Culturecounts campaign Scotland

Rainbow over Ushuaia, terra del fuego, Patagonia Argentina


For several years, the UK government was largely silent on its high level support for culture, while politicians in Scotland have been increasingly passionate, eloquent and publicly committed to the value of culture to Scotland.   In producing the Culture White Paper, David Cameron has, for the first time since Jennie Lee’s Policy for the Arts some 50 years ago, committed the UK government to some principles around culture. The Scottish Government has not yet committed to a high level statement of principles about the value of culture, despite consistent demand from the arts, heritage, screen and creative industries represented by Culture Counts, a group of 45 national, umbrella and membership bodies which represent the majority of professional and voluntary artists and cultural organisations in Scotland.

With the forthcoming elections for Holyrood, candidates speaking for culture might consider what sort of high level statement of principles for culture in Scotland we should have. This should start with the principle that cultural expression is an individual right and supports a better understanding of our own and others’ identities. A rights based approach is similar to some aspects of cultural policy in Nordic states and in keeping with the global movement in UNESCO towards recognising that culture is a human right critical for sustainable development. This reflects Scotland’s values more than the UK approach which is largely written from the perspective of the cultural and political establishment. And, in keeping with the governance of our small nation, the principles should enshrine culture across other policy areas.

The Cultural Value Project (CVP) has provided a comprehensive overview of the value of culture and pointed out where there is long term evidence of impact, for example, on the long term health benefits of cultural participation. A cultural statement of principles would support and encourage Scotland’s health bodies to embed cultural participation.

In the meantime , the UK Culture White Paper is the highest level policy statement we have and the PM’s support for equality of access to culture is welcomed, albeit seemingly as a consequence of his belief in public funding:

If you believe in publicly-funded arts and culture as I passionately do, then you must also believe in equality of access, attracting all, and welcoming all.

Rt Hon David Cameron MP

The White Paper lacks the  depth of principles contained in Jennie Lee’s paper, and is less of the comprehensive and high level policy document for culture which one might associate with a white paper. It focuses on institutions funded by government and on actions which will be taken by distinctive, and restricted parts of government and sets out a number of actions for reviews, reports and partnerships with other parts of the cultural establishment. Many of these are similar to actions governments have taken in the past as part of business as usual, for example, reviewing the Arts Council, working in partnership with the British Council, encouraging private investment, commissioning a report on ‘the key issues to be addressed to make the UK one of the world’s leading countries for digitised public collections’ content and so on.

The tone is rather grand..

it seeks to harness the nourishing effects of culture. It seeks to ignite the imaginations of young people, kindle ambition and opportunity and fuel the energy of communities.It seeks to spread the gifts of our arts, heritage and culture to more people, and communities across the country and abroad and free the creative genius that can make a better world for all.

And, while it obligates the general public …

Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers, no matter where they start in life does not obligate other parts of government, such as education, skills, health and wellbeing and social justice, where cultural participation has proven and sustained positive impacts on individuals and societies

Scotland’s statement of principles for culture should be broader, deeper and rights based. It should be underpinned by an outcome for culture . It should articulate the importance of culture as a public good, recognise the right to participate in culture and identify culture’s central role to an informed, engaged and healthy modern democracy, the glue that binds Scotland together.


England is the most consistent nation..- in Scotland there is a dramatic and steady deterioration..- For Wales the picture is more erratic … and -Northern Ireland’s Index scores are also erratic

Politics? Football? Weather?  January 1800, 1900 or 2000? No, this time the judgement from London is about the Vitality of the Arts in the nations and regions and its in December 2011.

The words are from  the UK National Campaign for the Arts in its Arts Index which it has now made available after a period where only its members could view.

Few people in Scotland will have had sight of the full report before now, as the National Campaign is largely associated with Westminster and England for most of us in Scotland, what with culture being a devolved responsibility and the  Scottish Culture Counts campaign delighted that the Scottish Government has listened to its requests and responded with a new national indicator for Scotland, to increase cultural engagement.

And so it is with dismay that we see that the first digest by Sam West as NCA shares its intelligence with the rest of us, headlines just how poorly Scotland is performing in comparison with England. Or was.  Although the Index speaks in the present tense, it covers the three years ending in March 2010, before the austerity budgets and cuts in English arts funding and a time when Arts Council England was propping up the sector with major lottery investment.  The same period in Scotland saw the hiatus in arts funding associated with the last days of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen and with no arts lottery funding. And ,as the report states, some of the variances relate to the different ways that different nations describe allocation in funding.

The UK Arts Index uses twenty consistent numerical indicators including subsidy, earned income, financial reserves and attendances against a base index for the UK and against which annual, national and regional variances can be measured. It is a good resource and to be welcomed although of course it can’t, and doesn’t claim to, be the only set of measures by which we value the arts.. This version is playing catch up with its three year review with a promise now to produce annual figures. The 2010/11 figures are bound to look different, after the major ACE cuts in England and taking into account the new confidence in Scotland. Lets hope that colleagues in London can’t cry that the vitality of Scotland’s arts are deteriorating again.


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.

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.

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.