Fight is on to keep capital as cultural centre for Scotland

ARTS and business leaders are backing a campaign to prevent Scotland's main cultural development agency being located outside Edinburgh.

Ewan Aitken, the leader of City of Edinburgh Council, who launched the campaign yesterday, said placing the new Creative Scotland anywhere else in the country "would be an act of cultural vandalism against the nation" and would also damage the local and national economies.

The new agency is being set up following a merger of the Edinburgh-based Scottish Arts Council (SAC) and Scottish Screen in Glasgow. The SAC has 90 staff and Scottish Screen employs 54.

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The Scottish Executive is considering options for the agency's future home. Campaigners say a decision is expected shortly.

Mr Aitken said while he supported the Executive's relocation policy there was a danger of taking a "utilitarian" stance based on considerations such as office space and jobs.

"Taking Creative Scotland out of Edinburgh would put strain on relationships in the cultural community," he said."To locate Creative Scotland away from the city would seriously undermine the capital city's status."

He also launched an online petition to gather public support for Edinburgh's bid.

Brendan Dick, vice-chair of the Edinburgh Business Assembly, said: "A country our size can't afford to diversify because people feed off each other. From a business perspective we shouldn't assume Edinburgh's success is sustainable for ever and a day. It's critical that we don't fragment success."

Catherine Lockerbie, director of the International Book Festival, said: "Interconnectedness is the key. We became the world's first UNESCO City of Literature after coming up with the idea and working with a host of agencies to achieve it. It would be perverse to have fragmentation."

Jonathan Mills, director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: "One characteristic of a 'great small country' is its ability to be financially, politically, socially and culturally joined up."

But Stewart Maxwell MSP, SNP culture spokesman, said: "Both Edinburgh and Glasgow have a strong case to be the base but I think it is best not to be emotive and carry out a proper analysis on what's best for taxpayers' money."

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A Scottish Executive spokesman said a review was being undertaken into the future location of the agency.

"Trade unions, senior management and staff from the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen are being fully involved during the review process," he said.