Scottish Government Prepares to Abolish Arts Council and Fund Performing Companies Directly

Classic Arts News   Scottish Government Prepares to Abolish Arts Council and Fund Performing Companies Directly
The ministers of Scotland's regional government intend to change the way the country's arts organizations are funded, reports The Sunday Herald of Glasgow.

The Scottish Executive's draft Culture Bill, which should be presented to the Scottish Parliament next month by culture minister Patricia Ferguson, stipulates the merger of the Scottish Arts Council (SAC, which funds music, dance, opera and theater) with Scottish Screen (which currently provide grants to artists, writers and film-makers around the country) to form a new culture body called Creative Scotland. This new organization will fund the arts and provide a strategic overview for the sector, according to the paper.

The Herald adds that the draft legislation will allow government ministers to dictate the new body's strategy. A consultation paper states: "The draft bill also includes a power for the Scottish ministers to give directions to Creative Scotland which they must follow. The purpose of this proposal is to ensure that ministers and Creative Scotland pursue a consistent strategy."

The SAC currently has authority over how to spend its budget. According to the paper, the new proposal alarms culture insiders because it chips away at the "arm's-length principle" that has governed the sector for 60 years. By preparing to submit the draft bill for passage into law, Ferguson has overridden the pleas of Scotland's arts community to keep the sector free from ministerial interference, according to The Herald.

Scotland's five national arts companies, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Arts Council have all written to protest. The letter stated: "[We] remain convinced that creativity will only thrive when it is at arm's length from government. The arm's-length principle is a valuable protection for freedom of expression, allowing the presentation of ideas which are challenging, controversial or critical without undue influence or interference from investors."

Four separate bodies will govern the arts in Scotland until Creative Scotland is inaugurated, which contradicts the Executive's aim to reduce bureaucracy in the sector, according to The Herald.

Current SAC chairman Richard Holloway is among those who have been interviewed for the job of chairman of the new body, which is expected to be established in early to mid-2008.

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