The Scottish Government has refused to intervene over the Edinburgh International Festival’s decision to exclude productions about the independence debate in next year’s programme.
Culture secretary Fiona Hylsop insisted it is not the job of government ministers to tell artists and curators what to do – but said artists and writers would have a platform to express their views on the issue throughout 2014.
She was speaking in the wake of mounting controversy over EIF director Jonathan Mills’ announcement that he would sideline the issue in his farewell programme, blaming uncertainty over when the referendum would be held and a need to keep the event politically neutral.
He has come under fire for the move and his two chosen themes – the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. An online petition urging a rethink has been backed by around 400 people.
Ms Hyslop said the EIF’s war-time theme would still allow the event to embrace issues around “nation-building.”
She said: “A lot of the principles of independence are about nation-building, the type of society we want and the type of country we want to be. It’s about basic judgments of values. That can be demonstrated and articulated in lots of different ways.
“But as a government minister I would not tell festival directors what to curate or not. It depends what people mean in terms of the independence debate. If you’re talking about the big concepts of the type of society we want to be, then that happens year in, year out.
“If you’re talking about the referendum as a constitutional process that’s a far narrower view of what independence is. I’m excited by the ideas that are generated about the type of country we are. What bores people is the now political view of independence. What people can engage with, in all forms and all types of culture, is the type of society we want to be.