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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.

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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.

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.

Nic Green's Trilogy

The arts are about more than the simplistic and somewhat crass measurement of bums on seats.  Quantity does not always equate to quality and there must be experiment and innovation, risks and some failures in a rich and diverse cultural ecology.  But with a public mission to engage the many, ACE should expect its investment across the portfolio to deliver additional attendances in return for additional investment. And the evidence is that it does.

The Arts Council of England’s report on its Regularly funded organisations: Key data from the 2009/10 annual submission contains a mine of useful information, showing activities, attendances, staffing and finances from all its RFOs showing variances by artform, region and size of organisation.  Most interesting is the data for the last three years, which shows trends from 2007 to 2010.

ACE has increased its investment from £336m to £372m (+11%).  Activities/events have increased by 10% over this period and attendances have increased by 26%, according to the report on a constant sample of respondents. This includes a wide variation by region, with London and Yorkshire showing the largest increases in attendance and the East and West Midlands showing the greatest decline.

The 11% increase in ACE investment worked in tandem with an increase of 12% from local authorities, supporting RFOS to increase their earned income by 16%, more than compensating for reductions in private donations and other investment.

The point of any major piece of data analysis like this is how it is used to inform decision making. For ACE, making hard decisions now on future investment, this data will inform specific interventions by region and by art forms.  But delving into the detail shouldn’t obscure the key message: increased public investment in core organisations delivers more art for more people.

from Andrew Niddrie's Craigmillar Flickr stream

Over the last few weeks governments in Scotland, Wales and Ireland have declared commitment to the value of the arts,  culture and creative industries in recovery from recession, whether as a tonic for dented spirits, an antidote to an unbalanced life, to strengthen  national cultural identity. ..or for international competitiveness.

The rallying call, particularly in Ireland, is expressed in the passionate tongues of art and culture more than in the lexicon of the more contemporary newspeak  of  the creative economy, smart economy and innovation on which many a paper has been written and on which a glut of autumn conferences will proclaim and chatter.

But winning the hearts and minds of national politicians is only one part of the equation, particularly in the UK where local authorities as a block represent the largest funders of the arts and culture, far larger than the arts councils, and are major providers as well of museums, libraries, theatres and art centres: owning buildings, supplying services and employing staff.

In Scotland, the arts community has been focussed on national structures of late, concerned to make sure  that the new single agency Creative Scotland will be better than the Scottish Arts Council without any loss of funding for specific art forms.

In the meantime, local authorities are having to deal with accelerating  and medium to  long term reductions in resources and having to make cuts  in services and reductions in staff.  The arts and culture are not a statutory function.  In Scotland, the Single Outcome Agreements with Scottish Government do not signpost arts and culture as first order services.  So champions for the arts – artists, creative enterprises and their supporters need to get vocal at local level.

There tends to be a clustering of creative professionals  in metropolitan areas, cities and some rural areas, as immortalised by Richard Florida and these are active, connected and articulate.  Dublin Central Arts workers are becoming more and more political in their campaigning.  In Glasgow, where Culture and Sport Glasgow has an annual budget of  £96m (compare this with maybe £60m for Creative Scotland), audiences and participants exceeding 13m and a commensurately expert team  to boot, the benefits of culture are being evidenced in terms of proven impact on health and wellbeing, demonstrating a politic approach to establishing local value.

But what is happening outside of creative cities and rural areas?  In great swathes of Scotland, the arts and creative community is ever changing and without a local focus.   Arts and creative people are natural nomads, moving to where the pastures are fertile.  I am as guilty as the next creative professional, living in Fife for the meantime but without any professional roots in my community.  Creative professionals who live in my area work in Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee running some of our major institutions, or write, make music and art all over the world.

We need creative hubs in all parts of Scotland, where there is a focus for the arts and creative communities. And we all need to get local.