Creative Scotland lay out dramatic changes to funding schemes

Andrew Dixon
Andrew Dixon
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TROUBLED quango Creative Scotland today laid out a series of dramatic changes in a bid to head off an artistic rebellion - including overhauling its controversial funding schemes.

The board of the under-fire agency, which has faced growing criticism of its handling of the sector, pledged a return to long-term funding schemes for most arts organisations.

A statement issued days after the resignation of chief executive Andrew Dixon admitted that “many important relationships have deteriorated” in the two years since it was formed out of a merger of the Scottish Arts Council with Scottish Screen.

The organisation’s entire operational structural is set to be changed, new sounding boards for artists are to be created and there is to be more emphasis on the promotion of artists and cultural organisations, rather than Creative Scotland itself.

The statement - drawn up after two internal inquiries and a two-day board meeting - is a damning indictiment of the way Creative Scotland has been run.

It admits Creative Scotland’s “competence and delivery” had been affected by a failure to properly deploy expertise, while it claims successful initiatives have been “undermined by failures in other areas.”

Dozens of arts groups faced losing regular funding under a shake-up which triggered the current crisis earlier this year.

However the new proposals offer a potential lifeline as they spell an end to cash being earmarked for “strategic commissioning”, believed to account for around £3.5 million at present. Creative Scotland has also pledged to cut the number of different funding programmes due to previous “confusion.”

The statement by the board, led by former Standard Life chief executive Sir Sandy Crombie, adds: “There is clearly a need to create a culture and ethos where trust and mutual respect can thrive.

“It is time that Creative Scotland stopped being the story. We think the best way to achieve this is to focus on making our core operation effective, and affording those we support due care and attention.

“These changes are the product of a period of painful but essential re-examination. We are individually and collectively signed up to restoring confidence in Creative Scotland’s work.

“We ask for time to be allowed to do this and to be judged on the results of the changes announced today.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Creative Scotland is clearly determined to take prompt and decisive action to address the issues of concern to the sector as quickly as possible.

“The plans for extensive, ongoing external consultation will herald a new more collaborative direction, while the internal reforms on structure and processes should enable the organisation to make better use of staff skills and expertise in its dealings with the sector.

“I support Sir Sandy and the board in their desire to put Creative Scotland on a sound footing in its relations with artists and cultural organisations across Scotland.

“I would now urge artists to engage positively and constructively with the regular dialogue events that are to be set up - so that trust can be re-built and the organisation can focus on supporting the rich diversity and excellence of our arts and culture.”

The shake-up has been announced two months after the publication of a damning letter from 100 artists warning that the quanogo was “damaged at the heart” and had a 
“confusing and intrusive management style”.