Creative Scotland ‘must be pulled apart’, say campaigners

LEADING figures in the campaign against the management of Creative Scotland have urged culture secretary Fiona Hyslop to begin moves to “unpick” the flagship arts funding body.

A dramatic overhaul of the fledgling organisation led by former Standard Life chief ­executive Sir Sandy Crombie has been demanded by key cultural figures – with Ms Hyslop insisting she was taking the criticism levelled at it “very seriously”.

Despite Creative Scotland ­having “arm’s-length” status, Ms Hyslop was forced to make the latest in a series of interventions last night, declaring: “It is imperative that these issues get sorted.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It has emerged an internal review was triggered last month after Ms Hyslop called for action to be taken to “strengthen relationships and build trust”.

But critics insist she needs to do much more to tackle unhappiness and distrust with Creative Scotland, which has an budget of more than £83 million. Sir Sandy, who has offered to meet leading figures in the campaign, has fuelled anger by insisting “they who provide the money have a right to ask what will result from that investment”.

Playwright David Greig condemned the official response to a letter of protest from 100 artists as “totally inadequate” and said artists were being treated like pupils being summoned to see the headmaster.

He said there was a growing clamour for Ms Hyslop to order a proper review into the running of the agency, saying it should be stripped of key responsibilities to focus on the funding of core arts.

Mr Greig accused Sir Sandy of using “emollient” and “patrician” language to dismiss the complaints from the 100 artists.

He added: “The key issue is that Creative Scotland is not the providers of this funding, they are merely the administrators of it. They are running it like it is a business when it is not.

“Creative Scotland is now completely bound up with the so-called creative industries and we have an industrial quango. It has got to the point where somebody within the Scottish Government needs to start to unpick Creative Scotland. Fiona Hyslop could ensure some good comes out of this crisis.”

Janice Galloway, winner of the Scottish Book of the Year award, said: “Sir Sandy’s response to our letter was a masterpiece of resentful condescension and showed how little Creative Scotland understand the concerns.

“Nobody is asking Fiona ­Hyslop to interfere in artistic decisions, this is purely about policy. This letter from Sir Sandy is an exemplar of the kind of change needed in Creative Scotland. It’s not their money they are demanding a return on, it is public money. And they still refusing to accept the scale of the problem by trying to use bigger words and insisting artists simply don’t understand them.”

Ms Hyslop said: “I am taking very seriously the criticism of Creative Scotland. That is why I have asked the board to engage directly with the sector, to ­address the points raised and communicate what action is already being taken.

“The concerns raised relate to internal workings and wider relationships that need to be dealt with. The government cannot and does not interfere in Creative Scotland’s artistic decisions.

“Sir Sandy and I have had constructive exchanges and I know he understands what I expect of the organisation.”

Meanwhile, Creative Scotland said it is producing a “plain English” guide for staff after being accused of using too much “business-speak and obfuscating jargon”. A spokesman said the guide had been in the pipeline for months following repeated criticism of official guidelines and application forms.