Pro-indy artists’ desire to please ‘pathetic’, says leading Scots composer

Scotland’s leading classical composer has accused 
dozens of cultural figures of harbouring “a pathetic desire to please those in control” by issuing their own declaration for Scottish independence.

Sir James MacMillan. Picture: EIF
Sir James MacMillan. Picture: EIF

Sir James MacMillan condemned the likes of crime author Val McDermid, writer Liz Lochhead, actor Brian Cox, rapper Darren McGarvey and musician Pat Kane for 
losing a “thirst to speak truth to power”.

He said the group of artists and creatives were instead guilty of “a meek and mild compliance” and asked why an artistic desire to shock the establishment had “become the desire to bend over for them”.

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Writing in the American social, cultural and political magazine National Review, Sir James, 60, claimed that the SNP administration at Holyrood was “keen for culture to be the tool of politics and is working hard to achieve widespread, general compliance.”

He insisted that the best thing for Scottish culture would be for the Scottish Government “to get out of our faces.”

The Ayrshire-born composer suggested that those who backed the declaration had “forgotten that nationalist movements throughout history have sought control over culture and heritage”.

He added: “It’s odd – people in the arts, who often pride themselves on being free thinkers and anti-establishment, have, in Scotland, become something else.

“Gone is the thirst to speak truth to power. In its place is a meek and mild compliance, a pathetic desire to please those in control. Art should not bend the knee to governments or ruling castes.

“Since when did the artistic desire to shock the establishment become the desire to bend over for them?”

Actress Elaine C Smith, singer Karine Polwart, poet Michael Pedersen, author Andrew O’Hagan and playwright Stephen Greenhorn were among the other cultural figures to back the independence blueprint, published days before the SNP’s autumn conference in Aberdeen earlier this month.

The declaration stated: “It is our belief that the best option now open to the Scottish people is for Scotland to become an independent country.

“The alternative is to accept that its fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.”

Pat Kane, frontman with the band Hue and Cry, said: “Of course artists should keep their distance from existing governments. But most of the statements in the declaration are just examples of modern decency.

“These are artists stating their views as 21st century citizens, within the context of Scottish independence, and they’ve every right to do so.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We disagree with Sir James MacMillan’s characterisation of funding - in fact he has himself benefited from Scottish Government funding with £150,000 from the Expo Fund going towards five concerts at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival which showcased a new symphony as part of the celebrations for this 60th birthday.”