New culture tsar set to lead Scottish arts funding overhaul

Scotland is set to get its first culture tsar as part of a drive to overhaul pay and conditions for artists, tackle a squeeze on public funding and curb the impact of Brexit on the sector.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop launched a wide-ranging consultation on a new blueprint for the sector a year ago.Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop launched a wide-ranging consultation on a new blueprint for the sector a year ago.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop launched a wide-ranging consultation on a new blueprint for the sector a year ago.

An experienced figurehead would join forces with leading “thinkers” drawn to identify potential new sources of funding, as well as ways to boost Scottish Government's own spending on culture in future.

A key priority will be to ensure that that as many artists as possible are moved about the "poverty threshold."

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The new "leadership" role, which involve ensuring the benefits of culture are widely spread around Scotland, has emerged in a proposed cultural blueprint which calls for wide-ranging action to be taken to deliver greater diversity across the arts.

The new cultural strategy, which has been a year in the making, warns that many people working in the sector feel “vulnerable, undervalued and unable to reach their potential.”

The Scottish Government report said artists and other freelance workers were often expected to work “for very little or for free,” with long-term careers said to be unsustainable “without juggling multiple jobs.”

It states: "The culture and creative sector in Scotland comprises a growing, highly flexible and expert workforce. It is underpinned by a large freelance contingent working alongside sole traders, small to medium enterprises and those leading and employed by publicly-funded organisations, as well as wider support and related roles that reach into many other sectors.

"It is often defined by the issues, barriers and risks facing those working in the sector rather than by its potential to be an inclusive and socially diverse workforce populated by leaders and innovators."

When initial consultation on the strategy was launched by Fiona Hyslop a year ago, she said the cultural sector needed to become more “inclusive and equitable” itself if Scottish culture was to “accurately represent” Scottish society.

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The blueprint said evidence had emerged during the 12-month consultation that that "geographic, ethnic and social inequality appears to characterise culture in Scotland."

It calls for efforts to be stepped up to ensure greater diversity among employees, board members and volunteers in cultural organisations and funders, and a "broadening of the pool" in terms of the background of the culture workforce.

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However the blueprint warns that the cultural sector is being held back by because many arts organisations were reliant on funding that was “insecure, short-term and requires high levels of administration.”

It also raises concerns that the diversity of the cultural scene is at risk of “narrowing” due to unfair favouritism towards well-established arts organisations and the potential of creating a “risk-averse” culture of allocating funding.

The blueprint, which warns that both local and national governments are under mounting pressure due to growing demand for funding, suggests new funding models for the arts could include the proposed new Scottish National Investment Bank and new legislative powers. Some cultural organisations and festivals have been lobbying for local authorities to be allowed to introduced a tourist tax to help stabilise their future funding.

Ms Hyslop said: “Culture is at the heart of everything we do, reflecting the past, challenging the present and shaping the future.

"The draft culture strategy plays an important role in articulating the fundamental value of culture and its empowering and transformative potential in contributing to individual, community and national well-being.

“The public engagement phase was a crucial part of shaping a culture strategy for Scotland, providing many interesting and constructive perspectives. I’m pleased that the views and voices of people from different backgrounds and from all over Scotland are reflected in draft strategy.

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“I encourage everyone with an interest to continue to contribute to the further development of strategy.

"By taking part in the public consultation, individuals and organisations can share their views and ambition for culture in Scotland."