Monday, 22 December 2008

Creative Scotland letter : signing extended

In just three days, over 350 people have signed the letter below urging MSPs to withdraw their support for Creative Scotland, reflecting an extraordinary level of concern.

People have also been asking to keep the letter-signing open over the christmas period.

MSPs return back from their winter recess on 4th January 2009.

Due to the demand & the recess, we will keep signing open until 30th December, which will still allow time to collate the letter for MSP's return.

We would like to thank you again and ask that you extend the invitation to sign to others that share your concern.


Sign this letter to urge MSPs to withdraw their support for Creative Scotland

Following a public meeting in Glasgow on Wednesday 10th December 2008, the following letter has been complied from artists' concerns about the formation of Creative Scotland.

Creative Scotland has been deemed as a wholly negative proposal that will have a major impact on culture, and on artists based in Scotland
This matter has reached a crisis point and requires urgent attention. If you support the majority of concerns raised in this letter and the request for MSPs to stand against the formation of Creative Scotland, we ask you to electronically sign below. The letter will then be sent to those stated.

Please sign and return by 30th December 2008

To be included as a signatory, send you confirmation to:

arts.futures.scotland@googlemail.com

Please include your full name and email address.

The letter will then be compiled and sent to:
Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Culture and Media
Culture spokespersons of individual Parties in Scotland
Scottish Parliament Members of the Art Advisory Group
Heads of National Parties
Other concerned MSPs
The media [all email addresses will be kept confidential]
For further information, please contact:
Guyan Porter : guyanporter@bulldoghome.com
Leigh French: variantmag@btinternet.com

The Letter

Dear MSP

It is with great concern, that we, the undersigned are contacting you.

No doubt you will be aware that there has been growing apprehension regarding the formation of Creative Scotland, and the effects it will have on artists' welfare and practice.

The situation regarding Creative Scotland has now reached crisis point.

We believe the following measures to be particularly damaging to the cultural freedoms and 'entitlements' originally envisaged by the Culture Commission:
- The lack of meaningful consultation with the arts communities during the transition process, culminating in a refusal to refer to artists within the strategy at all, has exposed the abandonment of freedom of expression as a central issue.

- The expanded remit to support the creative industries, without additional funding being reallocated from Scottish Enterprise, will be at the expense of the public funding of artistic independence.

- The huge costs of setting up a new institution, coupled with over-stretched resources, will inevitably result in a damaging cut in grant aid funding for artists and arts organisations.

- The proposed exploitation of Intellectual Property Rights and the introduction of loans coupled with a cut in grant aid, will all act to reinforce artists' poverty. The case of Catalonia shows that increasing artists' debts has been disastrous for all concerned.
We feel strongly that this bureaucratic process has not concerned itself with representing artists' needs, nor does it address UNESCO declarations on culture and freedom.

We have no confidence in the process of the formation of Creative Scotland, or the confused and inappropriate proposals that have arisen.

We are simply not convinced that the proposals will promote the development of and entitlement to culture in Scotland.

Whilst many of us have been critical of the existing institutions, Creative Scotland does not offer improvement on the current provision managed by the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, and will impact negatively on Scotland's international reputation.

For these reasons, we urge you to vote against the formation of Creative Scotland and instead refocus on supporting artists.

Signed: ...................


For additional information, please see:
'The future of the arts in Scotland : Creative Scotland, an artists briefing paper'
http://www.variant.org.uk/events/future.pdf
'Artists warn of mass exodus if bill is passed : Union urges MSPs to vote down legislation'
By Edd McCracken, Arts Correspondent, Sunday Herald, December 14 2008
http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2475088.0.artists_warn_of_mass_exodus_if_bill_is_passed.php

First Minister on Creative Scotland

Alex Salmond, is reported by the SAU as telling them "...that the only reason the previous bill failed was because of one small point of confusion over the new agency’s relationship with Scottish Enterprise."

Where as, the Creative Scotland Bill: Stage 1, Official Report of 18 June 2008, actually notes "the quite serious concerns on which the majority of the committee agreed".
"Indeed, other committees raised those concerns in their consideration of the bill. The concerns fall into a number of categories, including financial considerations; partnership working and the sharing and division of responsibilities; and the role of education, higher education and local authorities. However, those varied concerns can be summed up under the general comment that the bill lacks the detail that we on the committee and the people in the world of arts and culture expected to see.
"The most striking example of that was the financial memorandum that accompanied the bill, which was so poorly researched and lacking in detail that the Finance Committee commented that it was:
'the weakest that has been produced in the current parliamentary session'."
[Col 9847]
http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/meetingsParliament/or-08/sor0618-02.htm#Col9889


SAU - Posting Date: 19-12-2008

During our three days in residence at the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Artists Union sought to focus the attention of parliamentarians on the government's plans to reintroduce Creative Scotland to their legislative programme. Neither the Minister for Europe, External Affairs & Culture Linda Fabiani, who failed to steer the Creative Scotland Bill through parliament in June, nor Secretary of Finance & Sustainable Growth John Swinney, who will introduce the new Public Services Reform Bill in January, made themselves available to our Executive Committee members.

However the First Minister Alex Salmond spent some time with us and seemed surprised by artists’ objections to the new agency. When SAU President Terry Anderson asked him whether he agreed Creative Scotland should remain a matter for scrutiny he stated "We've had that debate", and that the only reason the previous bill failed was because of one small point of confusion over the new agency’s relationship with Scottish Enterprise. It is this point alone that the new bill will address. However the First Minister said that its introduction will coincide with a wider cultural policy statement that he confidently predicts will allay the fears of the sector, fears he has been made well aware of by the SAU and others.

We await the details of the new bill and accompanying statement with interest, but meanwhile have identified MSPs from all parties who are deeply concerned about the way in which the government is handling the inception of Creative Scotland. The SAU will use this as a platform of support from which to oppose or amend the bill if the confidence of the First Minister proves unfounded.

The Executive Committee thanks all SAU members who forwarded examples of their work for use during these three days of parliamentary activity. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

http://www.sau.org.uk

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

How to Use Freedom of Information

  • In 2000, the Freedom of Information Act was passed which enables members of the public access documents held by all public authorities.
  • This means that government departments, local councils and branches of the civil service, national health service etc. are legally bound to provide you with the information you request.
  • This may includes dates, details and minutes of meetings, receipts, email correspondence and even transcripts of telephone calls if such a thing exists in their records.
  • There will be a limit to the volume of information that can be provided per request (usually up to £600 including staff costs for retrieval) so you could consider dividing your request up amongst your friends/email addresses.
  • A useful site about Freedom of Information is http://www.cfoi.org.uk/
  • A simple google search for the authority you are interested in and 'freedom of information' will usually bring up a relevant web page and email address.
  • All you need to do to access this information is to send an email with your request to the relevant office.

So, for example, information about making requests to the Scottish Government can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/FOI/access#a3

This includes the following advice:

How to request information

Freedom of Information requests should be made in writing (which includes email).

Please ensure you provide your name, an address for correspondence (which could be email), and if possible a telephone number.

There are various ways of contacting us:

Email us at ceu@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or phone 08457 741 741

Complete an online request form at:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/HaveYourSay/infoRequest

Write to us at:

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Timeline for the Formation of Creative Scotland

2000


Scotland
’s National Cultural Strategy published as Creating our Future – Minding our Past, which gives primacy to the development of Scotland’s creative industries, defined as follows:

The creative industries are the activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. They comprise Architecture, Advertising, Arts and Cultural Industries, Design (including Fashion, Design and Crafts) Film, Interactive Leisure Software (computer games, consumer packaged software), Music, New Media, Publishing, Radio and Television.


2001


August: The first of four meetings of the Joint Implementation Group, set up to implement the National Cultural Strategy. Attended by James Boyle his capacity as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council. Others invited to participate could be described as institutional/bureaucratic figures representing national museums and galleries, the Scottish Executive Education Department and CoSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) but no artists.

2002


January: This Joint Implementation Group meeting, and the next three, chaired by Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mike Watson, who is ‘keen that there should be a meeting with representatives of the creative industries to ensure that the Executive and its agencies’ strategies were operating effectively in support of them.’ The Minister determines to seek the views of representatives of the creative industries, to be reported back at the next meeting.

May: Mike Watson meets with representatives from the creative industries and commissions an action plan.


2003


January: The final meeting of the Joint Implementation Group is asked to consider a paper (02/20) on the Creative Industries forum: ‘In particular, comments were invited on the proposition for an agency “Creative Scotland”, combing [sic] a number of responsibilities currently residing with a number of different agencies.’ The paper to which this refers includes the following:

The idea of a new body ‘Creative Scotland’ arose from a number of sources during the review of Scottish Screen, and has been discussed again during the process undertaken by the Creative Industries Forum. There is recurring interest in exploring the idea of combining the relevant development roles of the three key agencies into one such body which could work across the agency boundaries and across the public/private sector divide.

September: The Scottish Arts Council publishes An Audit of Visual Arts in Scotland – based on research by Bonnar Keenlyside, a cultural consultancy run by Anne Bonnar and Hilary Keenlyside – which shows that 82% of visual artists in Scotland earn less than £10,000 p.a. from their practice and 28% to be earning nothing whatsoever, effectively working as volunteers.


November: Jack McConnell makes ‘the development of our creative drive the next major enterprise for our society’ in his St. Andrew’s Day speech.

2004


April: Frank McAveety, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, publishes his Cultural Policy Statement, announcing a one-year Cultural Commission as part of ‘a generational opportunity – to look seriously and maturely at our culture and decide the framework for its support in the future.’ An explicit focus is on ‘how to use public spend to lever growth in the cultural and creative industries.’ To date, no information has been made available about the precise brief of the Cultural Commission in relation to the new organisation, Creative Scotland, which predated it.

The budget put at the Commission’s disposal is £487,000 (culled from National Galleries of Scotland running costs, Scottish Museums Council account and from a Cultural Organisations account). Of this, £63,000 appears in the budget line for Chairman, as part of a £229,057.9 budget for staffing alongside a budget of £257,642.10 for administration (including £15,000 for travel and £23,690 for accommodation).

On 21 April, James Boyle, is invited to resign his post as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council to head the Commission. In none of the papers subsequently released by the Scottish Government can any information be found about how Boyle’s appointment came about, what the rationale for it was or what advice the Minister received before or after Boyle was appointed. Boyle’s appointment is referred to elsewhere by name as early as 5 April 2004 and, according to his Cultural Commission Work Plan April 2004-May 2005, begins work immediately.

May: One month after Frank McAveety’s letter of invitation and six weeks after he is first mentioned as Chair of the Cultural Commission, James Boyle officially resigns as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council.


June: Frank McAveety accepts James Boyle’s recommendations for Commissioners – including Brian Lang (Principal and Vice Chancellor, St. Andrews University), Shonaig McPherson (Senior Partner, McGrigors), Craig Armstrong (composer), Gordon Jeyes (Director of Children’s Services, Stirling Council), Ian Ritchie (businessman), George Black (Chief Executive Glasgow City Council), Colin Marr (Director Eden Court Theatre, Inverness) and Lucy Mason (Chief Executive of Dance Base) – seemingly without question. Craig Armstrong, the sole creative practitioner invited onto the Commission, resigns on
14 June 2004 because ‘the commission does not contain practising artists in sufficient proportion from varied artistic and cultural backgrounds. With respect to the other commissioners this lack of representation undermines the legitimacy of the commission at a time when the Arts in Scotland are already in difficulty.’

September: The Cultural Commission contracts Bonnar Keenlyside – to undertake a review of the input of the voluntary sector to culture in Scotland. This research has a strong institutional and local authority bias but lacks members of voluntary organisations or individual artists, with only 4% of respondents to 4,500 surveys being categorised as visual arts organisations.

2005


June: In the 540-page final report published by the Cultural Commission, proposing the creation of Creative Scotland, the following are identified as key concerns for the visual arts sector:

  • Teaching visual literacy in schools
  • The importance of higher education
  • Support for visual arts businesses
  • Supporting galleries
  • National acquisitions policy and strategy


Expanding on the third category, the Commissioners propose to expose artists to the ravages of the market: ‘
Individual artists are one-person businesses. They need to have all the start up skills and backing open to other small businesses in the creative arts sector. […]The fundamental challenge is to sell more visual art.’


Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the emphasis on institutions and the creative industries
in the final report, of the 124 recommendations made only a handful address the needs of individual creative practitioners directly:

By 2007:

21) Support for creative Individuals become a discrete part of a single agency.

51) That a national awards scheme for creative individuals should be introduced.

By 2010:

103) That a national council for the creative individual be created and an inspiring name adopted.

Beyond 2010:

123) A scheme of fiscal support for creators and for creative individuals (interpretive artists) should be developed and promoted to the UK government by the Scottish Executive.


2006


January: In a response to the recommendations of the Cultural Commission, the Scottish Government describes a new cultural development agency, Creative Scotland, with a remit for supporting creative individuals. The Government agrees to the proposal to create a new award for artists (recommendation 51) and asks the Scottish Arts Council to take this forward, a strategy which is re-iterated in response to recommendation 103. In considering the final recommendation pertinent to individual artists, Chris Dodds of the Scottish Executive Education Department counters, somewhat ambiguously, that ‘fiscal support is reserved to the UK Government. The Executive welcomes such approaches to assist and promote the creative sector.’

On 20 January 2006, Creative Scotland is registered as a company at Companies House.

December: The Scottish Government publishes the Draft Culture (Scotland) Bill which details the framework and priorities of Creative Scotland along creative industries lines.

2007

April: Glasgow City Council Cultural and Leisure Services becomes Culture and Sport Glasgow, a company with charitable status, headed by Bridget McConnell.

May: Scottish Labour loses to the Scottish National Party; Alex Salmond replaces Jack McConnell as First Minister.

September: Anne Bonnar appointed Transition Director for Creative Scotland.

2008


March: Creative Scotland
Bill introduced.

June: Creative Scotland Bill falls in the Scottish Parliament.

September: Linda Fabiani, Culture Minister (SNP) announces that there will be no further delay to establishing Creative Scotland which will begin life as a company limited by guarantee.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Culture and Sport Glasgow: the Corporate Precedent for Creative Scotland

On 12 March 2008, Alex Salmond introduced the Creative Scotland Bill. The Bill fell at Stage 1 on 18 June 2008.

On 3 September 2008, the Scottish Government announced:
Creative Scotland will begin life as a company limited by guarantee, allowing a new board of directors and chief executive to take forward the final phase of transition. The arrangements for establishing Creative Scotland will also undergo further Parliamentary scrutiny through the Public Services Reform Bill, enshrining the arms' length principle in legislation. It is expected that the new board of directors and chief executive will be in place by April 2009, with the organisation maturing into a statutory body by February 2010.
This reads as an attempt to bypass full democratic scrutiny of Creative Scotland by smuggling it into another, equally controversial, Bill. The proposal to create a private company to manage culture in Scotland has a local precedent in Culture and Sport Glasgow, which is overseen by market-friendly councillors and businesspeople.

How the Formation of Creative Scotland Makes a Mockery of the Cultural Commission

When Jack McConnell was First Minister of Scotland (November 2001 to May 2007), ‘Culture’ was made a priority. McConnell's wife, Bridget, then at Glasgow City Council, is now head of Culture and Sport Glasgow (an insidious organisation you can read about elsewhere on this blog). In 2004, a Cultural Commission was launched to undertake a “thorough” review of cultural provision over a one-year period, paving the way for its radical overhaul as part of “a generational opportunity – to look seriously and maturely at our culture and decide the framework for its support in the future.”

It was widely reported at the time of the Cultural Commission that Bridget McConnell wished to exert some influence over the process, with fears being expressed that the Commission was a thinly veiled bid to axe the Scottish Arts Council.


In September 2008, the SNP-led Scottish Government announced that it would be following the recommendations of the Labour-led Cultural Commission to set up Creative Scotland, a private company limited by guarantee, as a replacement for the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, to pursue a “creative industries” agenda.

It is worth recalling that the Cultural Commission grew out of the National Cultural Strategy, published in 2000, which placed the creative industries centre stage. Former Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Frank McAveety, took up this theme in the Cultural Policy Statement which launched the Commission. This considered “how to use public spend to lever growth in the cultural and creative industries”, whilst framing creativity in entrepreneurial terms aimed at giving Scotland a “competitive edge”.

Predating the Cultural Commission by four years, a Joint Implementation Group had been set up with the National Cultural Strategy to realise its strategic objectives, with James Boyle attending the inaugural meeting in his capacity as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council. The Group was later informed of a letter, dated 18 December 2002, from Bridget McConnell, proposing a national review of local government cultural and leisure services. Mike Watson, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport at that time, set up separate meetings with representatives of the creative industries and at its last meeting the Group was asked to consider a paper arising from this forum: “In particular, comments were invited on the proposition for an agency ‘Creative Scotland’, combing [sic] a number of responsibilities currently residing with a number of different agencies.” That the creation of the hybrid Creative Scotland was mooted in January 2003, well in advance of the Cultural Commission, makes a mockery of the subsequent consultancy which cost the Scottish taxpayer £487,000 and robbed the arts communities of the valuable time they took to respond. Like so many consultative efforts, the basic terms were highly questionable, and the outcome a betrayal of the public.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Off the Shelf

A point of interest linking the Cultural Commission to Creative Scotland is to be found in the attempt to decide on an operational structure for the Commission. John Mason (Head of Tourism, Culture and Sport) was prompted to suggest setting up a company limited by guarantee [1], to which Gavin Barrie (Education Department, Cultural Policy) responded by sending a blueprint for the Cultural Commission Company. This posited the Scottish Ministers as its sole Member and James Boyle its only director, appointed by the Ministers, thereby stretching the arms-length principle to its limit. Expanding on the setting up of a company limited by guarantee, Barrie’s advice provides some insight into ‘public sector’ practices:

  • The Solicitors arrange to buy an “off-the-shelf-company” (usually from Oswalds) that approximates to what we require (Scottish Screen, the National Gaelic Resource Centre, and Bord na Gaidhlig (Alba) were all bought off the shelf as educational charities).
  • The off-the-shelf company will come with a Company Memorandum and Articles of Association which will need modified to suit the Cultural Commission.
This document continues:
  • The Solicitors find individuals to act as Promoters, Subscribers, Directors, Company Secretary, and Shareholders in order to get things in place. Sometimes civil servants are appointed as Directors initially.
  • We need to find people to own the shares and thus the company. This could be the Scottish Ministers, though that might not give the impression of independence and impartiality
  • There is an application to Companies House for a Certificate of Incorporation for the company. Once it has its certificate it can begin to operate as a legal entity i.e. to enter into contracts, hire staff etc. There is a fast track process for “same-day” incorporation. [2]

1. In an email of 8 May 2004 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/FOI/19260/CCPDF2 (accessed 15 February 2008).
2. By email on 24 May 2004 See page 35 of document http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/FOI/19260/CCPDF2 (accessed 15 February 2008).