AUTHOR Ian Rankin last night led a fresh wave of attacks on ministers over the continuing doubts facing Scottish Opera, claiming that the affair exposed a "malaise" in the Executive’s arts policy.
The Inspector Rebus novelist warned that the Executive had failed to answer crucial questions over the future of the beleaguered company, which this week faces the prospect of being forced to "downsize" in order to meet ministerial budgets.
He said he also stood by a letter printed in Scotland on Sunday two weeks ago, in which he and 54 other leading arts figures expressed astonishment that the prestigious company was on the brink of collapse.
Rankin spoke out after claims were made last week by the chair of Scottish Arts Council, James Boyle, that the letter was "fabricated".
Rankin said: "There were suggestions that I had been stampeded into signing the letter, but that’s nonsense. It was explained to me clearly, read to me over the phone, and I still stand by it 100%.
"I am not a major opera fan, but I think what is happening is indicative of a wider malaise within the Executive towards the arts.
"There is a basic question that hasn’t been answered, which is ‘what kind of opera do we want?’
"Do we want an opera company that receives as much funding as Opera North or Welsh Opera, and puts on groundbreaking performances? Or do we want an opera company that receives less funding than Opera North or Welsh Opera, and puts on lesser shows?
"It’s a pretty basic question, but it hasn’t been answered."
Fellow author Alexander McCall Smith, who also agreed to sign the letter two weeks ago, agreed with Rankin. "My position is unchanged and I have had no reason to revise it," he said.
Another signatory, Sandy Orr, also said he stood by the letter.
Scotland on Sunday helped prepare the letter in combination with several leading arts figures. It was then offered to artists, writers and administrators, who were asked if they wished to sign it.
Orr said: "I have got no objection to somebody drafting a letter on my behalf. I don’t understand why there is any fuss about this at all. The Prime Minister doesn’t write his own speeches and no one comments about that.
"I don’t see any reason why a collective view should not be expressed in this manner. I was most anxious to be put forward."
Judy Arnold, manager for composer laureate Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, added: "I read the contents of the letter to him over the phone and he said he was happy to put his name to it. Somebody has to put things like this together."