Archive

Scottish Parliament Elections 2011

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

..it 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.

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.

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.

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.