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Culture Hustings

Last week we attended the Culture Hustings in Glasgow. 


Held in the run up to the Scottish Parliament elections next month, the political parties set out their election pledges for culture in Scotland. Here are three of the main points of discussion:


Culture’s Intrinsic vs Instrumental Value

Many references were made to the ability of culture to fulfil social and economic functions – raising aspirations among young people; integrating isolated communities; improving health and wellbeing – there was also an emphasis on the intrinsic value of culture.


Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, has made her view on this very clear. In her 2013 Talbot Rice Gallery speech, she countered the then Culture Secretary Maria Miller’s call for the cultural industries to prove their economic value.


Fiona Hyslop restated the point last week, arguing that it’s impossible to access the other benefits of the arts, unless artistic integrity is placed centre stage.


Culture as ‘Soft Power’

In response to a question posed about culture’s use as ‘soft power’, Fiona Hyslop advocated that Scottish arts should not be co-opted as propaganda. She criticised Westminster’s aggressive ‘Britain is Great’ stance, arguing that while Scotland does promote its culture internationally, it must do so in a way that is about integrity and support.


Claire Baker of Scottish Labour supported this view, stating that the debate should not be about what the arts can do for government, but what the government can do for the arts.


A United Front

One message that shone throughout the panel discussion was the extent to which political opinion is united. All parties agree on keeping public museums free; in enabling stronger monitoring of gender balance; and in prioritising the construction of a Scottish film studio. They all support the funding of youth arts programmes, and expanding access to the arts.


The specifics of budgets and spending priorities are unclear at this stage, but each party has outlined different taxation policies, with varying models of Local Authority funding. Nonetheless, there was unanimous recognition that Local Authorities need support to strengthen and improve provision. Zara Kitson of the Green Party agreed that the arts become an easy target when budgets are cut, while Fiona Hyslop pointed out that Local Authority arts budgets have not been cut disproportionately to other non-statutory services.


Regardless of the specifics, we found it reassuring that our politicians are, at least in theory, committed to supporting artists and creative endeavour. There is strong recognition of the importance and centrality of arts and culture. In many ways this consensus paints a positive future for Scotland’s cultural sector – whatever the results of the election, culture will be on the agenda.

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Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director

Paul is a leading international advisor and practitioner in cultural policy and creative economy. He is Co-Founder of BOP, and alongside his fellow directors he has pioneered now well-established methods to measure the impact of cultural policy. 

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Paul Owens

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director