'˜Lack of diversity' in Scottish culture is deterring audiences

A damning verdict on the diversity of Scottish culture has been delivered in an official report which warns that it is dominated by people from wealthier backgrounds.

Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. Pic: Andrew O'Brien
Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs. Pic: Andrew O'Brien

Every level and every art form in the sector is said to be affected, according to new research carried out across the country.

A lack of diversity amongst key decision-makers, boards of arts organisations and their employees is directly affecting programming and putting off potential audiences.

Poverty, poor health, transport, language, geography and cost were all cited as significant barriers to involvement with the arts in the Scottish Government research.

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    The findings are expected to influence a new national cultural strategy, which the Scottish Government instigated last summer before a six-month consultation, including a series of “culture conversations.”

    The report states: “Inequality was raised consistently by the majority of contributors in relation to opportunities to access and experience culture.

    “Contributors perceived there to be a lack of diversity amongst those employed or involved across the cultural sectors, at all levels (amongst employees, as well as amongst senior decision-makers) and this was considered to have resulted in a corresponding lack of diversity in output .

    “It was noted by many that the workforce seems to be from higher socio-economic groups and some felt that this is because of the need to have personal sources of financial support during training and to subsidise an insecure and sometimes poorly paid career.

    “Contributors also felt there was unequal engagement in culture with the view that those from lower socio-economic groups, deprived areas, or from minority backgrounds, disabled people or people with health conditions and multiple or complex needs were less likely to engage. It was suggested more could be done to tackle this by pro-active approaches to employing people from different backgrounds which could potentially lead to greater diversity in output and greater visibility of role models.”

    A spokesman for arts agency Creative Scotland said: “We very much welcome today’s publication of the report. It’s encouraging to see the widespread recognition of the important role of artists in our society, the significance of diversity and the value that culture delivers for all of us, creatively, socially and economically. We look forward to contributing further to the draft strategy as it develops over the coming months.”