Creative Scotland defends cuts as board member resigns

Creative Scotland Chief Executive Janet Archer
Creative Scotland Chief Executive Janet Archer
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Crisis-hit quango Creative Scotland has defended the way controversial funding cuts were made - despite the resignation of a board member who claims the process was “flawed.”

Ben Thomson, acting chair of the troubled arts body, insisted there was “unanimous agreement” in its boardroom over the decisions, which have already triggered an intervention from the Scottish Government.

Broadcaster and journalist Ruth Wishart resigned along with Maggie Kinloch, former deputy principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Ms Wishart admitted Creative Scotland was currently a “family at war with those it seeks to serve” in the wake of a shake-up which saw 20 companies stripped of long-term funding.

But, writing on her personal blog, she said believed the other board members and senior staff would be “responsive to genuine concerns” which have been expressed about the cuts.

READ MORE: Creative Scotland to hold emergency talks
It emerged on Tuesday that the quango had called a special board meeting to deal with growing criticism from theatre companies, musical ensembles and venues.

Ms Wishart suggested the quango’s decision-making process had been stressful and rushed due to uncertainty over its funding settlement from the Scottish Government, a slump in lottery funding and the impact of the death in July of former broadcasting executive Richard Findlay, who had been chair since early 2015.

She added: “Board members are not there to micro manage, but to offer strategic guidance to the executive, to interrogate decisions and their impact before approving them, to clarify any aspects which seem to be problematical or lacking obvious rationale, and to ensure maximum transparency can be offered as to why the executive has reached the decisions it has.

“It follows that the board can only exercise proper scrutiny and judgement if it is given sufficient background information, and, crucially, sufficient time in which to digest and consider it prior to meetings.”

She added that the board had been asked to “sign off against deadlines on some matters without adequate time to come to considered, properly reflective judgements.”

However Mr Thomson said: “These decisions were arrived at through a clear and careful process, involving Creative Scotland’s highly dedicated specialist staff and leadership team, with final decisions being signed off unanimously by the board.”

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said she believed that being a board member of a public body involved “constructive and robust scrutiny of strategic proposals and collective decision-making”.

Ms Hyslop said: “Ruth Wishart and Professor Maggie Kinloch have made exceptional contributions to the Creative Scotland board, and to cultural life in Scotland. Through their deep knowledge of the arts and culture they have brought valuable expertise and perspective, and whilst it is with regret that I have accepted their resignations, I wish them the very best for the future.”

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