THE full text of Fiona Hyslop’s speech at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh.
Past, Present & Future:
Culture & Heritage in an Independent Scotland
Thank you, Betty, for your kind introduction and may I say that I am delighted to give this year’s annual lecture to the friends of the Talbot Rice Gallery.
The Gallery is, of course, named after David Talbot Rice, who was appointed to the Watson Gordon chair of Fine Art at Edinburgh University at the remarkably young age of 31, a post he held until his death. In many ways his life exemplifies some of the themes of the past, present and future of our culture and heritage that I want to touch on this evening. His life shows how much Scotland owes to those who come to us from other lands and choose to make their lives here. This Gallery is a fitting memorial to his work in encouraging modern art in Scotland.
He also contributed much to preserving historic art, far from Scotland, as the UK’s first lecturer in Islamic Art before coming to Edinburgh, and as a leading authority on the icons of the Byzantine Empire. I am proud to be associated with his memory through giving this lecture this evening.
I am also delighted to be here in the Georgian Gallery, this masterpiece by one of our greatest architects, William Playfair. I have just come from a very different building, the Scottish Parliament, the very modern creation of the Catalan architect Enric Miralles.
For me, these two buildings tell us much about what is great about Scotland - the way that past achievements from the Scottish Enlightenment and other great periods in our history mingle with modern successes and developments - and the way in which our own artistic achievements can be celebrated, along with those from other lands.
One of my favourite parts of the Scottish Parliament is the Canongate Wall, adorned with a number of pertinent Scottish quotations, chiselled into the sandstone and granite. I like to think that it’s mirrored within the Parliament by an inspiring sculpture called ‘Travelling the Distance’, which stands testament to the contribution that women have made to the development of democracy in Scotland. I pass by both of these walls many times each week and, indeed, I did so on my way here.
This evening I want to set out five key areas which underpin this Government’s approach to culture and heritage in Scotland.
Firstly, I will take the opportunity to set out how distinct this Government’s approach is from the position set out last month by the UK Government’s Culture Secretary.
I then want to talk about the value that I, this government and this nation places on culture and heritage, in and of themselves. Why? Because they bind and connect our past, our present and our future and tell the stories about where we’ve come from, who we are and help us reflect on who we could be.
I’ll then move on to talk about how culture and heritage roots us in place, and helps to empower, enrich and shape our communities.
I believe that culture and heritage in Scotland is of us all and for us all, so I want to talk also about access and participation and how we work to enable all of Scotland’s communities to benefit, not just from the great cultural wealth and heritage of this nation, but also the world’s.
I will then talk about the wealth of other benefits that culture and heritage bring to our communities, both social and economic.
Finally, I want to bring all of this together to speak to you about our ambition and our vision – which is to build an independent nation where our cultural and historic life can flourish.
This is the most culturally ambitious government that Scotland has ever had. We believe that public funding of the arts is a fundamental good and we want the opportunity to take this to new heights - carried on a wave of aspiration, optimism, energy and confidence.
The past year has seen significant debate across Scotland on the value and role of culture and cultural heritage in Scotland. This debate has often been difficult and challenging, but it has consistently been thought provoking and stimulating. Regardless of whether the discussion has been uncomfortable or exciting – it has often come down to a debate around whether culture has a value simply in itself OR whether we should also be considering a wider “public good” and how culture and heritage contributes to economic, social and personal well-being.
Stanley Baldwin, who was three times Prime Minister between the wars, had a gift for pouring oil on troubled waters. After one heated debate he started his summing up speech by saying “I am struck not so much by the diversity of opinion, as by the many sidedness of the truth”.
That is how I feel after the heated, but very necessary, debate that we have had. Many views have been expressed and they all have their validity. I was particularly struck by a statement made by Dumfries artist Matt Baker at one of the recent Creative Scotland Open Sessions –quoting from Hume - he reminded us that “truth springs from arguments amongst friends”.
So, my argument to the friends of the Talbot Rice Gallery is that we do not need to choose between culture for its own sake, or for wider benefits. We can do both and, indeed, I know that we do both –exceptionally well – because I see this every day in my work as Culture Secretary.
I have said before that it is not the Government’s job to tell artists what to paint or authors what to write or craftspeople what to fashion. Nor is it the Government’s job to tell people what art to see, what books to read or what crafts to buy. It is our job, however, to create the conditions which enable artists to flourish and as many people, groups and organisations as possible to benefit from and enjoy our culture and heritage. I want to talk to you today about how we do this and set out our aspirations for how we could be so much more.
[Clear Blue Water - The UK Government’s approach]
Recently, the Culture Secretary for the UK Government set out a different approach to culture and asked the culture sector to help her make the arguments about the economic impact of culture in the context of economic growth.
I don’t agree. That is not the future I choose.
The Scottish Government already accepts the case for the role of government in supporting the cultural sector. We actively support the case for public subsidy of the arts. We understand that culture and heritage have a value in and of themselves.
I don’t need or want the culture or heritage sector to make a new economic or social case to justify public support for their work. I know what these sectors can deliver because I see it in action. I visit hardworking artists and practitioners who are exploring new ways of working; and who are creating dynamic and exciting new ways of enjoying and sharing their work and the work of our ancestors. They think in new ways precisely because they are artists.
So, for this Government, the case has been made.
On the 18 of September 2014, the Referendum will give us an opportunity to vote for a future based on choices, predicated on a judgement about what kind of value systems we want to shape our lives. In culture, the contrast between our approach and attitude to artists and creativity and that demonstrated by the UK Government is fundamental and profound. It reflects a choice of two futures.
The UK Government asks what culture can do for the UK Government’s purpose; it asks that cultural bodies, artists and organisations justify public funding by demonstrating – and I quote from the UK Culture Secretary’s speech – “the healthy dividends that our investment continues to pay” and that “[British] culture is perhaps the most powerful and most compelling product we have available to us”.
Of course the culture and heritage sectors make an invaluable contribution to our economic life, but despite these challenging times, we do not measure the worth of culture and heritage solely in pounds and pence – we value culture and heritage precisely because they are so much more, because they are our heart, our soul, our essence.
This Government does not look at our cultural life and heritage as if they are merely products that can be bought and sold. If there was ever a way to suck the vitality out of a topic that should energise, invigorate, inspire and move – it is to make a perfunctory nod to generic social benefits and then, in the next breath, reduce it to nothing more than a commodity.
Now, in the emollient tradition of Stanley Baldwin, I do not want to say that there was no element of truth in Maria Miller’s remarks. Such truth as there was, however, was entirely one- sided. I agree with her in thinking that the economic effects of culture are valuable. I profoundly disagree, however, in seeing that as its only, or most important, value. For me, culture’s economic value is not its primary purpose but a secondary benefit.
As Culture Secretary for Scotland, I cannot and will not subject the cultural sector to this kind of reductive thinking. It is our role to create the conditions for cultural and creative excellence to flourish. Why? Because this is a prerequisite for all those other benefits that culture can deliver … above all for our quality of life, and our well-being and, secondarily, for our economy.
[2. Culture & Heritage – our past, our present, our future]
I believe that culture and heritage are both an intrinsic and instrumental good for us all.
Scotland’s cultural life and heritage cannot be reduced to a single style or image; rather, they are a wealth of what we might describe as “stories” that take many different forms, as diverse as the land, peoples and places of this complex country.
There is no one thing that defines us. There are, of course, iconic images, poems, films, artists, writers, performers, compositions, buildings and landscapes that evoke a sense of our ‘Scotland’. A Scotland that is steeped in meaning and history but which is continually on the move - engaging with its past, looking beyond borders, seeking new and innovative ways to engage with the world.
From the Stones of Stenness, built, we believe, to connect our ancestors to their past, through to the fragility and beauty of the work of Scotland’s contemporary sculptors such as Karla Black … whose work is shaped by both traditional materials and the by-products of the modern world, immortalised by the tools of our digital age and renowned far and wide. Our culture and heritage is nothing less than dynamic, nothing less than rich and nothing less than inspiring.
The connections and threads between our past, our present and our future are flexible and fluid; we both take and create meaning when we look deep into the history of our nation, shaped by those who have settled here and those who have left for faraway shores; our connections with other countries, other peoples all linked by these threads connecting people, forms and ideas.
I want Scotland to be recognised as a nation that not only nurtures and is nourished by wonderful songs, poems, stories, drama, dance, paintings, and sculpture … but as a nation that welcomes artists and creative practitioners from all over the world to come, to inspire and to be inspired, to innovate and to create.
I want Scotland to be understood not just by what we do, but by how we do it. Supporting the process of artistic development is as important as recognising and appreciating the art itself.
Last week, I attended the tenth anniversary of the Scotland + Venice Exhibition at the Venice Biennale where Scotland is represented by three emerging artists - Corin Sworn, Duncan Campbell and Hayley Tompkins - not Scottish by birth but representing this nation by choice. Their work is thoughtful, engaged and reaches out to the world. Supporting artists as they develop has to be a hallmark of the Scotland we seek. So too is Scotland’s constant dialogue with the world.
Last year’s first ever global Culture Summit, attended by 33 nations from across the world, was testament to that enduring belief in the power of culture to transform lives, nations and to facilitate international dialogue. It was also testament to a way of working that bears rich fruit both at home and abroad. It was collaborative, in that it was jointly delivered by four programme partners, with considerable help from the sector and the Scottish Parliament as host. It was inclusive – it brought Culture Ministers together with artists from across the world. And it was here - in this wonderfully creative and historic city.
The Culture Summit brought home how, worldwide, culture and heritage inspires, enriches and challenges. Having said that, there is beauty and joy to be experienced in a work of art, a piece of music, a film or a book, and when setting out why we support and value culture and heritage, that most basic of human needs must be remembered.
Art is not always comfortable. It does not need to be easy or ‘feel good’. I want us to cherish what’s difficult, what’s challenging and what’s uncomfortable. It is the very measure of the health of our democracy to welcome and embrace the role of artists to challenge our expectations, to nudge us from our comfort zones and encourage us, individually or collectively to reflect on how we could do better and be better.
History is peppered with stories and ideas that define us. Some cause for celebration, others almost for lamentation, because any nation’s story has its darker moments and these are also part of our heritage - urging us all to reflect on acts that both have harmed us and have done harm.
When Picasso painted Guernica, he didn’t do so to merely adorn a wall, he did so to make a profound and powerful political statement. I know that contemporary audiences confronted with, for example, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch also feel that profound sense of contemplation, reflection, raw energy and emotion. It’s an astonishingly powerful and impressive piece of modern theatre … that also asks us to reflect on the meaning and impact of war.
Scotland is more than a nation bound by a border and oceans, it is a nation of ideas and our innovation and creativity is an intrinsic part of our increasingly global lives. A story, a piece of theatre, a stone circle or a song can expand those boundaries and take us beyond borders.
To give you another quote from the Canongate Wall, Hugh MacDiarmid asked, “Scotland small? Our multiform, our infinite Scotland small?”
Our size is only limited by our imagination, our reach as extensive as our desire and capacity to explore. This is a nation that truly values its creative talents and heritage. That’s why we have prioritised the funding for the National Performing Companies and maintained the international touring fund. That’s why we have also prioritised the funding for the grants administered by Historic Scotland. And, through our Expo Fund, that’s why we continue to support Edinburgh’s festivals and the development of new and exciting work which will be shared around the world. That’s why we are maintaining free access to Scotland’s national collections, including the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland, which welcomed more than 2 million visitors in its first year of reopening.
Governments in the past have, of course, done much to stifle and suffocate our culture and heritage. We only have to look at Gaelic to see the harm done and why, to turn the tide, I worked hard to ensure that by law we must ‘promote’ not just ‘protect’ the Gaelic language even when I was in opposition. We now celebrate Gaelic everywhere, from increasing the learning of Gaelic in schools and signage in railway stations, to vibrant Gaelic film awards. For young Gaelic speakers, this is a different world.
This is also a country where our historic environment is well managed and enjoyed by many. We have five World Heritage Sites and we hope that the Forth Bridge will become the sixth in 2015. We have over 45,000 listed buildings, over 8,000 scheduled monuments, and 645 conservation areas.
In the last year, Historic Scotland has been working with partners to develop a new strategy which will reflect the huge value which the historic environment has in its own right. Not only as evidence of past creativity and ingenuity, but also in terms of other values, through its contribution to social fabric, community cohesion and economic wellbeing. I am excited by the new strategy, the first Scotland has ever had for the historic environment. The aims and priorities, which have been collectively developed, will facilitate even greater benefit from Scotland’s heritage. To match this strategy, we have also developed a new architecture policy so that this generation, in its turn, leaves behind an architectural legacy of which we can be proud.
Our towns, cities, villages and open spaces are enriched, not only by our past but by our present. In 2011, five new or refurbished heritage centres opened in Scotland – and these are all examples of high quality architectural design. The Burns Museum in Alloway, the refurbished King James the Fifth Palace at Stirling Castle, the National Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, and the Riverside Museum in Glasgow which is the recent recipient of a major European award, are all fabulous visitor attractions. They also stand testament to our relationship with the world – it is in Glasgow that the internationally renowned Zaha Hadid brought a vision to life, capturing the relationship between city and sea, industry and ship-building in inspiring architectural form.
Glasgow City Council led on the Riverside Museum and when I talk about the common and collective value that we place on our culture and our heritage, I recognise that it is not just this Government and the sector, but also the support, collaboration and partnership demonstrated by Scotland’s local authorities and, indeed, by the private and third sectors. I already place a great importance on working with Scotland’s local authorities during these challenging times to help facilitate the building of effective networks, partnerships and sharing of best practice so that we can all play our part in supporting and protecting our cultural, creative and heritage services.
[3. Culture & heritage – roots and place]
Culture and heritage are not just the domain of public agencies and authorities or private or third sector organisations. Culture and heritage are fundamentally about people and places and I believe it is our duty to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to access the arts and cultural experiences, regardless of where they live in Scotland.
It is our job to ensure that we enable and enhance the contribution that culture and heritage make to our places because our communities are so much more than a collection of shops, buildings and houses. Historic Scotland is working with local government and many other partners to ensure that historic environment plays a key role in making and maintaining high quality places – through advice, proportionate regulation, and financial initiatives.
Creative Scotland’s Place Partnerships and the Creative Place Awards also demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that communities across the length and breadth of this country are supported to create and participate, so that all the hard work and imagination that contribute to the cultural life of communities, is recognised and rewarded. We need to work together effectively and build on partnerships to really make the most of the benefits that culture can bring.
Place is about more than physical structures and landscape. Places are where things happen. Places are where we listen to and play music, where we hear and write stories, where we look at and create paintings and sculptures, where we watch and produce films and where we dance. Places are where we take part.
Last year, 2012, saw some fantastic programmes and performances that were rooted very much in place. I’m thinking here of the wonderful programmes that marked the Cultural Olympiad and the Year of Creative Scotland.
It was a busy year and next year, 2014, promises to be even more so with Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. When I think about all the performances and events I was privileged enough to see last year, though, I am struck by just how profoundly important place was to their impact and success.
Sistema Scotland’s Big Concert at Raploch, in the shadow of Stirling Castle was inspiring and moving, in spite of the dreadful weather – and the impact that the musicians of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra have had on the children and their families reverberates still almost one year later. That concert worked because it demonstrated a fundamental respect for the place that this work originated from – both here in Scotland and in its connections back to the model developed in Venezuela.
How we do things is just as important as what things we do. It would have been easy – and a whole lot drier – to bring the Big Concert to a concert hall in a city, but that would have undermined the profound importance of place and community to that work. The Big Concert brought some of the world’s finest musicians and an internationally renowned conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, to Raploch. It is there that Scotland has developed its Sistema model and it is there that a community came together to enjoy classical music at its best and to celebrate the achievements and ambitions of its young people.
That shows the strength of the connection between people and places. We need to build on that more in our cultural policy making. So, for example, a key pillar of the Museums Strategy is precisely a focus on strong connections between museums, people and places. That brings me on to what I want to talk about next, access and participation and a belief that our culture and our heritage are of us all and for us all.
[4. Culture & Heritage – of us all and for us all]
I think there’s a sense of place and of ownership that is both common and individual and which is distinct to Scotland.
This is a country that is proud and confident, rooted in culture and heritage; a country where everyone should have the opportunity to participate and benefit; where everybody cares about, shares and champions our culture and our heritage – where everyone has a responsibility and can make a contribution. A country where we not only cherish our diverse heritage and traditions, but also continually seek to create opportunities to share and celebrate.
That’s what we should be and that’s what we could be. That’s not yet quite what we are.
Another quote from the Canongate Wall is by the poet and social activist Mary Brooksbank, it reads:
“Oh, dear me, the warld’s ill-divided,
Them that work the hardest are aye wi’ least provided.”
Our communities are alive with music, with dance, with bands, gala days, literature, with theatre and poetry. I want that recognised and celebrated. But, there are divisions in society. Those who are least provided for, are often not just materially deprived but lack opportunities to access culture. But we know that not everyone is able or enabled to take part and to enjoy. I want everyone to have the opportunity to benefit and the opportunity to participate; I want everyone to be empowered and benefit from our rich cultural life. I want to ensure that our collective efforts to tackle poverty and exclusion tackle all aspects of experience. The UK is currently one of the most unequal states on this planet and the future I seek will tackle that in all its facets
Not everyone can get to galleries, theatres, museums and performance spaces. How can we innovate to bring our culture and heritage to people and communities who are constrained by place, whether that’s through geography, incapacity, or poverty or a sense that ‘this isn’t for me’? I want more people to experience more art.
There are some great examples of improvements to access through digital media and by taking art to communities, by making sure transportation is effective and affordable but I’m sure there is more that we could be doing,
Creating the conditions for meaningful access and participation, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to benefit can be done in many ways, not just in a cultural setting, but also in how we use culture to achieve other ends. It’s not just about those places and spaces where you might “expect” to find cultural and creative experiences … it’s also about coming across cultural and creative activity in spaces and places you may least expect.
I like the idea of a Museum of Scotland that has no walls … no locked boxes … which sees items and expertise from our collections shared far and wide for maximum enjoyment and benefit. I’m also proud of our artists rooms which take the best of contemporary art to all the airts and pairts.
Look at our National Theatre of Scotland, whose home is a collection of hundreds of venues, spaces and places that can be brought to life by a fantastic piece of theatre.
The National Theatre isn’t dependent on location. I’m interested in this idea of building and strengthening the networks and partnerships that we have already in Scotland so that we have cultural and creative hubs throughout Scotland for the benefit of artists and communities across the country.
I would welcome proposals from across the public, private and third sector as to how we might achieve this.
This commitment to enabling our people and our communities to participate is strengthened by the value we assign to the wider benefits that our culture and heritage bring.
[5. Culture & Heritage – benefits us all ]
I believe that our rich culture and diverse historic environment are unique assets which are not only valuable in their own right, but which generate wider social and economic benefits.
Whilst culture and heritage make a profound and priceless contribution to our lives in and of themselves, we can also be proud that we recognise that they can bring so much more.
Culture and heritage are fundamental to our quality of life. A vibrant heritage is central in shaping our sense of place and making our communities attractive places to live, work, invest and visit. Culture and heritage are a powerful force for renewal and regeneration. They underpin our journey towards better health and safer, more resilient communities, individual well-being and enriched lives.
In a period of increasingly limited resources, we must ensure that public, private and third sector organisations work in partnership with communities, and with each other, to design and deliver excellent cultural and heritage services which meet our needs. We also need our communities to be empowered and confident to express themselves.
As I said at the outset, this isn’t always comfortable. Let me give you an example. Recently I attended a theatre performance, in what could possibly be described as a pretty soulless meeting room in Victoria Quay, a Scottish Government building. It’s not a particularly inspiring space, but for one hour on a Monday afternoon it was transformed into something wonderful, terrifying and utterly profound. I was there to view a performance of Wee Andy – a piece of theatre penned and directed by Paddy Cunneen that evokes the emotional and physical horror and fall-out of gang culture in Scotland. This play is an impressive piece of political and social theatre. It can also, though, bring social benefits. Performances have been shared with young offenders, who, indeed shaped the work in partnership with the playwright.
Take too the wonderful musical production the Glasgow Girls. It’s an astonishingly moving story of how, in 2005, a group of teenagers from Drumchapel High School in Glasgow fought against the deportation of a Kosovan school friend, and won. You wouldn’t think that child detention and deportation would be cheery topics for a night out. Yet this is truly a story-telling triumph. You can’t fail to leave the theatre without riding high on the energy of the performances and the power of the story. What’s more, if you fail to be moved by the depiction of Jack McConnell as a gold lamé suited-Elvis then I will have to assume you have a heart made of stone.
Continuing the theme of thinking about culture’s wider social impacts, last year, I pulled together a sizeable funding package for Sistema Scotland. Now, you could argue that Government funding is Government funding, it doesn’t really matter which ‘bit’ funds ‘what’.
But it does.
When we fund a programme like Sistema Scotland we demonstrate something powerful. Sistema is social regeneration through culture.
So I pulled together a funding package in which Culture contributed because we recognise that Sistema Scotland is making a real cultural impact, as those of you who saw the Big Concert will know; Schools put in funding because the kind of team training that an orchestra provides makes a real contribution to the Curriculum for Excellence; Children and Families contributed because Sistema does wonders for children’s confidence and skills, with ten youngsters from the orchestra now playing with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland; and Regeneration found its share because the Sistema programme has been recognised as playing an integral part of the wider regeneration of Govanhill.
We know that immersion in cultural activity can help bolster the resilience and well-being of communities and individuals. I’m thinking here of Fèisean nan Gàidheal which is at the forefront of Gaelic arts development, with research suggesting that participation not only increases skills in young people but also self-esteem and a sense of identity. This Government recognises the importance of early intervention and is working very hard with the public sector to deliver real and meaningful reforms. Our cross portfolio funding of Sistema Scotland demonstrates this by supporting a programme that exemplifies good partnership working, with a focus on prevention, people and improving performance.
I said at the outset that I don’t expect the cultural sector to have to make and re-make the case for culture in an economic context. Acknowledging the economic benefits does not degrade culture or heritage, nor does it damage the authentic meaning of the intrinsic experience. Culture and heritage bring economic benefits to individuals, communities and the nation – this is a simple fact, which is clearly understood. You can’t have great film design, craft, and textiles without a firm grounding in a vibrant cultural sector.
For example, a study of Edinburgh’s festivals in 2010 showed that they contributed over a quarter of a billion pounds to Scotland’s economy and supported over 5,000 jobs.
We want to see cultural and creative industries making a growing contribution to employment and economic output, sitting also at the heart of regeneration, renewal and change. Historic Scotland’s expertise and work in tackling carbon emissions in historic buildings is an example of traditional skills tackling a modern need. I will champion the use of traditional skills in a modern setting – print, conservation, weft and weave.
The Government’s Economic Strategy identified seven growth sectors as being those holding the greatest potential for growth and internationalisation. The creative industries form one of those sectors, recognising both their direct contribution to the economy and the way in which skills such as design and delivering content digitally are becoming vital to other sectors such as manufacturing as well.
The key common factor that marks the creative industries is that the output has a creative originality that thereby creates intellectual property. In 2010 Creative Industries contributed £2.7 billion to Scotland’s economy. To put that in context, this is almost on a par with our Tourism sector which contributed £2.9 billion.
As elsewhere in our culture, we see the old joined by the new. The venerable HarperCollins, founded by William Collins in 1819 is now joined by more recent firms like Canongate Books. We must embrace digital challenge, opportunity and debate. In fashion, Harris Tweed, over a century old, is selling at record levels, with over a million metres of cloth sold in 2012; Scottish tartan makes over £200 million a year for the Scottish economy. I first met designers Bebaroque, who now design elaborate body-stockings for the likes of Katy Perry, at a Starter for Six creative industries showcase.
If I were to make one ask, though, it would be for the sector to reach out to my public sector colleagues – there is a whole raft of help, expertise, advice, services and sometimes some cash – to help you get started and to grow and make yourselves and Scotland flourish sustainably.
Scotland’s traditional buildings make an enormous contribution to our economy and our national identity. Our historic environment supports 60,000 jobs and contributes £2.3 billion to our economy. The maintenance sector overall accounts for just over a third of construction turnover. Scotland’s 360 museums and galleries attract approximately 25 million visitors a year and generate approximately £79 million for our economy whilst sustaining over 3,600 tourism related jobs.
We can’t discuss the economic benefits of culture without also acknowledging the contribution that our cultural work makes to help build long-term relationships and trust overseas. As a country, we continue to punch well above our weight internationally, using heritage, culture and creativity to attract other nationals to live, work, study, travel and do business in Scotland – all of which contributes to economic growth. Culture helps support engagement with the priority countries and regions identified in the Government’s International Framework and we have some good stories to tell. For example, in North America through our cultural input to successive Scotland Weeks.
Historic Scotland’s Scottish Ten laser scanning project has promoted Scottish heritage and technology around the globe. The scanning of the Eastern Qing Tombs formed a central part of a Memorandum of Understanding on Culture between the Scottish and Chinese Governments.
Shelley described poets as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world” but as the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, today I would like to acknowledge their role, and that of authors generally, as cultural ambassadors. Poets like Liz Lochhead, novelists like Iain Banks, dramatists like David Greig play a tremendous role in reflecting modern Scotland not just to itself but to the world.
As we move towards the referendum in 2014, I believe that culture and heritage must be at the heart of Scotland’s continued development and must shape our engagement with the world.
The case for independence is, in essence, a simple one.
It is the fundamental belief that it will be better for us all, if decisions about the future of Scotland are taken by those who care most about Scotland – the people who live here.
The decision about independence is, therefore, a choice between two futures. It is a choice between two futures based on different values and direction, perspectives and priorities.
There will be consequences for both a Yes vote and a No vote.
A Yes vote means that the opportunity to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland will be in our own hands.
It will mean supporting the view that people who live here rather than in Westminster will do a better job of running Scotland.
Here’s another quote from the Canongate Wall –
“When we had a king, and a chancellor, and parliament-men o’ our ain, we could aye peeble them wi’ stanes when they werena gude bairns - But naebody’s nails can reach the length o’ Lunnon.”
The words of Sir Walter Scott, from The Heart of Midlothian – I don’t want to encourage you to take this literally – so please, put your stones back in your pockets.
Scotland is proud to be viewed as a leading nation in a variety of fields, taking our place as an independent nation will enable culture and heritage to flourish as a driver in our continued development and, critically, as an aspect of our everyday lives. In an independent Scotland we can make the decisions about the right kind of environment that will enable this to happen.
Governments can create the conditions in which our culture and our heritage can flourish. I come back to this, because, John Swinney as Finance Secretary and I pressed the UK government for some years for tax breaks for computer games and high end television drama. Those for television drama just started in April and are already seeing a marked surge of interest in inward television production investment into Scotland. With independence we could look at developing such incentives further.
We have also both called on the UK Government to consider reducing the rate of VAT levied on repair and maintenance work to stimulate economic activity, bring empty older houses into use, and most importantly, help to improve the condition of these traditional buildings which form the fabric of our streets, squares, towers, castles, tenements and houses. The Scottish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in support of such a measure. So far, these requests have not met with success but nobody expected the last budget to remove VAT relief on listed building alterations. Another example of Scotland being held back by a government it didn’t vote for with policies that don’t meet our needs.
With responsibility, we can take full ownership for how we nurture and support the sector and how the private and charitable sectors might be enabled to contribute more and more effectively.
In an independent Scotland we would see increasing opportunities to build our national and international reputation for our culture, our heritage, our skills and our traditions.
We want Scotland to be a country that is increasingly recognised for its modern, creative and innovative industries. We want Scotland to be recognised as a creative nation that enriches our lives, enhances our learning and strengthens both our society and our economy.
I believe that we have worked hard to build confidence in the sector and I have talked about many of the ways in which we have done this in this lecture today. We have prioritised budgets and we have promoted and supported the arts, culture and heritage wherever we can, the length and breadth of Scotland and across the world. I want everyone to know about what we do and how we do it.
As I bring this lecture to a close, I reiterate my strong belief that culture and heritage are an intrinsic and a public good that should be celebrated, nurtured and treasured.
Our culture and our heritage root us in a place but don’t fix us in a place – they help to empower, enrich and shape our communities.
Our culture and our heritage are of us all and for us all. We should all have the opportunity and the enthusiasm to participate and we acknowledge the wider benefits they bring.
Finally, I believe that an independent Scotland will be a place where our arts, our creativity and our heritage is collectively celebrated, valued, nurtured and supported across the public, private and third sector. Culture will flourish in an independent Scotland.
I said at the outset, it is not the Government’s job to tell artists what to paint or authors what to write or craftspeople what to fashion.
It is our job to work with public, private and third sector, effectively and creatively, to create and nurture the conditions in which artists and writers can develop and where our tangible and intangible culture and heritage can thrive.
It is our job to make sure that our infrastructure is supported, maintained and improved.
It is our job to ensure that opportunities for access and participation are widened.
It is our job to facilitate and support collaboration, partnerships and connections for wider benefit both here and abroad.
It is our job to support the cultural and heritage sector to build strength and resilience and to work with our partners across local authorities, the public, private and third sectors to make sure that this happens;
It is our job to facilitate, promote and highlight the benefits of international engagement, to support an increase in innovation, to encourage our young people and our children to learn a love, a curiosity and a value for these things; and
It is our job to lead a Scotland of the world and for the world.
Finally, of course I want to see a yes vote but I’m struck by the energy and stimulation that the act of simply asking the question has brought to us. Imagine how much more we could be if that question is answered in the affirmative. This nation has many great minds, great thinkers, great artists – all of whom have a part to play in building something exciting and new.
This generation has been given the priceless opportunity to shape its own future according to its own values.
So let me return to the Canongate Wall one last time and finish with a quotation from Hamish Henderson’s song which chimes powerfully with our vision for a just and fair and independent Scotland – I hope you’ll agree.
“So, cam’ all ye at hame wi’ freedom
Never heed whit the hoodies croak for doom
In your hoose a’ the bairns o’ Adam
Can find breid, barley bree an’ painted room.”
So let us paint, shape, illustrate, depict, describe, illuminate that room, that future, that Scotland.