards of our heritage – from the Mining Museum in East Lothian to the National Museums and Galleries throughout Scotland – are key to  boosting our tourism industry and attracting increasing numbers of visitors to Scotland.

“Our approach will be rigorous, from widening access to music tuition for our youngest citizens, to providing support for the creative industries at the highest level. We will nurture the creativity of Scotland to benefit all of our people.”


Our promises to Scotland

  • Deliver new jobs in the cultural sector by investing in the creative industries, with a Scottish Film Champion to promote collaboration between drama and film and drive forward new thinking as a first step
  • Deliver Scotland’s first joined-up music policy, ensuring that music is central to the school curriculum and delivering a new musical instrument fund for schools
  • Modernise library services to expand the provision of superfast broadband and e-book lending
  • Promote the widest possible access to the arts, by working to protect free admission to galleries and museums
  • Protect the international development budget and deliver support for development education

Growing our creative industries

The arts sector will be critical in creating the economic growth that will lift Scotland out of tough times. That is why Scottish Labour’s cultural policy will give priority to investment in the creative industries, devising a strategy for international promotion and delivering the new, skilled jobs that will be the fuel of Scotland’s economic recovery.

We will do all we can to develop Dundee as a hub for high-quality design, supporting the emergent and successful games industry in the city and the V&A project. Scottish Labour will establish a Music Investment Fund, modelled in discussion with the music industry, Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to support the growth of small and medium businesses in the music sector.

We also want to use the creative industries to encourage inward investment in Scotland. In particular, we will explore the best ways to support our film industry. We will appoint a Scottish Film Champion, to promote greater collaboration between drama and film production in Scotland, to attract fresh investment and to drive forward new thinking.

Nurturing Scotland’s musical talent

Investing in the skills of our young people is central to Scottish Labour’s vision for Scotland. Their skills are the foundation on which our future prosperity rests and their creative talents are no exception. It is our ambition to give all children – no matter their background – the opportunity to access music tuition and musical instruments.

We will continue the Youth Music Initiative, ensuring that all children in P5 and P6 have access to music tuition. We will also establish a Musical Instrument Fund, to give assistance to those families who need it to access a musical instrument for their children’s tuition.

Scottish Labour also aims to carry out a National Music Audit, to identify variations in music provision at local authority level and build on the best practice of already-successful programmes across Scotland. Scottish music is recognised world-wide for contemporary, classical and traditional music. Our policy will address how to support excellence in music.

Culture matters

Scottish Labour will work to ensure that every person, no matter their background, can become involved in cultural activity.

We remain committed to free admissions to our museums and galleries and will work with local authorities to ensure the continuation of this policy, including creating better access to art collections of national significance.

We will . We will also consider the feasibility of establishing a National Youth Companies Unit in Creative Scotland and will review how incentives for philanthropic support for the arts can be strengthened.

Scottish Labour will explore the best way to support young artists and Scottish art graduates early in their professional careers, so that they can continue to work in Scotland and use their talents to enrich our local communities. Similarly, we will support community arts, recognising that they are a vital component of developing strong communities. We will also give public institutions a new right to borrow works of art from the national collection, so that more people can benefit from our national heritage.

We know that libraries are at the heart of many communities and we understand why people feel so passionate about protecting them during difficult economic times. Scottish Labour recognises that libraries are a key way of achieving digital inclusion in Scotland and will do all we can to protect local services. We want to widen access to books and will prioritise the modernisation of library services, expanding the provision of superfast broadband, delivering free wi-fi for workers on the move and enhancing opportunities for e-book lending. We will also protect mobile libraries in rural areas. We will work with Glasgow City Council to secure funding for the Glasgow Women’s Library, as it moves to become the Women’s Library of Scotland.

Over the last thirteen years Scotland’s towns and cities have made great strides in recovering from the damage of the 1980s. Even as spending on capital projects becomes more constrained in the years ahead, Scottish Labour will continue to promote excellence in design and architecture, helping to foster civic pride and build world-class places in which people want to live and work.

Our aim is to ensure the very best standards of architecture and building design are met, in school-building projects and all new government-funded building programmes. We will seek to strengthen the skills and capacity of local authorities to promote good design, and ensure that quality and excellence are at the heart of the planning system.

Scottish Labour is proud to celebrate the diversity of Scotland’s many languages, including Gaelic, British Sign Language (BSL) and the many languages spoken by those new to our country.

We will support opportunities for learning Gaelic, including removing the obstacles to Gaelic education and increasing the number of Gaelic medium teachers where there is strong parental demand.  We will encourage Gaelic broadcasting, Gaelic arts and increased visibility for the Gaelic language in Scotland. We will support the work of the Gaelic college in Skye, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, and will encourage new learners of the language, along with supporting those native speakers from the traditional Gaelic heartlands and beyond.