The issues underlying the current 100 Scottish artists v Creative Scotland stushie mirror those underlying the Scottish historians v Historic Scotland one that blew and spluttered earlier this year.
Playwright David Greig, leading the 100, is correct to state, as his “key issue”, that “Creative Scotland is not the provider of this funding [£83 million a year], it is merely the administrators of it”. We, the people provide the money, and government channels it on our behalf.
Our government does not “get” a culturally pure, art-for-art’s-sake argument, just as it does not “get” a pure architectural heritage one from its built heritage agency. Politicians in general don’t “get” such arguments; but given that very few creative, artistic types deign to enter politics we can hardly complain when our governments are packed full of technocrats, who run the country in a managerial way.
So, if Creative and Historic Scotland want to lever decent funding for the arts or our architectural heritage, it would be counter-productive for it to lead with simple cultural imperatives. Like it or not, it knows that it needs to frame its arguments in the “economic outcomes/creative industries/brand-Scotland/carbon-target” sort of forms government expects.
The fact that it reflects some of that managerial-boosterism down to us is not such a surprise. I have winced at some of Creative Scotland’s language, though, and share the 100’s concern about a regime of constant funding rounds. But I cannot agree with Mr Greig’s wish that the Scottish Government “needs to start to unpick Creative Scotland”. We may all long for a future where culture, in all its built and artistic forms, does not have to plead its case in purely technocratic ways, but until we get there we need somebody to do it for us.
Organisations like Creative Scotland and Historic Scotland need to face both ways: towards government and its economic imperatives, and towards us, as artists and architects. We need to understand this to make them more effective on our behalf.
My best wishes, then, to Mr Greig and co, for a productive engagement with Sandy Crombie and Andrew Dixon of Creative Scotland.
• Malcolm Fraser is head of Malcolm Fraser Architects.
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