THE head of the under-fire arts quango Creative Scotland has quit in the wake of a growing rebellion over the running of the organisation.
• Creative Scotland chief Andrew Dixon resigns following months of fierce criticism of the body
• Arts quango was accused of being “damaged at the heart” and of having a “confusing and intrusive management style”
Andrew Dixon resigned on Monday following months of criticism of the flagship quango from angry artists and arts organisations.
His decision comes just weeks after he told The Scotsman he wanted to stay to oversee a host of changes ordered in the wake of concerns that the body was “damaged at the heart” and had a “confusing and intrusive management style”.
The resignation will be seen as a victory for artists who put their name to a damning letter calling for a “fresh start” for the body, which it accused of “ill-conceived decision-making and a lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture”.
The recruitment process for a new chief executive for the body, which has a budget of more than £83 million to promote Scotland’s arts and culture, is to begin immediately. In his resignation statement, Mr Dixon said he had been “disappointed, given my track record, not to gain the respect and support of some of the more established voices in Scottish culture”.
Although Mr Dixon has resigned, it is understood he will receive a pay-off of £60,000, the equivalent to six months’ salary.
He was lured north from the NewcastleGateshead Initiative to oversee the merger of the Scottish Arts Council with Scottish Screen. Composers James Macmillan and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, playwright and artist John Byrne, film-maker Andrea Gibb, actor Tam Dean Burn, singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, authors Janice Galloway and Ian Rankin, and Scotland’s national poet Liz Lochhead, were among the agency’s high-profile critics.
Mr Dixon’s resignation has plunged the organisation into a fresh crisis days ahead of a crucial board meeting.
Two internal reports into the running of the agency, which have been completed but have not been made public, may have triggered Mr Dixon’s decision to resign.
Mr Dixon’s departure is also a body blow for culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who had been unhappy about the prospect of resignations during the Year of Creative Scotland, a government initiative on which the agency has spent more than £6m. Mr Dixon has resigned just days before the organisation is due to host its first awards ceremony at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
The event has been overshadowed by controversy after an all-male panel was chosen to draw up the final shortlist of nominations.
Mr Dixon, who will be leaving at the end of January, said: “It has been a privilege to have been involved in the early years of Creative Scotland and to have worked with such talented and dedicated staff, but I now feel the time is right for a change of direction for both myself and the organisation.
“I am proud of what has been achieved since the merger.
“We have delivered new resources for the arts and established strong partnerships with local authorities, broadcasters and many other agencies.”
However he went on: “I have been disappointed, given my track record, not to gain the respect and support of some of the more established voices in Scottish culture and I hope that my resignation will clear the way for a new phase of collaboration between artists and Creative Scotland.
“I have, however, also received much support and generosity of spirit from people in the arts and culture community across Scotland.
“I have been grateful for the tireless support of Fiona Hyslop and many others in government. I would also like to thank Sir Sandy Crombie and the rest of the board who volunteer their time and expertise so willingly. The staff team at Creative Scotland is exceptional and, despite recent strains, they continue to demonstrate professionalism and a true passion for the artistic and creative life of Scotland.”
Sir Sandy Crombie, chair of the board, said: “I would like to thank Andrew for his stewardship of Creative Scotland since its inception.
“As a new organisation with an extensive remit, there have been inevitable challenges during this period and Andrew has consistently led the organisation with energy, passion and enthusiasm.
“He has also taken every opportunity to be a vociferous champion and advocate for Scottish arts and culture.”
Ms Hyslop said: “In more than two years at Creative Scotland, Andrew Dixon has been a vigorous advocate for Scottish culture and the creative industries.
“His energy and enthusiasm have been key to establishing Creative Scotland as Scotland’s national arts body. I thank him for his commitment and contribution.”
Playwright David Greig, one of Creative Scotland’s harshest critics, said the resignation was “potentially a defining moment”.
He added: “Andrew has given us the gift of a new start. Trust is needed from everyone, now.”