TROUBLED arts agency Creative Scotland is spending up to £45,000 of public money to ask people what they think of the body and its work.
The agency, which has budget of around £83 million a year, is bringing in consultants so it can “better understand our customers”.
The “opinion survey” is being ordered despite the quango carrying out extensive consultation with the arts sector in the six months since the resignation of its chief executive at the end of last year.
Examining perceptions of Creative Scotland, the Scottish Government’s flagship cultural body, and monitoring media coverage will be covered by the deal, which has been advertised on the Public Contracts Scotland website.
Bosses said the work, which was too extensive to be carried out in-house, would also involve asking members of the public about their attitude towards arts and culture. Around 1200 people are due to be surveyed in total over the next year.
News of the contract has emerged after The Scotsman revealed that the organisation is going back to the drawing board over the next year.
New chief executive Janet Archer, who does not start in her position until 1 July, will be responsible for the blueprint, which will replace the existing 2020 corporate plan compiled by former chief executive Andrew Dixon.
The quango has undergone a year of turmoil, after a rebellion by artists, the resignation of its chief executive, and damning internal reviews.
Creative Scotland also spent thousands of pounds on a roadshow of “open sessions” around the country to seek the views of artists and arts organisations.
A report summarising the sessions, published on a blog by Creative Scotland on Monday, said that “the greatest and most common anxiety was that a ‘financialised’ and ‘corporatised’ language...had become too dominant in the operations of Creative Scotland.”
It added: “The language, and thus the policy, around the distribution and usage of Creative Scotland’s resources must change.”
It is understood that the findings from the opinion survey will be fed into the process of creating a new corporate plan for the organisation, which will also have to reflect the findings of the open sessions and a new vision for the arts sector outlined by culture secretary Fiona Fyslop in a keynote speech last week.
A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “This work is completely separate to the open sessions, this is our core business.
“This is specialist research which we couldn’t carry out on our own and we’ve used consultants for this kind of work before. It’s mainly about public attitudes towards arts and culture.
“The findings will provide us with a useful barometer of how the public in Scotland are engaging with arts, culture and creativity.
“It will allow us to better understand areas where we are performing well and areas where we need to be doing more work.”
However Jackson Carlaw MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ deputy leader, said: “If Creative Scotland has to turn to the public for inspiration then things have come to a pretty pass.
“There has been a very definite feeling across Scotland that this organisation has, on occasion, been wasteful with the money it has at its disposal.
“So I think the public will be perplexed as to why it should spend tens of thousands more simply to be informed of this.
“Funding the arts is important, but when taxpayers’ money is at stake, it has to be done responsibly and effectively.
“It shouldn’t cost £45,000 to find that out.”