Thursday, 1 October 2009

PSRB condemned amid legal concerns

Czar wars: MSPs warned watchdog reforms threaten basic rights
Tom Gordon, Published on 20 Sep 2009
Sweeping new powers which would let Scottish ministers scrap dozens of independent watchdogs risk damaging child protection and undermining the public’s basic rights, MSPs will be warned this week.
The Public Service Reform Bill has been condemned by several of Scotland’s “czars”, including those responsible for young people, human rights, and freedom of information. In a highly unusual step, the Scottish Parliament’s presiding officer has also raised concerns about the bill.
The legislation is meant to “simplify and improve” the country’s many public bodies, as well as create the arts quango Creative Scotland.
However, in addition it would give ministers the power to change, merge or abolish more than 100 specified public bodies, including all health boards, children’s panels and national parks.
Also listed are several independent watchdogs, including Audit Scotland, the Mental Welfare Commission, and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Although many of the bodies were established by a full act of parliament, under the proposals they could be scrapped via a simple ministerial order. Some – like the Scottish Information Commissioner – were designed to be wholly independent of ministers and are funded by the Scottish parliament, yet could be axed by the government.
In written evidence to this week’s finance committee meeting, the watchdogs will demand that they be removed from the scope of the bill.
Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, said the powers were of “great concern”, and could result in “weakened rights protection for Scotland’s children”.
Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, whose decisions on freedom of information (FoI) often embarrass ministers, said the powers were “inappropriate” and “anomalous”.
Despite government assurances that any changes would be merely “administrative”, he said they would “also have the effect of fundamentally changing Scotland’s FoI regime”.
Writing on behalf of the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body, presiding officer Alex Fergusson said he was “surprised” to see bodies funded by the parliament included in the bill, all of which are independent of government.
“We consider it is important to avoid actions which could limit or compromise that independence,” he said.
The newly established Scottish Human Rights Commission also said giving ministers sway over its operations was “not appropriate” and would undermine its independence.
The Commission for Public Appointments said the bill would give ministers “an incredibly wide and unfettered power”, which the Law Society of Scotland said was “constitutionally significant”.
A government spokesman said: “We are making public services simpler, sharper and better co-ordinated. The Public Services Reform Bill provides necessary changes to legislation to dissolve and merge more bodies and puts a new framework in place to manage future change … Any proposals would be subject to prior consultation and parliamentary approval.”
In a speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth today, Scottish leader Tavish Scott is due to attack the SNP for the “creeping centralisation” of government services.

Chief judge joins attack on public reform bill
Tom Gordon, Published on 27 Sep 2009
Scotland’s most senior judge has joined the attack on a new government bill that would give ministers unprecedented powers to abolish scores of public bodies.
Lord Hamilton, the Lord President, has told MSPs the Public Services Reform Bill is “incompatible with the constitutional position” of the Scottish Court Service and causes him “concern”.
Dr Jim Dyer, the former Scottish parliament standards watchdog, has also accused the government of ­“political machismo” on the issue, the Sunday Herald can reveal.
The criticisms are the latest blow to the bill, fast becoming one of the most controversial of the current parliament. As the Sunday Herald reported last week, the proposed legislation would allow ministers to change, merge or abolish more than 100 public bodies.
Many agencies covered by the bill are currently independent of government, and were never meant to be under ministerial control. These include the commissioners for young people and children, freedom of information, and human rights.
Last week, in evidence to Holyrood’s finance committee, the bill was criticised as heavy-handed by the Law Society of Scotland, as well as by the independent commissioners.
In further written evidence to the committee, Lord Hamilton says the bill could see ministers use a parliamentary order to axe, without its consent, the entire Scottish Court Service (SCS), which underpins the judiciary “as a third arm of government”. Given the SCS was created by a full act of parliament, “it should ... not be capable of being abolished by the power which is sought to be created by this bill”. He goes on: “I would regard it as incompatible with the constitutional position of the SCS that any modification or transfer [of powers] could occur without the consent of the SCS.”
Dr Dyer said ministers seemed hell-bent on culling public bodies. “There are dangers in an approach which is too doctrinaire and which involves some degree of political machismo, eg deciding … that the number of public bodies and the number of scrutiny bodies should be reduced by an arbitrary figure of 25%, then working out the rationale for abolishing and merging bodies afterwards.”
A Scottish government spokesman said: “There are no plans to make changes to the Scottish Court Service. We are making public services simpler, sharper and better co-ordinated.”

Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill written evidence

Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill written evidence received by the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee:

Friday, 14 August 2009

A creative Scotland?

A creative Scotland? II REBECCA GORDON NESBITT argues that a discredited concept is driving change in the arts
Money talks
This evening, in Edinburgh, the new landmark organisation for promoting culture in Scotland will be revealed, but the chances are that you won't have been invited to the launch, especially if you are a creative practitioner. Creative Scotland, as this new organisation will be known, is a hybrid creature – a replacement of Scottish Screen (the main film funding body) and the Scottish Arts Council (hitherto responsible for funding all other artforms falling outside the scope of the national bodies). Pragmatically, this might seem like a good way of saving on the overheads and administrative costs of running two separate cultural funding bodies – indeed this is how it was sold – but much more than fiscal prudence underlies this decision.
Early in the history of devolved government, it became clear that culture was one of the policy areas over which Westminster did not retain reserved powers. In his 2003 St Andrew's Day speech, Scotland's then First Minister, Jack McConnell, announced his intention to make 'the development of our creative drive, our imagination, the next major enterprise for our society'. Shortly afterwards, culture minister Frank McAveety launched the 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'.
There are precedents for this kind of cultural rethinking after a rupture with the old regime – in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, for example, culture was made a priority, with new museums, galleries and casas de cultura being built across the island and the arts being made integral to education at all levels, which necessitated the training of 20,000 new instructors.
In Scotland, a team of hand-picked commissioners undertook a year-long stakeholder consultation, at a cost to the public purse of £487,000, to make a series of recommendations aimed at reforming, rather than revolutionising, cultural provision. The Scottish Government decided to take forward the merger model they called Creative Scotland, which is hardly surprising given that, in January 2003 – more than a year before the costly Cultural Commission was embarked upon – a group set up to implement the 1999 national cultural strategy was being asked to consider the creation of a new agency, Creative Scotland, which would combine responsibilities then residing with a number of different agencies.
As legislation was drawn up around the new organisation, two worrying facts became clear – the first is that Creative Scotland effectively erodes the arms-length principle inscribed into arts councils north and south of the border since the end of World War II. It is this proviso, protected by Royal Charter, which seeks to ensure that artists have relative autonomy in the face of political sea changes and while this may have been dwindling in practice as the amount of unencumbered funding diminishes, the idea of supporting freedom of expression remains an important principle to uphold.
This leads us to the second major flaw in the model for Creative Scotland; when looking at the direction in which Scottish ministers intend to instrumentalise artists, one phrase rings out like a mantra: creative industries. This largely discredited approach, which explains the appointment of businessmen and bankers onto the board of Creative Scotland, is based on the tenuous idea that creative thinking will stimulate the failing post-industrial economies of the Western world. And, while a certain amount of creativity is inherent in the work of James Dyson or the birth of Lara Croft, this kind of entrepreneurialism is a world apart from conceptions of culture as a process of continual, critical re-evaluation, which should be integral to any free and fair society.
Belatedly realising that certain artforms would be discriminated against by their rhetoric around innovation, Scottish politicians have set up the traditional arts working group to perpetuate handicrafts and linguistic forms particular to Scotland. But it is between these two artificial poles of innovation and tradition that culture lies, and the formation of Creative Scotland shows a massive failure of Scottish politicians and cultural bureaucrats to grasp this.
In post-revolutionary Cuba, the first minister of culture was incredibly articulate about the humanity underlying creative processes which could form a counterpart to beneficial Enlightenment-driven developments in science to act against cultural regressiveness and dogma. However, just as the heralded benefits of Creative Scotland have been economic ones, the only objections being raised in mainstream Scotland have been financial. The initial dedicated Creative Scotland Bill fell in parliament on a budgeting irregularity, leaving the legislation to be smuggled into the Public Services Reform Bill, while the cost of converting two organisations into one has been the major concern of those tenured culture brokers expressing their views publicly. Having been batted between a series of culture ministers and from Labour to the nationalists, responsibility for giving life to Creative Scotland has fallen to Mike Russell as minister for culture, external affairs and the constitution, who launched a series of highly selective meetings aimed at assuaging the concerns of those who matter – the great and the good of Scottish cultural life.
But, beneath the spin, hundreds of artists in Scotland have put their names to an open letter to Russell, highlighting the clear distinction made by UNESCO between culture and commerce. It is these artists, largely unrepresented in the mainstream media, whose views have been routinely ignored by parliamentarians. It is these artists on whom the burden of Creative Scotland will fall and on whom the nation's hopes of economic recovery rest. It is these artists who have not received a card inviting them to the grand unveiling, the words 'Creative Scotland' magically revealed on its surface when it comes into contact with daylight.
As the hybrid creature that is Creative Scotland is unleashed onto an unsuspecting public, it is time to ask ourselves what would happen to Robert Burns or Charles Rennie Mackintosh if they attempted to develop their art in contemporary Scotland; whLinkat fate would await James Joyce or Samuel Beckett, Frida Kahlo or Pablo Picasso, if they were to arrive on these shores, seeking support for their talents. Unable to situate themselves on the tradition-innovation continuum as it is currently defined, they would face three equally unpalatable
choices: penury, obscurity or exile.

A creative Scotland? III DICK MUNGIN says we are promoting the wrong sort of Scottish culture at home and overseas
Where's the vision?

Creative Scotland to embrace science and technology
The Herald, PHIL MILLER, Arts Correspondent

Salmond’s cod nationalism only obscures the bigger picture
Sunday Herald, Wednesday, 5 August 2009, Paul Hutcheon
"...Will these "high Bohemians" - as the urban studies theorist Richard Florida calls them - be the 21st-century tobacco lords? In any case, the sector needs to be serviced by lawyers protecting their IP rights, developing licensing arrangements and generally assisting the creatives to ensure that their intellectual capital is protected and nurtured..." Philip Rodney, chairman of Burness LLP
Scotland’s lawyers can thrive as our creators and innovators drive the country’s recovery
Sunday Herald, 12/7/09, COMMENT: Philip Rodney
"Team Scotland - with all agencies, government, and industry pulling in the same direction - has to be reality, not aspiration. One focus on growing tourism, one focus on marketing Scotland andLink one desire to make Scotland the number one destination above the competition."
Tourism can be an essential part of our economic elite, so long as Team Scotland pulls together
Sunday Herald, 26/7/09, COMMENT: Peter Lederer
Tourist numbers fall by a million
The number of tourists visiting Scotland dropped by 8% last year with a big fall in business tourism and spending also falling.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill - call for evidence

Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill - call for evidence - Written evidence should be submitted no later than 12 noon on Thursday 13 August 2009. The ELLC Committee launched its consultation on the PSR Bill on 23 June 2009. Here is the Committee's call for evidence:
Creative Scotland : Public submission to parliamentary committee discussions of Creative Scotland and the Public Service Reform Bill, from Variant magazine
The Public Service Reform Bill states its “overarching purpose ... is to help simplify and improve the landscape of Scottish public bodies, to deliver more effective, co-ordinated government that can better achieve its core functions for the benefit of the people of Scotland.” Our submission argues that this is certainly not the case in the proposals concerning the formation of Creative Scotland. The bill’s proposals for Creative Scotland instead represent an historic revision and backward trend in cultural policy. We argue that the organisation of Creative Scotland, as it is presently proposed, erodes certain key values, such as the arms length principle and the universal distinction between culture and commerce.
These first principles were established under popular governments in the UK from 1945 onwards and in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions which came into force in 2007. Variant is an arts organisation that depends on these national principles and international standards being upheld if we are to survive in Scotland. We are already seeing the erosion of our rights to freedom of expression in official interference with the distribution of our publication thanks to contemporary policy increasingly geared towards the synergy of a promotional culture in Scotland.[1] The pressures now put upon us reflect the underlying logic of “single purpose government” rather than reflecting normative democratic values in cultural policy. We therefore object to the current proposals for Creative Scotland on the basis of our human rights.
Michael Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, has stated Creative Scotland is to be “an entrepreneurial organisation”. Indeed, the design of the organisation owes more to a mixture of bureaucrats and business people than it does to cultural practitioners or to those with independent critical expertise in cultural policy. The discursive isolation of Creative Scotland from broader-based debates about cultural policy has impoverished the discussion of its functions. The recent Hollyrood governments that proposed its creation have sought to reconcile economic instrumentalism and pure artistic freedoms (or “arts for arts sake”). However, this dichotomy, which Creative Scotland is said to transcend, is part of a complex history that has still not been fairly debated and assessed, as it should be, before making fundamental reforms to the ethos of cultural provision.
In his work on the post-1945 period, the historian Alan Sinfield summarises the view that democratic culture in the UK became relentlessly “squeezed between art and commerce.”[2] Only by ignoring such studies can an entrepreneurially orientated organisation be projected as a solution to a classic issue of cultural policy. Most scholars of cultural history would call into question the idea that freedom of artistic self-expression is synonymous with the defence of broader cultural rights, yet this is what has been implied time and again by politicians voicing support for Creative Scotland.
Creative Scotland offers a fundamental reform to a key aspect of democratic society, yet it is being pushed through as part of much wider bill aiming for a whole range of technocratic efficiencies which dissolve the arms length organisations – overwhelmingly these are scrutiny bodies at a time when failure of public accountability is salient.
Although reforms of cultural provision may be long overdue, without a more fully informed parliamentary enquiry to deepen MSPs discussion about cultural policy, the proposals for the organisation remain premature. The lack of parliamentary discussion about how to best pursue UNESCO treaty commitments to diversity of cultural expression (which include the diversity of political expression) has shown how far removed Scotland’s civic discourse on culture remains from a country like Sweden which pays greater attention to UNESCO standards. Sweden recognises the need to counteract “the negative effects of commercialism”[3] and how markets may distort and reify culture as a series of global commodities. However, the branding and commodification of culture in Scotland is one of the key motivations for the new organisation. Indeed throughout the promotion of Creative Scotland the idea of branding has been used in an entirely uncritical sense. On the other hand, scant regard has been paid to popular cultural institutions such as libraries and how popular cultural institutions and leisure may be strengthened and developed.
There is little or no evidence that an avowedly entrepreneurial organisation, more directly geared to economic policy, is needed or will improve existing relationships of sponsorship and/or synergies between the arts, culture and business. In this sense, the development of Creative Scotland’s mission, or ‘core script’, appears to be more about ideological engineering than economic necessity, improved service levels, or the public good. Moreover, the unintended consequences of the shift towards an entrepreneurial ideology in the public provision of culture have not been tested in free and fair public debate. Marketplace “truths” require far greater scrutiny, as has been amply demonstrated in recent months.
The risks of direct political influence over the arts was a preoccupation of the Arts Councils in the UK for many years, as Nicolas Pearson has charted, from the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Eighth annual report (1953): “Every organisation [the Council] assists, large or small, has its own governing body and it self-determined policy”, the importance of this being that, “Certain local authorities have shown an excess of zeal by providing concerts and plays under their own management, an endeavour which could be seen to be – even if not designed as such – a movement towards L’Art Officiel, and on that ground as dangerous as similar provision by a central quasi-governmental body such as the Arts Council”.[4]
However one judges the record of Arts Councils’ autonomy, and there are many scholars like Raymond Williams who thought that the arms length principle was in fact only a “wrist length” from the ruling establishment [5], the danger of Creative Scotland is more far-reaching than that of L’Art Officiel. Creative Scotland opens the door to a corporate-friendly Culture Officiel under the guise of cultural nationalism. This comes just at the moment when corporate power and the rule of markets are increasingly questioned by ordinary citizens. It would be naïve to assume that an agency set to abandon an already weak arms length principle in favour of a commercially orientated cultural policy could uphold the very criticality concerning culture and commerce that is already under threat.
1. Following a complaint from Culture & Sport Glasgow (CSG), Variant were informed that the magazine had been removed from Glasgow venues managed by CSG following the publication of ‘The New Bohemia’, an article by Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt that critically mapped the political network of CSG. The interference with the distribution of Variant would appear to contravene the author’s rights to free political expression as determined by the European Court of Human Rights in cases such as Lingens v. Austria (1986), Oberschlick v. Austria (1991). See, ‘Freedom of Expression on Trial: Caselaw under European Convention on Human Rights’, by Sally Burnheim, (Accessed May 2009.) See also, ‘Comment’ in Variant, issue 33. An extract from CSG’s complaint to Variant, 23/7/08, states: “The images you chose to illustrate the piece are in no way representative of Culture and Sport Glasgow and the work that it does. They would appear to have been chosen to illustrate the city of Glasgow in a negative way and thus associate Cu
lture and Sport Glasgow with negative imagery.”
2. Alan Sinfield, 'The Government, the People and the Festival', in Jim Fyrth (ed.), 'Labour's Promised Land?: Culture and Society in Labour Britain 1945-51', (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1995).
3. “The objectives of national cultural policy include safeguarding freedom of expression and creating genuine opportunities for everyone to make use of that freedom; taking action to enable everyone to participate in cultural life, to experience culture and to engage in creative activities of their own; promoting cultural diversity, artistic renewal and quality, thus counteracting the negative effects of commercialism; enabling culture to act as a dynamic, challenging and independent force in society; preserving and making use of our cultural heritage; promoting the thirst for lea
rning, and promoting international cultural exchange and meetings between different cultures in the country.” ‘Sweden’s objectives of national cultural policy’,
4. ‘The Quango and the Gentlemanly Tradition: British State intervention in the visual arts’, Nicholas Pearson, The Oxford Art Journal – 5:1 1982.
5. Williams, R. (1989 [1979]): The Arts Council. In: Williams, R.: ‘Resources of Hope. Culture, Democracy and Socialism’, (Verso).

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Question to Mike Russell

Question to Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution:
  • Creative Scotland is a confusing and self-contradictory set of proposals which smack of Orwellian newspeak.
  • So we want to ask you about your language, and the real meaning of your cultural policy.
  • We’re told government takes UNESCO legal instruments seriously, yet you also say Creative Scotland is to be “an entrepreneurial organisation” – ignoring the spirit of the UNESCO convention that culture should not be treated like commerce.
  • You say that you want dialogue, but that the time for talking is over.
  • You say that artists should be at the centre of Creative Scotland, but the bill overwhelmingly makes artists instruments of government policy – in the words of the bill, artists are to “support the government’s overarching purpose.”
  • You say you want Creative Scotland to support sustainable economic growth, but the organisation is being nursed into being by bankers and businessmen who have set back the cause of genuinely sustainable growth.
  • You say you care about producers, but you want to introduce loans to indebt us even more – a mechanism which has failed elsewhere.
  • You have even brought into play the old-fashioned and inadequate idea of “art for art’s sake” as a fudged safeguard against your own “overarching” policy.
  • Our key question is: what is to happen to individuals and organisations who do not want to support the corporate-friendly culture you are trying to engineer under the guise of Cultural Nationalism?

Creative Scotland : In Big Fuzzy Focus

"The first in a series of quarterly events to provide an update on progress to establish Creative Scotland was held at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh on June 23, 2009. Culture Minister Michael Russell, Ewan Brown, Chair of Creative Scotland and Richard Holloway, Chair of the Joint Board of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen spoke at the event which was chaired by Ruth Wishart. A question and answer session with the audience followed the speeches."
This documentation differs starkly from the original invitation and artists' expectations, where this was to be the "first in a series of quarterly events to discuss Creative Scotland" as well as "update the community on ongoing progress". It was said to "offer an opportunity for you to contribute towards Creative Scotland’s development and share your thoughts on the issues which are important to you", and it was hoped "you will be able to join the dialogue at this important time in the development of Creative Scotland." Alas, this was not part of the script.

The spectacle can be accessed here:

Creative Industries Partnership Report

Scotland’s Creative Industries Partnership Report:

"Scottish public bodies have signed an agreement on how they will support the creative industries sector of the Scottish economy. Scotland's Creative Industries Partnership brings together the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Creative Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Scottish Enterprise in an agreement..."

press release in full:

Creative Scotland : Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

The Scottish government documents that relate to the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill (SP Bill 26) as introduced in the Scottish Parliament on 28 May 2009 by John Swinney MSP, can be downloaded at:

An aid to Understanding the Legislative Process is available here:

Iain Smith resigns from Scottish Screen-Creative Scotland board

"I have resigned from frustration, and a sense that the board of which I was a member is just marking time, is no longer looking to the future, and is not in control of its own actions," Smith has said. "The urgency to get Creative Scotland together as quickly as possible, and the concern for a need for speed, will come at the cost of proper outcomes."

Smith had served on the Scottish Screen board since 2003.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Competitive Edges Symposium : Culture, Nationalism & Migration

Please check for updates

Competitive Edges Symposium : Culture, Nationalism & Migration

10.30am - 5.30pm Saturday 28th March 2009

CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts)
350 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G2 3JD
Event free but ticketed
Box office: +44 (0)141 352 4900

At the 2008 Lothian Lecture given in Edinburgh Professor Tom Nairn and Scotland's nationalist First Minister, Alex Salmond envisioned Scotland as a nimble nation "light on its feet" and "possibly out-smarting heavyweights". In many ways this idea draws upon Ireland's boom time image of the Celtic tiger. Given that nation states are not in fact mobile entities within the international juridical system of sovereignty, we aim to involve internationally acknowledged researchers, academics, writers and artists, who are engaged with the issues of globalisation, to explore what such ideas mean for culture and the arts, particularly in relation to identity and migration, and ultimately for the policies that shape culture.

This will be a vital opportunity for a wide range of people to historically locate contemporary cultural trends and to situate the politics and discourse of diversity in a comparative international context. We think it is particularly important to examine cultural policies in the context of uneven development and the phenomenal rise of the speculative international economy.

Historically, Scotland has experienced mass emigration particularly as a result of enforced rural 'improvements' in the 19th century. This has influenced the way the country imagines itself today. In 2004 the Scottish Arts Council held a major conference in Dundee, 'New Voices Hidden Histories', which created a debate about how mass immigration had also influenced the cultural landscape of Scotland and whether artists and arts organisations effectively represented contemporary Scottish society. One of the things that emerged from the conference was that the philosophical foundations of multiculturalism are vague and its politics potentially divisive or sectarian. As has similarly been described of contemporary multi-ethnic Ireland, 'multiculturalism' is a common linguistic currency which disavows everyday, institutional and state racist undertones in the name of racelessness. Far from promoting tolerance of cultural difference, orthodox multicultural policies have presented a number of paradoxes which work to harden territorialism and racism. Increasingly, the ideology of nations as lively corporate entities, such as 'UK PLC', appears to have no answer to the everyday experience of life in immobile unlimited states that do not enjoy an option for bankruptcy under international law.

Five years on, the issues raised in Dundee have been recast by the troubled progress of the Scottish parliamentary Creative Scotland Bill which, despite a confusing series of political twists and turns, still seems set to position culture closer to political and economic policies, possibly eroding the material basis of "the arms length principle" which informed cultural management after 1945. What is extremely unclear from orthodox multicultural ideas is how the complex values of multiculturalism will continue to function in practice: can there be a substantial critical relationship with the promotional model of culture that now informs cultural policy in many countries, and if so how successful would this be in relation to defending democratic rights and freedoms in culture? It is therefore especially timely to have the above symposium in Glasgow to comparatively explore how cultural freedoms and human rights might be upheld or eroded in the era of competitive nationalism.

Some of the key areas to be addressed are:

• the economic structuring of migration and national responses
• the policies that define 'diversity'
• the place of non-white academia
• development, sovereignty and citizenship
• cultural autonomy - communication or self-expression?


Femi Folorunso - works as arts development officer at the Scottish Arts Council. Prior to joining the Arts Council, he lectured in drama and cultural studies at universities in Nigeria and the UK. Femi continues to retain strong academic interest in drama and cultural theory as well as in cultural policy development. He is currently researching the disenfranchisement of immigrants under the neoliberal reconstruction of citizenship. His contribution will focus on the interconnections between race, migration and international development.

Ronit Lentin - director of the MPhil in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin.
['From racial state to racist state: Ireland on the eve of the citizenship referendum', Variant, issue 20, Summer 2004]

Sarah Glynn - Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh and a Public Interest Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde.

Robbie McVeigh - Derry-based human rights activist and researcher on racism and sectarianism, equality and human rights.

Stephen Mullen - co-ordinator/researcher with GARA (Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance) - will argue that there is romantic view of the ubiquitous Scot abroad, which is symbolic of the selective perception of Scottish history. In spite of sustained Scottish emigration to the Caribbean slave plantations from c.1650 onwards, this period is sometimes viewed through a deliberately obscured lens. Stephen will explore factors contributing to this national amnesia and illustrate implications for the national identity. The omission of the less glorious aspects of our history means there is an unacknowledged legacy of Scots emigrants. There are many tangible examples of this legacy in the Caribbean, although this is not reflected in the narrow scope and focus of the Homecoming programme in 2009. The Homecoming encourages the Scots Diaspora to return home to participate in festivities, celebrate the birth of Robert Burns and to revel in the achievements of notable emigrants. However, this legacy extends to more than pioneering inventions, whisky and golf. Indeed, the kilt has many colours.


Owen Logan - photographer and Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen. Owen works with the 'Lives in the Oil Industry' oral history project in the Department of History at the university, and is currently working between Scotland and Nigeria.


Daniel Jewesbury - artist & co-editor of Variant magazine
['The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain', Daniel Jewesbury, Variant, issue 32, Summer 2008]
Alex Law - Lecturer in Sociology at University of Abertay Dundee whose research interests include Nation and Society, and Urbanism.
['Social Capital and Neo-Liberal Voluntarism', Alex Law & Gerry Mooney, Variant, issue 26, Summer 2006]

For further information, please contact Variant:
t. +44 (0)141 333 9522

Or check the website for updates:

This event is kindly supported by CCA.

UNESCO Tackles Culture and Commerce
UNESCO Tackles Culture and Commerce

A new international treaty entered into force in March, encouraging parties to adopt measures to protect the diversity of cultural expressions that may be imperilled by the quickening pace of globalisation.
Since the early 1980s, international trade in cultural goods has grown six-fold, increasing from US$9.5 billion in 1980 to US$60 billion in 2002. According to the World Bank, cultural and creative industries account for more than 7 percent of world GNP, which represents a global commercial value of US$1.3 trillion. A handful of countries export the lion’s share of cultural goods, with Europe leading at 51.8 percent, followed by Asia (20.6 percent) and North America (16.9 percent). Likewise, rich countries account for more than 90 percent of all cultural imports, led by the US, the UK and Germany. In contrast, Latin America and Africa were estimated to represent 3 and 1 percent, respectively, of world trade in cultural goods in 2002.
Some statistics on the diversity of cultural expressions are startling. For example, while Hollywood accounts for 85 percent of box office revenue worldwide, in Africa just 2 percent of the population has seen African films. There thus appears to be both a decrease in the dissemination of cultural goods on a global scale, and a decline in the production of, and access to, a diversity of such goods and services.
In addition, cultural industries are progressively taking over traditional forms of creation and dissemination and bringing about changes in cultural practices. The diminishing diversity of languages offers a striking example: while there are more than 6000 living languages in the world, those used in commerce and new technologies are increasingly dominant. It is estimated that a language disappears every two weeks and there are predictions that 90 percent of them will be extinct within a hundred years.

Convention on Cultural Diversity
It is against this backdrop that the members of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions1 in October 2005. The treaty, which entered into force in March 2007, recognises that cultural goods and services cannot be treated as mere commodities. It explicitly allows parties to protect and promote the diversity of their cultural expressions [1] through, for instance, adopting measures aimed at:
providing opportunities for the creation, production, dissemination and enjoyment of domestic cultural activities, goods and services, including provisions relating to language;
providing domestic independent cultural industries and activities in the informal sector effective access to the means of production, dissemination and distribution;
providing public financial assistance; and enhancing diversity of the media, including through public service broadcasting.
Parties to the convention may also take ‘all appropriate measures’ to protect and preserve cultural expressions in situations where they have determined that these are at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding.

Relationship with WTO Rules
A major point of contention during the negotiations for the new treaty was how its provisions would relate to WTO disciplines. Opponents, such as the US, saw its main purpose as an attempt to give additional legitimacy for the maintenance and possible expansion of measures – maintained by countries such as Canada, China, France, South Korea and many others – that restrict market penetration of foreign films and music, as well as other cultural products or services (magazines, audiovisual broadcasts, etc.). Its proponents considered it as a necessity to safeguard the survival of their cultural identity, language and traditions.
The convention has been ratified by 67 individual countries, as well as the European Union as a whole. The US voted against its adoption, arguing that the instrument remained “too flawed, too open to misinterpretation and too prone to abuse for us to support.” The US also stressed that the convention “must not be read to prevail over or modify rights and obligations under other international agreements, including WTO agreements. Potential ambiguities in the convention must not be allowed to endanger what the global community has achieved, over many years, in the areas of free trade, the free flow of information, and freedom of choice in cultural expression and enjoyment.”
The language regarding the treaty’s relationship with other international agreements is indeed ambiguous: on the one hand it affirms that parties will not ‘subordinate’ the convention to any other treaty, and on the other it specifies that nothing in it “shall be interpreted as modifying rights and obligations of the parties under any other treaties.”
Thus, should a WTO dispute arise regarding measures taken to protect the diversity of cultural expressions, a defendant in the case could refer to the rights accorded by the convention, while a complainant could evoke the clause that it does not modify the defendant’s obligations under other treaties. Non-parties, such as the US, would of course not be bound by the convention’s provisions at all. Legal scholar Joost Pauwelyn, however, has argued that the WTO “presumably would not wish to isolate itself from the rest of the international lawmaking world by closing its eyes to any legislative initiative agreed on outside its own building, be it consented to by the disputing parties or not.”[2]

See also:
UNESCO Overwhelmingly Approves Cultural Diversity Treaty

Open Letter to Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution

What follows is an open letter to Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution, concerning Creative Scotland (the proposed merger of the public bodies, the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen) that will shortly be sent to him. The letter was formed through open group discussion and concentrated exchanges between artists and members of Variant’s affinity group. If you concur with the letter and wish to sign it, either in a personal or ‘official’ capacity, then please email Variant at:
For ongoing analysis of the Creative Scotland debacle, please visit:

Open Letter to Mike Russell MSP, Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution

Dear Mike Russell,
Re. Promotional Culture versus Democratic Culture: The Case of Creative Scotland
After a long series of confusing twists and turns over cultural policy in Scotland it is clear that there is considerable controversy surrounding the proposed cultural body Creative Scotland. We believe Creative Scotland is already impoverishing culture by promoting and envisaging it in overwhelmingly industrial terms. This misguided approach ultimately fixates on anything or anyone that can be bought, sold or put into debt[1], and stands against the spirit and letter of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions which came into force in March 2007.[2]
So far, the formation of Creative Scotland has been a largely opportunistic political and bureaucratic exercise in a country which suffers from significant democratic deficits despite our devolved parliament. It is therefore vital that this organisation, if it is to truly represent the interests of culture, builds moral and democratic authority. We take your recent ministerial appointment as evidence of the seriousness of this problem at the heart of Creative Scotland.
It is disappointing that your first public meeting, at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (18th February 2009) about the new cultural agenda was with a selected gathering. Many people who wanted to attend, such as the President of University Colleges Union in Scotland, were excluded. It should go without saying that there are intertwined problems of protecting criticality and freedom in education as in culture. However, the ‘Team Scotland’ ethos already expressed for Creative Scotland[3] demonstrates far narrower promotional and business-led objectives that neglect these and other treaty obligations in cultural policy.
Other countries which have also ratified the UNESCO declaration, such as Sweden, recognise prosperity as an important consideration in cultural aims[4]. Yet, in contrast to successive pronouncements in our country, Sweden’s policy explicitly states the need to counteract “the negative effects of commercialism”. Evidently Scotland and Sweden’s leaders in the cultural policy area are not singing from the same song sheet. However, given that both nations are signed up to the same universal rights and obligations, we, as citizens, are entitled to ask why there has been absolutely no sense in Scotland’s political discourse of all the ways that culture and commerce are not compatible?
Is it that Scotland is conforming to an old slur against its people and is now ruled by the same short-sighted money-minded people, the best of whom have presided over financial disaster, or is it that we have not been represented in accountable and truly democratic terms? In either case we see the dominant ethos of Creative Scotland as deeply flawed. It is highly inappropriate that Creative Scotland is being forged by bankers and businessmen who are evidently insensitive to, or ignorant of, the broad implications of cultural policy. Their patronage or support for certain cultural activities is no qualification and does not enable them to address culture as whole. We therefore urge the resignation of Ewan Brown, Peter Cabrelli and Chris Masters from the board of Creative Scotland on the grounds of their inability to fully discuss this key issue of democratic society with politicians, civil servants and wider communities.
In accordance with our international obligations under the UNESCO convention from March 2007, it is also essential the following points are recognised in, and made central to, Creative Scotland’s ‘core script’:
• Culture must be protected from commerce, particularly from the economic processes of globalisation.
• The very idea of ‘Team Scotland’ is a symptom of these competitive processes and should be removed. It is not a means to defend diversity of expression, nor does it promote international co-operation. These two obligations should be clearly addressed.
• The poverty, and consequent lack of autonomy, of artists and cultural workers must be acknowledged as a key issue that should be addressed by any cultural organisation seeking to articulate the public interest and the common good.

John Porter & Helen McGregor
Owen Logan (Honorary Research Fellow, University of Aberdeen)
Leigh French & Daniel Jewesbury (editors, Variant magazine)
Tim Nunn
Euan Sutherland (visual artist)
Giles Bailey
Bridget Fowler, (Professor Emerita of Sociology, University of. Glasgow)
George Tarbuck, Lighting Designer
Doug Aubrey (Artist/Filmmaker)
Gair Dunlop
Roxane Permar (artist)
Ellie Harrison (artist)
Lesley Punton (Lecturer, The Glasgow School of Art)
Jim Colquhoun (artist)
David Harding (artist & educator)
Larry Butler (Convenor of Lapidus Scotland)
Leigh Ferguson
Monika Vykoukal (Curator, Peacock Visual Arts)
Marlene Sim
Catherine Czerkawska
Matthew Zajac (Joint Artistic Director, Dogstar Theatre Company)
Gordon Asher (adult educator)
Angie Dight
Neil Davidson
Rachel Jury (Writer)
Neil Mulholland (ECA)
Andrew Ross (Professor and Chair, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University)
Mandy McIntosh (artist)
Lucy Johnstone (artist)
Kathryn Elkin
Louise Shelley
Sophia Lycouris (Edinburgh College of Art)
Pernille Spence (The University of Dundee)
Philippa Hall (Uclan & Open University Scotland)
David Kerr
William Wilson (Lyth Arts Centre)
Lynn Wray
Dr Alex Law (Division of Sociology, University of Abertay Dundee)
Terry Brotherstone (University of Aberdeen / President UCU Scotland in a personal capacity)
Ann Vance (artist/film maker)
Daniel Simpkins (Director, Critical Network)
Stephen Hurrel
Ken Davidson (Shortlisted artist, Creative Scotland 2005)
Dr Olga Taxidou (English Literature, University of Edinburgh, Academic and Playwright)
David Stamp (artist)
Joanne Tatham & Tom O’Sullivan (artists)
Simon Gowing (artist)
Mick Peter (artist)
Johnny Gailey (arts education officer)
Kate Orson
Paula Larkin (Development Worker, Document - International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival)
Tim Birtwistle
Karla Black
Doug Russell (Actor)
Xana Maclean (Freelance Performance Maker, Formerly head of the Royal Lyceum Youth Theatre)
Ross Birrell
Neil McIntee (BAhons, P.Grad MFA)
Alex Hetherington
Janie Nicoll (artist)
Anthony Schrag (artist)
Bob Hamilton
Des O’Sullivan
Lila de Magalhaes
Dr. Sarah Glynn (architect & academic)
Iain MacInnes
Dr. Mo Hume
Colin Darke (artist)
Miller Caldwell (Society of Authors and a member of the cross party committee)
Penny Whitehead & Daniel Simpkins (artists)
Jo Timmins (Theatre Practitioner)
Myrto Stampoulou
Clare Yarrington
Rob Kennedy

1. “The Government wants Scotland to be recognised as one of the world’s most creative nations - one that attracts, develops and retains talent, where the arts and the creative industries are supported and celebrated and their economic contribution fully captured.” [our emphasis] Published - 5 February 2009, Support For Creative Industries: Roles And Responsibilities - Core Script
The previous minister Linda Fabiani stated: “If formed, Creative Scotland will add to the range of funding sources available to artists and creative practitioners. As well as grants, it will develop a wider portfolio of funding methods including loans and investments.” This was reinforced further in a Sunday Herald article, where it was reported, “A spokeswoman from the Creative Scotland transition team stated: ‘Creative Scotland will be looking at a range of alternative investment models, with the aim of finding and increasing sources of funding.’ Tax incentives, venture capital, loans and corporate investment are all potential models previously mentioned by the transition team.”
2. Culture is itself broadly defined in the convention as a complex phenomenon; “...consequently cultural goods and services convey identity, values and meaning and cannot be treated as mere commodities or consumer goods like any others...” p4 ‘UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions’.
3. 5 February 2009, Support For Creative Industries: Roles And Responsibilities - Core Script
4. “The objectives of national cultural policy include safeguarding freedom of expression and creating genuine opportunities for everyone to make use of that freedom; taking action to enable everyone to participate in cultural life, to experience culture and to engage in creative activities of their own; promoting cultural diversity, artistic renewal and quality, thus counteracting the negative effects of commercialism; enabling culture to act as a dynamic, challenging and independent force in society; preserving and making use of our cultural heritage; promoting the thirst for learning, and promoting international cultural exchange and meetings between different cultures in the country.” ‘Sweden’s objectives of national cultural policy’

Monday, 19 January 2009

Creative Scotland : Parliamentary motion

As a direct outcome of the signed letter to MSPs, there has been a Parliamentary motion on The Future of the Arts in Scotland:

*S3M-3166 Cathy Peattie: The Future of the Arts in Scotland — That the Parliament notes the letter circulated on 5 January 2008, with 440 signatories, expressing apprehension about the formation of Creative Scotland and the effects on artists' welfare and practice, including the view that the situation regarding Creative Scotland has now reached crisis point; notes that the letter highlights a perceived lack of concern for artists' needs and UNESCO declarations on culture and freedom, a lack of meaningful consultation with the arts communities during the transition process, an inadequacy of funding and an impact on artistic independence of proposals that include an exploitation of intellectual property rights and an introduction of loans coupled with a cut in grant aid; recognises that this is the latest in a series of criticisms of the Creative Scotland proposals and believes that this lack of confidence in the formation of Creative Scotland is shared by many others; considers that the proposals for Creative Scotland have failed to convince many people that they offer any significant improvement on the current provision of support for artists and the development of, and entitlement to, culture in Scotland and moreover that many consider that they will have a negative impact on our arts and culture, and believes that the Scottish Government should take on board these criticisms and not proceed further without reviewing its plans, consulting widely and seeking consensus on a positive and constructive way forward for the funding and development of arts and culture in Scotland.

Robin Harper MSP has confirmed in writing he has signed Cathy Peattie's motion. (We will collate and make public all MSP's responses to the letter asap.)

The Scottish Artists Union has been trying to meet with the Culture minister, Linda Fabiani for 18 months, and has been consistently ignored. The letter to MSPs & the press, alongside other SAU members' individual letters, prompted the following question to be asked in parliament with Fabiani publicly conceding to meet with the SAU:

Scottish Parliament, Thursday 8 January 2009

Scottish Artists Union (Meetings)

7. Ken Macintosh : To ask the Scottish Executive whether the Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture plans to meet the Scottish Artists Union to discuss the establishment of creative Scotland. (S3O-5419)

The Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture (Linda Fabiani): I am currently arranging meetings with various groups to discuss the establishment of creative Scotland. The Scottish Artists Union is, of course, welcome to participate.

Ken Macintosh: I think that I am pleased to hear that response, although I would certainly be pleased if the minister responded to the clear expressions of concern from Scotland's artistic community about the establishment of creative Scotland. Before or following her meetings, will she clarify exactly what reduction in support Scottish artists can expect to receive from an organisation with a standstill or smaller budget but greater responsibilities?

Linda Fabiani: I remind Ken Macintosh that, last year, I announced to the Parliament £5 million for new and innovative funding for the arts and creativity under creative Scotland.

On the extent to which the Scottish Parliament will be allowed to scrutinise the proposals for Creative Scotland, see:

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Europe, External Affairs and Culture : Creative Scotland Bill

Rhona Brankin : To ask the Scottish Executive what plans it has to bring a creative Scotland bill back to the Parliament. (S3O-5398)
I am sorry, Presiding Officer—I meant to say "back to Parliament".

Linda Fabiani : It is always best to be exact, Presiding Officer.
As announced in Parliament on 3 September 2008, we plan to legislate for creative Scotland's principles and functions in the proposed public services reform bill.

Rhona Brankin : I would be grateful for an exact response to my supplementary. Will the minister indicate the costs of establishing creative Scotland? Are reports that they have soared to £7 million accurate? Does she share my concern that those rising administration costs will result in money being diverted away from front-line arts spending? Indeed, is it not the case that the Scottish National Party has squandered the support for creative Scotland that had been built up by the previous Administration and has completely lost the artistic community's confidence?

Linda Fabiani : We are finalising the transition costs, which will be presented to Parliament at the appropriate time. That is as it should be.

Ted Brocklebank : Given the difficulties that the minister experienced during the passage of the Creative Scotland Bill in explaining to the Parliament which agency would be responsible for disbursing funding to the arts in Scotland, can she now tell us whether Scottish Enterprise or creative Scotland will be the lead agency in funding arts bodies?

Linda Fabiani : What is important to the Government and recipients of funding is having a transparent system for disbursing such funds. We are working with partners to create the best possible system for giving funding to creators in our country.

Iain Smith : The uncertainty and confusion over creative Scotland's future is entirely the result of the Government's incompetence. Will the minister explain why the Government is determined to go behind Parliament's back by establishing creative Scotland without returning to the Parliament to address our funding concerns? When will she come back to Parliament to answer the serious concerns that were raised when the Creative Scotland Bill's financial resolution was rejected last summer? Why is she unwilling to proceed on a cross-party basis? Why did she refuse my request for a cross-party meeting to consider the best way forward for creative Scotland?

Linda Fabiani : We will agree to differ on the difficulties of presenting plans for creative Scotland to Parliament last year. I contend that the Opposition lacked understanding, which forced the bill's failure.
It is perfectly right to bring our plans for creative Scotland back to Parliament in the public services reform bill. As Opposition members have said, we do not need to go down the legislative route, but legislation is important, not least to establish the arm's-length principle for the arts, which had never been mooted until our Administration produced the Creative Scotland Bill. Parliamentary scrutiny will take place when the public services reform bill is introduced.

And, given the disingenuous government statement in response to the letter...

"The Creative Scotland limited company will take forward the practicalities of merging the existing organisations.
"The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously in favour of the establishment of Creative Scotland as a statutory body, and we will proceed with the democratic legislative route, not least to enshrine the important arms length principle in arts funding.
"The culture minister has agreed to meet with a number of representatives from across the sector to hear and address their concerns about the transition process and remit of Creative Scotland."

[In fact on June 18th 2008 the Scottish Parliament DID NOT vote unanimously for the establishment of Creative Scotland. To be precise, they voted in favour of the proposed Creative Scotland Bill passing Stage 1 of its course into law. There would have followed a further second stage of scrutiny during which, crucially, the bill could have been amended before a final vote. Later in the same session members disagreed over the passage of the bill's Financial Memorandum and split 49/68 for and against.
At which point the culture minister, Ms Fabiani, had not agreed to meet, and has never met with, the Scottish Artists Union; the only politically and fiscally independent representative organisation for visual and applied artists in the country -- and they still await any specific invitation. Nor has the minister responded to the letter, to meet with artists, or otherwise.] might be interested in the news that "The Scottish Parliament's presiding officer has ordered an inquiry amid continued claims that ministers have been misleading parliament." Probe into Holyrood comments row:

Freedom of Information Requests

Freedom of Information Requests in response to Aileen Campbell MSP

(1) I would like to know who the Culture Minister has met with to date regarding the establishment of Creative Scotland, who these interested parties are and what interests they represent?

(2) Could the Culture Minister please provide a full schedule of who she is to meet and when regarding the establishment of Creative Scotland?

(3) You say that the "Government has increased the budget for culture by 14% in cash terms over three years", can you please back this up: what do you mean by 'culture' here (just what does it include); how was this funding distributed (if indeed it was all public funding), by whom and what was the conditionality; and how has this figure been calculated?

(4) Are the set up costs for Creative Scotland to come from its grant in aid budget? If so, what are these costs and what impact assessment has been done on the immediate loss of available funding for cultural provision in Scotland that will result?

(5) Will the additional running costs for Scottish Cultural Enterprise and other agencies' work not currently undertaken by Scottish Screen or the Scottish Arts Council come out of Creative Scotland's proposed grant in aid budget? If so, what are the costs involved, what is this additional work, how will it be done, who will do it, what will it cost? Is it proposed or envisaged that Creative Scotland take on any further additional 'enterprise' work in the future?

(6) What will be the level of grant in aid funding to Creative Scotland once the 'additional' Creative Scotland Innovation Fund stops after two years?

(7) Has there been any assessment of the impact of a fall in grant in aid for Creative Scotland on artists in Scotland, and the ability for the Scottish Government to sustain cultural provision in a prolonged recession?

(8) What other means is it proposed that Creative Scotland generate income, other than being in receipt of grant in aid? Has there been any assessment of how sustainable these mechanisms would be, and how Creative Scotland will generate income and sustain cultural provision in a prolonged recession?

(9) With regard to the Scottish Government launching debt onto artists: exactly what is the government proposing when the Culture Minister announced: “If formed, Creative Scotland will add to the range of funding sources available to artists and creative practitioners. As well as grants, it will develop a wider portfolio of funding methods including loans and investments."? I ask exactly what is this "wider portfolio of funding methods"; what are they, how will they be administered, who will administer them; what will be the eligibility criteria, who will adjudicate this and under what processes/conditions; what are the costings for these, and what is the impact assessment on artists and arts organisations?

(10) Are the Scottish Government aware of the current levels of visual arts graduate / post-graduate debt and have these factored into any discussions on the formation of Creative Scotland and "the range of funding sources [to be] available to artists and creative practitioners"?

(11) What work has been done to assess the viability of a "portfolio of funding methods" with regard to maintaining current levels of support for artistic production in Scotland?

(12) Will the introduction of loans or other funding mechanisms result in the depletion or phasing out of the number and amount available of the equivalent of today's non-repayable SAC grants to artists and arts organisations?

(13) What work has been done to assess the envisaged long term cultural, economic and social effects of the introduction of a "range of funding sources available to artists and creative practitioners"?

(14) What provision will be made to cope with artists' / arts organisations' debt as a result of loans and what provision will be made to cope with non repayment of any loans?

(15) Has there been an assessment of the impact the financial crisis will have on Creative Scotland and the envisaged "portfolio of funding methods", how it will impact existing SAC clients and what their additional needs are likely to be and how they will be met, and how it will impact other cultural organisations reliant on sponsorship / advertising for support?

(16) Can the Scottish Government guarantee that Creative Scotland will not be competing with arts organisations, or other cultural bodies if it is proposed Creative Scotland generate additional income to supplement its grant in aid?

(17) Has there been an assessment of how exposed Creative Scotland will be to the financial crisis and recession, and what measures will there be in place to ensure the security of provision for contemporary culture in Scotland during this difficult time?

(18) How is it envisaged the effects of the financial crisis and recession on artists and cultural organisations be mitigated by Creative Scotland, rather than further exposed via unnecessary marketisation at this highly unstable time?

(19) We are led to believe that with Creative Scotland art-form specialisms will no longer exist. Precisely what will this mean for the guaranteeing of specialist art-form funding? What art-form specialisms knowledge will there be in Creative Scotland, how will specialisms be represented, and how will artists be represented?

(20) What has been the total expenditure on the Transition Team and the transition process to date, including salaries, additional consultants, all and any other associated costs? Please indicate how these figures have been calculated.

Requests for information on IPR in response to Pete Wishart MP

It would be a great help if you [Pete Wishart MP] and / or the Culture Minister could provide the details of the Transition Team's examination (or any other Creative Scotland / Scottish Arts Council / Scottish Screen discussions or consultancy work) of IPR and exactly what Creative Scotland's position will be on IPR? Not least how this relates to the models of IPR exploitation as proposed and exemplified by NESTA?

NESTA was the outcome of an exploration of copyright- and profit-orientated approaches to ‘investment’ -- “set up with Lottery funding to help people turn bright ideas into products, services or techniques with social and commercial benefit”. NESTA advocates its retention of patent rights for intellectual property resulting from publicly funded work and the wider state exploitation of IPR. The Scottish Arts Council has just put out a consultancy tender for "The 21st Century financing for the arts and creative industries in Scotland Study", does the exploitation of IPR feature in this consultancy?

Given the Transition Team appear to have lifted wholesale NESTA's definition of 'Creative Industries', it would also be of benefit to know who associated, directly or indirectly, with NESTA the Transition Team consulted / met with, how frequently and what was discussed, and how influential NESTA have been on the thinking underpinning Creative Scotland?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Confusion on the matter of Creative Scotland continues...

In an article in The Herald on January 6th, a Scottish Government spokesperson is quoted as saying:

"The culture minister has agreed to meet with a number of representatives from across the sector to hear and address their concerns about the transition process and remit of Creative Scotland."

Ms Fabiani has not agreed to meet, and has never met with, the SAU, the only politically and fiscally independent representative organisation for visual and applied artists in the country. The spokesperson also said:

"The Scottish Parliament voted unanimously in favour of the establishment of Creative Scotland as a statutory body, and we will proceed with the democratic legislative route, not least to enshrine the important arms length principle in arts funding."

This is disingenuous. On June 18th 2008 the Scottish Parliament DID NOT vote unanimously for the establishment of Creative Scotland. To be precise, they voted in favour of the proposed Creative Scotland Bill passing Stage 1 of its course into law. There would have followed a further second stage of scrutiny during which, crucially, the bill could have been amended before a final vote. Later in the same session members disagreed over the passage of the bill's Financial Memorandum and split 49/68 for and against. A full account of business in the chamber on that day can be found at:

Anyone who reads this report can be in no doubt that the will of parliament was not four-square behind Creative Scotland in the summer of last year, and in the opening weeks of the new year our findings are that opinion among MSPs remains divided.

Later this month the Scottish Government will represent Creative Scotland within the Public Services Reform Bill and in terms that will deal only with its financing. In doing so are taking as read full parliamentary agreement to every article of the Creative Scotland Bill. They seek a short cut past the second stage of scrutiny and possibility of amendment that would have been brought to bear on the Creative Scotland Bill as a matter of course, had they not embarrassed themselves with their lack of clarity in the Financial Memorandum. Therefore their dedication to the "democratic legislative route" must be called into question.

The Scottish Artists Union maintains that in the interests of clarity and transparency as well as the continuing consultation that the entire arts sector is crying out for, Creative Scotland should not be included in the Public Services Reform Bill.

440 sign letter opposed to Creative Scotland

Many thanks to all who have signed the letter to MSPs in a collective expression of concern over the proposals for Creative Scotland.

The letter, signed by 440 individuals in total over the winter break, urging MSPs to withdraw their support for Creative Scotland, was sent out to MSPs in hard copy to arrive on Monday 5th January 2009.

The letter was written following the artist-led public meeting in Glasgow on 10th December 2008, collating artists' concerns expressed at this meeting, which have been forming over a considerable period of time. Concurring with a majority of the points raised in the letter, individuals have registered their affirmation.

As explained in the letter, the opposition to Creative Scotland is comprehensive, and a collective response has been instigated due to a serious loss of confidence in the Government's will and ability to communicate with artists in Scotland. As is evidenced in the letter, there is an overwhelming sense of frustration at the lack on meaningful consultation, as successive governments have systematically ignored the artists at the heart of cultural life in this country.

We have been in communication with a number of MSPs and extensive press and media contacts, and will be awaiting a prompt response once the letter has been received

Best wishes
Guyan Porter, Leigh French

A PDF of the signed letter is available here:

'The future of the arts in Scotland : Creative Scotland, an artists' briefing paper'

'The future of the arts in Scotland : Creative Scotland, an artists' briefing paper'

Can be downloaded as a PDF here:

The briefing paper 'The future of the arts in Scotland' was put together as an urgent response to what is now considered as a crisis within the arts in Scotland. The paper was constructed with input from arts professionals across Scotland, has been distributed widely via various artists' and arts organisations email lists, blogs, and other online means, and put out as an artists' briefing prior to the meeting held on 10th December 2008.