McAveety, whose portfolio also included tourism and sports, had no particular background in the arts, joking once that the only Barber of Seville he knew was one who cut his hair in Spain. According to the Scotsman, however, he outdid his predecessors by appearing at arts events.
In June, McAveety announced that the struggling Scottish Opera would eliminate its full-time chorus and go dark for the 2005-06 season as part of a Ô£7 million bailout deal. The decision drew howls of protest from musicians and other leading arts figures, and continues to be a source of controversy.
McVeety's replacement is Patricia Ferguson, a former administrator at the National Health Service, who apparently has no more experience in the arts than he did. Her appointment prompted arts executives to call for a dedicated culture minister. Culture, Catherine Lockerbie of the Edinburgh International Book Festival said, is "too important for a third of a ministerial portfolio."