While the production framed by the political contrivance 'Traditional Arts' is still couched in terms of making "a significant contribution to Scotland's economy" (SAC), the intention here is not to set art forms competing against each other for resources but rather to show that MSPs have identified need for support of cultural production outwith creative industries 'entrepreneurialism'.
Edd McCracken, Arts Correspondent - Herald, 31 Jan 2010
Scotland’s traditional arts – music, dance, songs and story-telling – should have its own national company on a par with the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Opera, according to a new report commissioned by the Scottish Government.
The recommendation is just one from the Traditional Arts Working Group report, published today at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.
The document’s major theme is how the traditional arts can achieve the same parity of esteem with the likes of other publicly funded art forms such as theatre, ballet and classical music.
It claims that in the traditional arts, such as highland dancing and folk music, “their significance and value is still not recognised, promoted and celebrated enough”.
Other recommendations include: the creation of a Traditional Arts Apprentice scheme, matching young traditional musicians or dancers with an experienced mentor; the creation of a traditional arts centre; Creative Scotland to set up a specialist fund for the traditional arts; and a major study be undertaken into their economic impact.
The working group was established in February last year by the then culture minister Linda Fabiani. Its remit was to report to the Government how the traditional arts could be best supported and their future secured. The group was chaired by David Francis, musician and founder of the Traditional Music Forum. He said raising the profile and confidence of the traditional arts is the “fundamental idea that underpinned the whole thing”.
On the establishment of a traditional arts national company he said: “It is about getting the traditional arts put on the same level of esteem. Scottish Opera employs 200 people and every show is a spectacle. We’re not looking for parity in that sense. It is just so that the traditional arts are seen in the same light as these other art forms, which for historical and political reasons have always managed to grab a big share of whatever money for culture is going”.
He added that, despite being hampered by “haggis and heather” cliches, on the whole the traditional arts have be “getting there” in Scotland.
“The process of putting together the report for the minister has been really useful in giving us a snapshot of the traditional arts community’s key concerns at this stage in its development,” he said. “We found, by and large, a confident community in good heart.”
Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop said many of the ideas were “achievable”.
“The idea that key individuals might pass on their skills and expertise to a younger generation via some kind of mentoring scheme is particularly attractive. I have asked the Scottish Arts Council and Creative Scotland to look at how this might work in practice and to make recommendations. The report also recognises that traditional arts make a significant contribution to Scotland’s economy; I have already asked for an assessment of that contribution to be carried out.”
She added she would respond fully to all the recommendations in June.
Sent: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
To: Peattie C (Cathy), MSP
Subject: Re: Traditional Arts Working Group
thanks for your email and for forwarding the information about the Traditional Arts Working Group. Can you tell me if there is a definition of Traditional Arts and if so, who has come up with it? How will the support for the Traditional Arts be balanced with support for the non Traditional Arts, as well as other art forms, and are there extra funding streams in place to match any proposed support specifically aimed towards the Traditional Arts?
Date: 21 July 2009
Subject: RE: Traditional Arts Working Group
The use of the term traditional arts generally refers to traditional music, dance and storytelling.
There has been a particular problem with funding for traditional arts and Scots language - not least SAC criteria which effectively excluded organisations devoted to traditional forms by virtue of them not being innovative enough. Not that they weren't innovative, but intrinsically, their development is long term / evolutionary / participative / organic, which means they were never likely to fare well under such criteria.
This problem threatened the existence of several leading traditional arts organisations, at a time when we were about to have a special celebration our cultural heritage in the year of the homecoming. The sums involved were not huge in the overall scale of things - the groups' grants were tens of thousands rather than the millions that are consumed by some - but the cuts would, at very least, severely curtail their activities and affect a lot of people.
It was the recognition of this problem that prompted the setting up of the working group.
The CPG has a lot of people with an interest in the traditional arts, including I am sure, some whose primary reason for involvement lies elsewhere, so I forwarded the email to everyone. It may also be that others share some of the problems that face the traditional arts groups, and they would like to see action across the board to address these issues. There are, I know, also other criticisms regarding support for other groups. As you know, the CPG is available as a forum for discussion and circulation of material pertaining to any such matter.
Culture, External Affairs and Tourism Directorate Culture Division
T: 0131-244 0305 F:0131-244 0353
17 July 2009
Traditional Arts Working Group
I am writing on behalf of the Traditional Arts Working Group who, later this year, will report to to the Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution.
The Group has bean asked to make recommendations on establishing the optimum future guaranteed support arrangements for Scotland's Traditional Arts through the best use of available resources, both financial and non-financial: so that the Traditional Arts can fulfil their role in Scotland's culture, heritage, economy, education and community life.The group have asked me to extend an invitation to you, to provide them with a written submission, highlighting the topics which affect the areas of interest to you, in the traditional arts. Submissions received by the group will feed into their ongoing discussions.
Questions you may wish to consider if you would like to provide a submission
• What sort of support (financial and non-financial) do the areas of Traditional Arts, in which you are interested, currently receive, and how long term is it?
• What does this support enable?
• Are there areas where you see gaps in this support or scope for greater support?
• Can these areas be addressed by funding or other means?
• How can the traditional arts community - musicians, activists, enthusiasts, organisations - best advocate the case for financial and non-financial support?
• What is the best way for the traditional arts community to make the necessary links and alliances to strengthen their position?'
Submissions can be offered to the working group by email:
or alternatively by post to me at:
The Traditional Arts Working Group
C/O Patrick Berry
The Scottish Government
Area 2-H North
Submissions will be accepted until 14 August 2009.
Further information on the group can be found at
Variant's submission to the parliamentary Traditional Arts Working Group
Please find below Variant's submission to the Traditional Arts Working Group, which we have already submitted. I also wanted to send it to you directly, as one of the few Parties [Green] aligned against the growth paradigm of development:
It is the contradiction between UNESCO obligations to enable culture as an independent force in society and "single purpose" government's neoliberal pursuit of tethering cultural expression to a failed economic agenda that, in my opinion, makes the Creative Scotland proposals unworkable. The selective treatment of Traditional Arts is but one manifestation of those inherent contradictions, and we need to look at all these proposals holistically to understand why.
I am also of the opinion that Creative Scotland and its highly partial financier-focus on expression and artifact is being allowed to substitute for a coherent cultural policy based on safeguarding communicative acts within the public sphere. In this sense, Creative Scotland is primarily an economic policy that will not fulfill its public function of ensuring freedom of communication.
'Traditional Arts' and the need for a democratic decentering of the social processes through which culture is mediated.
The Scottish Government has recently aimed support specifically towards 'Traditional Arts' -- traditional music, dance, and storytelling -- and an invitation has been extended to make submissions to the parliamentary Traditional Arts Working Group (TAWG) for, I hope, meaningful deliberation. To be clear, my perspective here is not based on the intrinsic value or right for practitioners to pursue those forms in and of themselves.
"[T]he UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted a Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions 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 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." (ICTSD)
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) make clear that, globally, "cultural industries are progressively taking over traditional forms of creation and dissemination and bringing about changes in cultural practices." Language is stated by UNESCO as but one example vulnerable to neoliberal globalisation.
Through Creative Scotland, the nationalist Scottish Government is seeking to implement such a growth paradigm of development centred on Creative Industries -- reinforcing an entrepreneurial ideology of debt, risk and precarity. Cultural products are to be assimilated in support of the economy and nationalism coalesced as a definable export brand, whilst at-one-and-the-same-time using this very threat of globalised economisation of culture to uniquely privilege (by safeguarding from competition) specific cultural expressions that (directly or indirectly, but certainly accumulatively) aid signify the government's political project of Constitutional Change.
It should be stressed that focusing on the production of a national subject is not the 'tactic' of any one political party (be it 'British values' or 'Team Scotland') but that here it enables us to relate nationalism(s) to wider questions of ideology, political identity, and the exercising of power.
It is evident that with the forming of Creative Scotland (the collapsing of Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen) a widening distinction is being drawn between 'innovation' and 'tradition', where the so-called innovative is narrowly defined in entrepreneurial terms. A factor of Traditional Arts' inability to compete with other cultural forms for public funding under the criteria of 'innovation' is said to be the reason for Traditional Arts' special treatment. Closer to the truth I suspect is a conflict of government increasingly expecting supposed arms-length bodies to more closely and additionally support government-initiated projects (in this case SAC and Homecoming, according to TAWG) regardless of the existing government-led criteria that those bodies must operate within. This points to a creeping assault on what autonomy remains of public funding; both in what cultural expressions are politically desirable and therefore what is then being prioritised to receive support. It is apparent that Tradition is not being defined as the traditions of the peoples actually living in the country but as tradition of the Nation as 'Scottish' -- "public funding for Scottishness", as it has been dubbed. This additional construction of political support for a specific specialism (stripping the arms-length principle) contradicts Creative Scotland's own supposed objectives of cutting bureaucracy and cheerleading market competition. Moreover, this special treatment via direct political patronage smacks of ministerial hypocrisy when the continuation of art-form specialisms within Creative Scotland remains far from clear. What we appear to be getting is not a coherent Cultural Policy at all, but a construction of selective support for cultural artifact based primarily on ministerial taste and political expediency.
This policy of intervention and exemption should be screened and assessed for inequitable countenance of Traditional Arts: how monocultural, geographically prescribed or ethno-centric a Traditional Arts construction may be, and how the privileging of specific expressions rests alongside other human rights obligations in the fields of expression and communication -- such as eliminating unlawful racial discrimination, promoting equal opportunities, and promoting good relations between people from different racial groups. Then it should be determined if an essentialist categorisation of an official cultural cannon, the Traditional Arts, is indeed, on the basis of UNESCO, "at risk of extinction, under serious threat, or otherwise in need of urgent safeguarding" from "single-purpose" government's own economic policy!
In doing so, we need to accept the impossibility -- indeed, the undesirability -- of imposing a static notion of 'Cultural Heritage' on what is in fact a contingent process. We need to be critically aware "of inherited understandings of the autonomy of cultural artifacts and of aesthetic judgment" (Clive Barnett), and of the supposedly 'authentic'; that defined cultural and ethnic boundaries are actually politically determined boundaries.
Culture is now conjoined in a parliamentary portfolio with Constitutional Change, part of which pivots on promoting an emergent national consciousness where key sites are enlisted to unify Scotland’s national narrative, intended to cohere to an ideological understanding of the Nation as a positive, uniform, competitive culture. Robin Baillie of the National Galleries has written : “Modernity imposes itself through its power to construct the history of a nation. History is formed in the collecting, classification and streamlining of objects, images and memories into a pedagogic form. ‘The origin of the nation’s visual presence is the effect of a narrative struggle’. [Bakhtin’s] statement asserts that any image in order to be seen will enter into a field constituted by this struggle. A reflexive reading of this struggle will allow the forces that hold the imagery in place as evidential documents to be recognised as constitutive of those same images.” (The Nation as Narrative)
[As Kristin Ross has stated, in 'The emergence of social space: Rimbaud and the Paris Commune']: "The most sterile brand of such nationalism wishes to throw off imperialist rule in order to assert already established national identity, whose only flaw is to have been contaminated and repressed by the presence of the colonialists. In an expression / blockage model dear to most Romantic thought, the colonized know already who they are; it is just that the colonialist refuses to listen. A more promising paradigm of revolutionary nationalism appreciates that the anti-imperialist question turns on constructing the conditions in which it would in principle be possible for the colonized to find out what they might become..."
The problem remains with the consolidation of a national cultural identity in an official cultural cannon that “one person’s inclusionary republicanism is another person’s ethnocentric monoculturalism.” (Bryan Fanning) That if we are to address issues of cultural diversity and communication's vulnerability to neoliberalism then we must do so by connecting them to the idea of wider social democracy -- not simplistically to the subjective and partial artifacts of "the best that has been done and said", but to all that entails freedom of communication in the mediated spaces of public communication. For this we need a coherent cultural policy drawn-up not for rentier systems of commerce but a cultural policy that fundamentally supports communicative acts; one written by those who in the public interest can and do critically account for the way "power is exercised upon and through practices of mediated public communication". (Clive Barnett)
Traditional Arts Working Group
The Traditional Arts Working Group is tasked with considering the future support arrangements for Scotland's traditional arts, and will make recommendations to the Scottish Government later this year.
The Traditional Arts Working Group's Report was published on 31 January 2010: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/01/28100441/0
"ESTEEM - Revisiting previous Scottish Arts Council reports on the traditional arts shows that considerable progress has been made in relation to their status and esteem. This is seen in the large number of successful projects, events and organisations now evident in the traditional arts field. However, there is a perception, as evidenced by the submissions to the Working Group and comments at public meetings, that recognition and respect for the traditional arts, and those working in them, is still patchy. Many still feel that their significance and value is still not recognised, promoted and celebrated enough. The argument is that, although the traditional arts hold meaning for many, the general level of esteem in which they are held in civil society and by professional practitioners remains low. …"
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 expressions1 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.”
UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity
The European Community ratified the UNESCO Convention on cultural diversity, together with 12 Member States
On 18 December 2006, the Community ratified the Convention, alongside Finland, Austria, France, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Slovenia, Estonia, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Lithuania and Malta. Bulgaria also joined this ratification.
This joint ratification fulfils the initial objective to be amongst the 30 first ratifications, and will thus allow the entry into force of the Convention on 18 March 2007.
TEN KEYS to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions
adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its 33rd session, 2005
UNESCO Decides on Draft Convention on Cultural, Artistic Diversity
The third session of the intergovernmental meeting of experts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 3 June decided to forward a draft Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions to an upcoming UNESCO General Conference in October 2005 for approval. The third session of the intergovernmental meeting of experts, gathering from 25 May to 3 June, reviewed a “clean” version of the draft produced by chair Kader Asmal in April based on negotiations of the second session of the group in February (see BRIDGES Trade BioRes, 4 March 2005). The agreed draft text, in new Article 20 (old Article 19) aims to resolve controversy at that meeting regarding the compatibility of the right of Parties to “adopt measures aimed at protecting and promoting the diversity of cultural expressions within its territory”, as set out in Article 6, which could potentially include subsidies to promote cultural activities, goods and services as defined in Article 4 of the draft Convention, with the WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures. The compromise on Article 20 recognises that all international agreements, including the WTO, are complementary and mutually supportive and that, while the Convention should not be interpreted as modifying the rights and obligations of the Parties under other Conventions, Parties shall take into account the relevant provisions of this Convention when entering into other international obligations. While welcoming this compromise language, some countries said that they had yet to check with their capitals on the proposed wording. While countries such as the EU, Canada and some African countries have advocated for a strong Convention, other countries including the US, UK and Japan have raised concerns about its potential implications.
Convention for the Protection of Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions
Preliminary Report of the Director-General Containing Two Preliminary Drafts of a Convention On the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.
Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist
The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, meeting in Belgrade from 23 September to 28 October 1980 at its twenty-first session,
UNESCO and the WTO: A Clash of Cultures?