Creative Scotland in new vision statement plans

Janet Archer has 12 months to produce a new vision statement. Picture: Contributed
Janet Archer has 12 months to produce a new vision statement. Picture: Contributed
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ARTS quango Creative Scotland plans to go back to the drawing board to produce a new blueprint for its future, The Scotsman has learned.

New chief executive Janet Archer will be given 12 months to produce a new vision statement for the organisation – after plans to amend the existing one were quietly shelved.

It is understood the new long-term corporate plan for Creative Scotland will supersede a 2020 vision produced just two years ago by previous chief executive Andrew Dixon, who was forced to resign last year.

The surprise move emerged as an official Creative Scotland blog post about the “open session” roadshows it held around the country in the spring delivered a damning verdict on both the quango’s track record and the Scottish Government.

Pat Kane, the musician, cultural commentator and Yes Scotland board member, who hosted all eight sessions, wrote that “the greatest and most common anxiety was that a ‘financialised’ and ‘corporatised’ language...had become too dominant in the operations of Creative Scotland.”

Creative Scotland told The Scotsman it made “absolute sense” for Ms Archer, who starts officially on 1 July, to be tasked with drawing up the organisation’s new vision.

It is expected to be one of the key elements of an “action plan” for the next year which is due to be published shortly and will include the simplification of funding schemes, giving artists more of a say in the organisation and ensuring staff with specialist expertise are in the right jobs.

The new vision is expected to banish much of the business-speak and “corporate ethos” at the centre of so many complaints from artists over the last 12 months.

It will also reflect the “clear direction” which the Scottish Government says the cultural sector has been given following Fiona Hyslop’s keynote speech in the capital last week.

The culture secretary delivered a strongly worded rejection of the idea of the arts being used as a “commodity” and insisted artists and organisations no longer had to make an economic or social case to justify public funding.

Her speech came months after the chair of Creative Scotland, Sir Sandy Crombie, told protesting artists that they had to justify investment in the arts.

Creative Scotland’s current vision statement, which is expected to be completely redrawn, states: “That Scotland is recognised as a leading creative nation – one that attracts, develops and retains talent, where the arts and the creative industries are supported and celebrated and their economic contribution fully captured, a nation where the arts and creativity play a central part in the lives, education and well-being of our population.”

Mr Dixon resigned in December in the wake of damning internal reviews into how the organisation had been run.

A wide-ranging programme of change, announced in the wake of his departure, included a pledge to “revise” its long-term plan by May of this year, before a new chief executive was due to be appointed.

The quango said at the time: “It will be the public expression of how Creative Scotland will change. It will describe our vision and objectives to support the arts, screen and creative industries to enable us to publicly account for our work.”

A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “We will be publishing an action-plan for the next year, but we decided it made much more sense for our longer-term plans to be developed once the new chief executive is on board.

“We would expect it to reflect the content of the open sessions that we held around the country in March and April and the feedback we have had from the sector over the last year.

“It will also undoubtedly reflect the vision set out by the culture secretary last week.”

Pat Kane’s blog, which he insisted was actually completed before Ms Hyslop’s speech but was not published by the body until Monday, said an “obvious finding” of the open sessions was that “the language, and thus the policy, around the distribution and usage of Creative Scotland’s resources must change.”

Mr Kane said many people who had taken part in the open sessions, which finished at the end of April, had felt that the quango had seemed at times confused about the idea of the ‘arms-length’ principle between government and arts policy.

He added: “The organisation got caught up in all kinds of thematised Scottish Government ‘celebrations’ of national culture.

“This confused curation with nation-branding; the self-confidence and diverse strength of Scottish arts should not be regarded as an automatic resource for cultural diplomacy and ‘brand Scotland’.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman told The Scotsman: “The cabinet secretary set out a clear direction for our rich culture and diverse heritage and the Scottish Government will work with artists, cultural bodies and other partners to achieve this.

“We are consulting on a new strategy for the historic environment and the creation of a body to deliver it, developing a new architecture policy to improve the built environment and considering how public sector partners might better support growth within the creative industries sector.

“There is no room for complacency – culture and heritage can and must be at the heart of Scotland’s future and we must work in partnership to help achieve that.”

Ms Hyslop’s speech was not billed as a major policy change last week, but in response to a question from the floor, she made clear she expected her words to be closely followed.

She said: “I am the culture secretary in Scotland and what I set out in the vision is what I expect from all the different bodies that receive funding from taxpayers in Scotland, but I am quite clear that Creative Scotland have been listening to the comments that have been made, and are very conscious of the need to move forward.

“I’ve had discussions with Creative Scotland about the content of what I’m saying and that it is completely consistent with how we want to take things forward.

In terms of resetting, recalibrating, re-empowering and re-engaging Scotland and its cultural policy, I have every confidence that together Creative Scotland, the cultural institutions and also the artists of Scotland can take that forward.”