Creative Scotland chief nationality ‘not an issue’

THE nationality of the new chief executive of Creative Scotland should not be an issue, a cultural summit in Edinburgh has heard.

The latest “open session” roadshow hosted by the agency insisted candidates should not be judged on their “Scottishness” or where they were born.

A new debate was triggered on the day the troubled arts agency finally started the recruitment process to find a replacement for Andrew Dixon, who quit as the body’s chief executive in December following prolonged criticism for artists.

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The official job description states that the successful candidate will have to ensure the quango is an organisation “for Scotland and of Scotland.”

His reign had been thrown into crisis in October after 100 artists put their names to a letter accusing Creative Scotland of a ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language, and a “lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture.”

One of those signatories, writer and artist Alasdair Gray, sparked a furious row after Mr Dixon’s resignation when it emerged he had targeted him for criticism in his “Colonists and Settlers” essay, which questioned the appointment of the English to influential positions in Scotland.

The issue was raised by cultural commentator and critic Hugh Kerr, who had spaked a similar debate at the launch of the Edinburgh International Festival last week.

Mr Kerr said he wanted to throw the panel a simple question: “How Scottish do you think should Creative Scotland be”?

Hannah McGill, former director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: “You have to trust the interviewing panels for the jobs that they are interviewing for.

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“I’m not sure if I am regarded as being from Scotland or not. You would have to check my birth certificate.

“If you did you’d find I was born in Lerwick. If you researched further you’d see my mum’s from Orkney and my dad’s from Glasgow.

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“Apart from anything else, even if we decided we wanted ours arts organisation to be run solely by people with qualifications in Scottishness, how would we enforce that?

“Are we talking about an exam in Scottishness or actively barring people from taking jobs? There is no word for that that doesn’t involve racist, to me.”

Katrina Brown, director of the arts organisation Common Guild, added: “I’m not interested in what it says on anyone’s passport - just in what they do.”

“I’m both a woman and a director of an organisation. There are lots of woman directors of organisations in Scotland who happen to have come from outside Scotland and have done brilliant jobs. It’s the quality of the output that matters.”

However Mr Kerr said: “It’s a question of what they know about Scotland, not whether they are Scottish or not.”

Meanwhile Creative Scotland has confirmed that the new chief executive will have a salary of £100,000 plus benefits. It said the body was looking for someone with “integrity, vision and imagination, who understands Scotland’s unique cultural landscape, who can work effectively with a team and community, and who values the remarkable contribution that the Scottish arts can make both nationally and internationally.”

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The job description states: “By engaging the wider Scottish creative and cultural sectors as a whole, the chief executive will work to set and implement both the current and long-term goals of the organisation, helping to continue Scotland’s growth as a creative and culturally vibrant nation.

“The chief executive will continue to ensure that Creative Scotland is an organisation which is for Scotland and of Scotland; which supports telling the story of Scotland; and which drives a collective ownership of arts, culture and creativity by individuals and communities.

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“The chief executive must have the relevant experience, skills and values to represent Creative Scotland both at home and abroad, with a passion for Scottish life and culture.”

In his introduction to the application pack, chairman Sir Sandy Crombie, former chief executive of Standard Life, states: “As chief executive you would also be expected to work constructively with myself as chair and with the rest of the board.”

A closing date has been set for applications for the chief executive’s position has been set for 7 April.