The Last Days of Creative Scotland

It’s time for artists to seize the power back from an organisation that has never been fit for purpose. Creative Scotland in its current guise is in its final days, argues Neil Cooper.

The well paid bureaucrats currently in charge of Creative Scotland should be worried. Having made yet another pig’s ear of the latest round of Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) by inexplicably cutting valuable resources for some of Scotland’s world renowned artists, theatre-makers and musicians, they have put themselves in the firing line of a justifiable barrage of anger and frustration.

Cutting two major children’s theatre companies – Catherine Wheels and Visible Fictions – in the first month of Scotland’s dedicated Year of Young People – was at best insensitive, at worst gross stupidity. Slashing regular funding for disabled theatre companies Birds of Paradise, who are about to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary, and learning disabled pioneers Lung Ha’s was just as baffling.

It was odd too to see a cut too for Transmission, the artist-led committee-run Glasgow art-space which since the 1980s has pioneered a wave of grassroots visual arts activity. This helped foster and inspire a slew of other young artists seizing the means of production and setting up co-operatively run ventures. Others losing out include Glasgow-based purveyors of street-art spectacle, Mischief-la-bas, the Hebrides Ensemble and the Dunedin Consort. Other companies have been placed on stand-still funding or else maintained RFO status at a reduced level, as is the case with the women-centred Stellar Quines theatre company.

One of the other noticeable aspects of the RFO decisions is the amount of ‘umbrella’ bodies who were successful in their funding bids, while many companies who produce artistic work were rejected. While many of these such as the Federation of Scottish Theatre do significant work, the seeming imbalance between funding networking bodies while artists were turned down suggests that bureaucrats would rather fund other bureaucrats than artists themselves.


Two weeks ago it all looked so different. Having spent months arguing her case at Holyrood, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announced an extra £6.6 million for Creative Scotland. Arts organisations and individuals had been wrestling for months with the draining job of having to fill in complex and at times according to some of those having to navigate them, incomprehensible funding application forms. RFO announcements were supposed to be announced last autumn, but were stalled until the Scottish Government could announced their own budget.

This left many organisations unable to plan ahead, and there were private fears from some that they might not be able to continue. The announcement of extra funding, however belated, suggested everything was going to be alright. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Creative Scotland has seriously wrong-footed such a rare display of unbridled optimism.

Such a wave of public spleen-letting by assorted artistic communities hasn’t been seen since CS last messed up in 2012. Back then, an artist’s revolt triggered the resignation of the arts funding quango’s two most senior staff, who had overseen a culture of poor communication, bureaucratic gobbledegook, top-down thinking and the apparent belief that Creative Scotland was somehow a producer-led organisation rather than a funding body set up to enable and administrate the brilliant ideas of Scottish artists. There have always been winners and losers in arts funding, usually to do with a lack of money caused by the miniscule amount of capital – currently less than 1% in Scotland – channelled into arts funding.


With a full-scale revolt averted with the appointment of Janet Archer as a new CEO who appeared to be more in tune with a modernising artist-led approach, everyone went quiet, and revolution was averted. The fact that Archer was steeped in exactly the same managerialist philosophy as her predecessor Andrew Dixon, to the extent that he had even referenced her during a speech in the early part of his calamitous tenure in Waverleygate seemed to go un-noticed.

As with 2012, this latest and arguably more serious stooshie has exposed visible ideological cracks in an organisation which remains entrenched in the same bureaucratic, hierarchical managerialist philosophy that it was supposed to have done away with five years ago.

On Wednesday, Archer appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth programme to discuss the debacle alongside the Herald’s arts news reporter Phil Miller. Sounding noticeably and perhaps understandably nervous, Archer talked soothingly about how CS were ‘listening hard’, which, given some of the decisions made on her watch, suggested they hadn’t been.

When asked about CS funding for the umbrella bodies, Archer answered saying that CS provided ‘bespoke business support for the creative sector’. That one ice-cold phrase summed up everything that is currently wrong with Creative Scotland. There is no love in a phrase like that, only fear of being found out that the organisation you represent has nothing to offer.

In this respect, Creative Scotland have become something akin to the Wizard of Oz, L Frank Baum’s much feared magician who projects a terrifying and alienating persona to keep people in their place. Once you get behind the veil, however, the Wizard turns out to be a little guy with as little clue about things as everybody else. It’s a suitably theatrical image, and one CS should learn from.

The resignation this week of Ruth Wishart and Professor Maggie Kinloch from the Creative Scotland board is a clear pointer to the mess the organisation has made for itself. As did too Fiona Hyslop’s tweets on the matter last weekend, which suggested a diplomatic displeasure at what appears to be an ongoing lack of communication skills from CS. Wishart and Kinloch are two of the most experienced voices in Scotland’s arts scenes, and understand with a passion the importance of arts and culture at every level. The somewhat testy response to their resignations from CS’ interim Chair Ben Thomson did little to dent Wishart and Kinloch’s credibility.

Things are moving fast, and an emergency CS board meeting will by now have taken place with some serious fire-fighting required regarding a set of bewildering decisions. If any of those decisions are reversed, heads may roll. They might do anyway, perhaps deservedly so.

But let’s be clear here. The dunder-headed managerialism Creative Scotland was founded on is a microcosm of a far greater global malaise which, like Creative Scotland is in freefall as its arbiters attempt to shore up their botched system with increasing desperation. Creative Scotland was an ideological construct from the start. That was exposed five years ago, and despite the efforts of some dedicated staff, hasn’t changed one single iota.

If one wanted to be fanciful, one could liken Creative Scotland to the biblical myth of the Tower of Babel, in which a once unified people attempting to build a tower to heaven are divided from on high by a god who would rather no-one understood each other. Up until now, at least, Creative Scotland’s divide-and-rule tactics, whereby those who do well in various funding rounds are invariably silenced lest they risk rocking an already leaky boat, do much the same thing.

Scotland’s artists mustn’t fall for this any longer. A change of management won’t be enough to save CS this time. It’s time for artists to seize the power back from an organisation that has never been fit for purpose, to dismantle its unworkable structures from the top down, and to reimagine it from the ground up. Creative Scotland in its current guise is in its final days. It’s time for artists to speak up, and to speak loudly, with one voice.

Comments (28)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Jeremy Wyatt says:

    The analysis of the problem is spot on as far as it goes. It does however miss completely the reduction of funding to key creative hubs outside the Central Belt -Ayr Gaiety, Eden Court, Macrobert, and the more general carnage in touring theatre (a repeat of a similar purge a decade ago). But we need a bit more of a solution – we all need to get practical. Words and outrage are both cheap. Some real collaboration and focus have got to be the next steps.

    1. Neil Cooper says:

      Agreed on all counts, Jeremy. There were obviously things not included here, as it was written at haste, but the nuances you mention in terms of specific reductions are worth a piece in itself. And yes, all artists, venues and organisations such as yourself need to take charge. Venceremos.

    2. Edward says:

      Jeremey I that think you’re more spot on, where you plead, ‘But we need a bit more of a solution – we all need to get practical. Words and outrage are both cheap. Some real collaboration and focus have got to be the next steps.’

      There’s an immediate danger of, 1) A recurrent churn in CEOs (and losing a Culture Minister along the way), 2) A repetitive within-the-sector response of, ‘no, us first, no we’re more deserving’, no matter what the outcomes of the Creative Scotland budget are.
      These are, as much as anything, likely to be damaging to the status and credibility of the sector among politicians, decision-makers and the taxpaying public alike.

      Beyond these issues, others that the sector itself might best address would include: the conditionality of public funding balanced with precepts of ‘art for art’s sake’ (the broad declaration I heard on TV of, ‘Government should just give us the money and trust us’ just won’t do? Nor will a broad default position on the part of some proponents of resistance against any notions of business-like approaches to the allocation and deployment of public funds); and the locus of the sector in respect to other public-funding sectors in Scotland.

      The comfort zone of, ‘let’s give Creative Scotland a regular kicking’ may be a legitimate activity for some, but it’s pointless and unproductive in the greater scheme of things. It also misses the point about the true extent of the immense issues and difficulties around the purpose, governance and operation of Creative Scotland. Just one incident pointed up those challenges – the resignation of two Creative Scotland Board members… much vaunted by some others… but followed by the Creative Scotland riposte of, ‘The funding decisions [on which they resigned] were unanimously approved by the Board.’

  2. Scott Berg says:

    But fall for what, exactly? Download the budgeted spreadsheets all the way back to when it was the Arts Council. You’ll see patterns throughout on who gets, and who doesn’t. They hand over millions per year to Edinburgh Councils for “festivals” – and yet all the real estate barons and venue companies continually rake in the cash, gouge the performing artists and companies and then go into debt for the “opportunity to perform at the world’s largest festival!”.

    The Fringe skews its figures with ‘sold out’ claims, but that is a concoctions of convenient maths and ticket allotting. They litter the countryside with paper magazines, filled with listings that cost 300-600 pounds each, multplied by thousands of shows. Where, exactly, is all this money going?

    Even the EIBF, with charitable status, takes public funds then raises cash for its programmes via book sales.

    The whole things has been in need of a major overhaul for decades. Many of us are quite aware of who gets the funding, and haven’t been falling for it for a long time.

  3. Chris Ballance says:

    Neil is absolutely right in everything except one thing – this is not new. The very same accusations were made of Scottish Arts Council (SAC) in its last years when it moved from supporting artist-led organisations (which it could not control) to management structures (which it could). This is a continuation of the Thatcherite model of a sort of Scottish Enterprise giving business advice to perceived safe hands, rather than supporting artists to do what they do best – create work which may be great or may not be. It sets artists in competition with each other for funding, rather than drawing them together to work co-operatively.
    Research by, I think, the Society of Authors, some years ago discovered that 85% of professional writers in Scotland earn more from the work they do in their spare time than from their writing. What a waste of professional skills! And while artists should certainly not become divorced from the society they work in, that does not support the theory common among many arts bureaucrats that 1) Scotland is not big enough to afford to support full-time artists and 2) no artist understands business. Wrong, wrong.
    Maggie Kinloch and Ruth Wishart were probably the last two members of the Board to have the support of the arts community – brilliant people both. Their resignations highlight the immediate need for change at the top.

  4. Leigh French says:

    I disagree with much of the narrativising but agree in principle with the conclusion, namely that the problem was not one of managerial competency or non-belongingness (whatever cultural nationalists’ choose to rehash) but remains one of the Scottish Government’s interpretation of competitiveness thinking:

    “Creative Scotland was an ideological construct from the start. That was exposed five years ago, and despite the efforts of some dedicated staff, hasn’t changed one single iota.”

    This is hardly surprising considering Creative Scotland is uniquely embedded in statute, thereby putting ScotGov’s focus on ‘making-competitive’ beyond everyday political contestation. Hence the earlier successful containment of disagreement to merely styles of CS management – as if.

    This is quite different to other countries’ policy mechanisms which float that much more as the policy of the government-of-the-day, ie not embedded in statute. A visiting arts officer from Australia Council was dismayed to see this particular post-political tendency in Scotland.

    But it gets worse when considering the singularity that’s been embedded in statute whereby the “General functions of Creative Scotland” are “encouraging and supporting artistic and other creative endeavours which contribute to an understanding of Scotland’s national culture” – ie nation branding.

    For those selectively banging on about the virtues of Nordicism, Sweden has (at least rhetorically) a more pluralistic “safeguarding freedom of expression and creating genuine opportunities for everyone to make use of that freedom”, which goes on to posit “different cultures in the country” as fact; ie as unreliant on the benevolence of majoritarian recognition (even as Sweden’s also lapses into assemblages of “our cultural heritage” etc).

    The first constructs agency as subordinate to intrinsic recognition in ‘being of’ and ‘positively contributing to’ hierarchical ideas of the national. Whereas the second poses a more leaky container, with the population as having principal agency; ie a more horizontal sense of being together without any necessary referent to a national level. (Though Sweden’s is not so ideal in practice either.)

    So for all the noise I doubt cultural nationalists are serious about truly confronting ScotGov and would be contented, yet again, with a degree of privileged protection carved out from the wider competitive creative industries schema. I won’t be holding my breath while self-serving claims about a “lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture” continue to efface what ought to be the real target.

    1. Crow River says:

      As you rightly surmise, the problem lies with the policy underpinnings of CS and not with the details of individual management or funding decisions, however contested by those on the receiving end. CS was a project of the post-Blairite McConnell government, which was taken on board wholesale and uncontested by the incoming SNP one. As you say, CS was enshrined in legislation with a large degree of cross-party support. Which speaks to widespread and unchallenged assumptions among the political leadership in Scotland about the role of culture as an “industry”, and a primarily economic and business driven policy framework to deal with cultural production.

  5. Marilyn Clark says:

    “There have always been winners and losers in arts funding, usually to do with a lack of money caused by the miniscule amount of capital”

    – One of my more tinfoil hatted friends says its really odd how those losers always seem to be from minorities or the working class – BIZARRE isn’t it ?

    It’s a real mystery Neil – maybe one of these days we’ll get lucky and the papers might decide to employ – Oh I dunno a sort of journalist working on reporting culture type of thing that could help us see the issue a bit more clearly.

    Or maybe you’re right, maybe it is just like the weather or something – the random world of Arts funding eh ? What’s it like huh? All those opening invites just fall from the sky !

    “Creative Scotland was an ideological construct from the start. That was exposed five years ago, and despite the efforts of some dedicated staff, hasn’t changed one single iota.”

    – oh, so it WAS actually a neoliberal one percenters top down project ? Make your mind up.

    “It’s time for artists to seize the power back”

    I agree with this and suggest we all meet at Waverley Gate to march to the old Royal High School and demand its opening as a private fee paying music school – which I seem to recall was your foremost suggestion from the INCREDIBLY talented people who made up the very important desire lines summit.

    Look, you all need to go.

    The whole lot of you.

    Not just Janet Archer or Fiona Hyslop.

    Every single ‘cultural commentator’ ‘curator/artist’ and ‘community arts engagement facilitator’ has to go as well.


    1. Alf Baird says:

      Scotland’s “one percenters” haven’t generally got a clue about, far less interest in, yer actual bona fide Scottish culture yet it is they who we invariably appoint to head up Scotland’s major institutions and distribute public money. Unfortunately, Cabinet Secretaries are now also part of the “one percenters” by virtue of their £2600+ per week, according to Oxfam. By the way Fiona, talking about Scottish culture, where is our Scots Language Act, language being the basis of culture an aw that? As for “Look, you all need to go”, I agree we should, as Trump might put it, ‘drain the swamp’, or as we might express in Scots (if Scots fowk were taucht tae screed ony Scots wirds), ‘souk the slump’.

  6. Sasha Callaghan says:

    I don’t know how typical our experience of Creative Scotland is but here goes. About 18 months ago, 4 Deaf/Disabled People gave presentations at a ‘building culture’ conference hosted by QMU. We were all from different organisations or freelancers but what stood out was that each of us faced similar barriers in our work as disabled artists/practitioners. All of us described the lack of support we felt was available in Scotland and how we believed things could change for the better. The then ‘Head of Equality’ from Creative Scotland, who was a delegate, got up and proceeded to denounce everything we, as disabled people, had said. She refused to accept our experience as genuine, and simply reeled off a list of ‘diverse’ organisations funded by CS (a bit ironic now, as it included Lung Ha and BoP). So, once again, the voices of disabled artists were silenced when we had the audacity to be mildly critical of Creative Scotland’s piss poor track record on equality. I did vaguely hope that her replacement might be a bit better but she seems to be keeping rather a low profile, ATM.

  7. James Mills says:

    Reminds me of two bald men fighting over a comb ! The great majority of people ( uncultured ? ) do not give a piss-artist for the arguments listed in the article . That may apall the sensibilities of the ”artistic community ” but is probably more in tune with real life than these endless middle-class squabbles over free money from the taxpayer to fund activities , the majority of which , are as much of a benefit to Scots as a chocolate fireguard !

  8. w.b.robertson says:

    who was it again who said …”when I hear the word culture I reach for my rev…….”?.

    1. Crubag says:

      An actor, ironically?

      From the pen of the Nazi-aligned playwright Hanns Johst.

  9. Morag Deyes says:

    OK- but I would assume the artists would rather be making art than decisions about overheads for the toilet rolls and lighbulbs (for example) in a community theatre 200 miles away from them? or whether the chamber orchestra should have enough extra for another viola? Or if the travelling theatre company travel in a bus, van or a train!? Artists make art. We need a trusted system that works….not to take artists away from their chosen lives.
    Articles that say ‘let the artists decide’ maybe dont know the amount of extra time and unacknowledged work that goes into the arts infrastructures? Yes, streamline but dont be naiive or disrespectful to the folk out there trying to make sense of it all and supporting artists. Yes, take expert advice from artists of course but oh hang on…..who decides which artists?

  10. Edward says:

    Breaking news this evening is a major turnaround by Creative Scotland with funding restored to some bodies. Solves nothing, IMO, in the greater scheme of things. Just another turn of the, some-win-some-lose annual funding ‘game’. Reported comment from Janet Archeris; ‘We recognise that this round of funding decisions has been challenging and that we must, and will, learn lessons from that for the future.’
    I’d argue that the Imperatives *now* are: what is the strategy for doing the learning; who will be involved; how; at what stage & with what purpose? Meaningfull engagement and participation really are the imperatives now for Scotland’s arts & culture. Is the sector at large up to it?

  11. Damian Killeen says:

    There are two questions that, in my view, should be asked of any quasi political funding mechanism such as Creative Scotland; are its processes transparent and is there a clear structure of accountability, preferably one that allows for challenge and appeal. Since the ideal organisation does not exist, I don’t expect the answer to be ‘yes’ on all counts but there should be evidence that these are the principles that the organisation is attempting to implement. These are not in evidence with regard to Creative Scotland.

    In the late 1970’s and early 80’s I was a member of the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Community Arts Panel and, when funding was devolved, I chaired the first Community Arts Panel for Yorkshire Arts. The practice at that time was for panel members to visit new applicants and previous applicants with ‘new’ proposals to gain an understanding of their aspirations and abilities and the context in which they were attempting to embed them. Rejections, when the applicant wanted it, could be followed up with conversations intended to provide constructive feedback, especially when what was assessed as fundable did not receive funds because of the inevitable gap between the demand and the supply of money. I am not suggesting that this methodology was perfect but it did recognise the realities of the circumstances in which artists were developing work and panel members took responsibility directly for panel decisions. This was also an iterative process that meant that the panel was constantly learning from what was happening.

    Incidentally, I was in this position because I had developed a touring theatre, music and dance venue in South Yorkshire as a by-product of running an open door, young peoples’ advice and information centre. In Scotland, since 2000, I led, as a community volunteer, on the development of a community based public arts trust that attracted both funding and rejections from the SAC and Creative Scotland and which dissolved last year, after 14 years of activity, due to the current funding environment. I am currently smarting from Creative Scotland’s rejection of a project I have developed with three of Scotland’s significant, community oriented dance organisations and submitted to the Large Open Fund to encourage more older men into contemporary dance practice. The project is assessed to be ‘fundable’ but is the victim of unspecified ‘priorities’. My grapes, I believe, are not sour but have ripened with age.

    Creative Scotland goes nowhere near meeting criteria of transparency or accountability, as many others have described. This is a political matter for the Minister and the Government rather than something that the Board or the staff of Creative Scotland can resolve. The legislation governing Creative Scotland also authorised the establishment of the Scottish Health and Education services. In both these cases the legislation required public scrutiny and participation in decision making processes. This requirement was not applied to Creative Scotland. Government funding to Creative Scotland is public funding intended to benefit the general population via the activities of artists and the public are entitled to question and challenge how this benefit is achieved. The Minister could make significant inroads into tackling the public perceptions of cronyism etc. that are attached to Creative Scotland by introducing a greater role for public scrutiny and participation in its operations. It is not axiomatic that this would lead to populism and philistinism or ‘cultural nationalism’ if it is accompanied by education and communications that are designed to remove the aura of exclusivity and mystery in which the organisation currently seen.

    Friends elsewhere in Europe are amazed by what they see as the centralisation of funding for the arts in Scotland; where are the independent trusts and foundations? Well, some of them have, in effect, been swallowed up by Creative Scotland. And where are the local authorities in this story? There needs to be a diversity of funding for the arts and, hopefully, this is something that the Minister will address in her much awaited Cultural Strategy. Maybe, as some suggest, there is no need for a monolithic, national arts funding body such as Creative Scotland but, whilst it exists we should, at least, be able to expect that it will operate in line with the highest standards of public management and that the Minister will make the necessary reforms to ensure that this is the case.

  12. Peter says:

    Bring back the Scottish Arts Council. That was much better.

    Very good article, and doesn’t at all read like it was writtern in haste. Sad to read again about some of those decisions, though.

    1. Edward says:

      Are we just to go for GroundHog Day then? The Scottish Arts Council, I recall, went out amid a welter of controversy and villification over its final budget round and governance. Almost eerily many of the same criticims and dissent were aired then as with Creative Scotland now. Back to basics maybe after all – go on just giving the agency (whatever it is) a kicking.

  13. Redgauntlet says:

    The big ticket events, like the Edinburgh Festival, should be handled directly by the Scottish Ministry of Culture, without the extra layer of bureaucracy which is Creative Scotland.

    Why do we need to pay people salaries to hand a big lump of cash to the Edinburgh Festival? The people on the board of the Edinburgh Festival are there to organize that and they should report to Fiona Hyslop’s department directly.

    All of the other arts should run their own, small, nimble and expert tailor-made institutions themselves, as democratically as possible. Scottish writers vote for an elect the people to run Scottish literature’s own tailor made funding body, for example.

    Scottish film-makers and playwrights, likewise, would vote for and appoint the people responsible for distributing funding for film and theatre money.

    The people running these institutions would themselves be artists – or practitioners in C.S’ s speak – and would draw a salary no more than twice the average annual salary of a Scottish artist….say., for example..

    Finally, we would need a national institution which represents all of the arts on the international stage. The Germans have the Goethe Institute, the Spanish have the Cervantes Institute, the Catalans have the Ramon Llull Institute…

    The key terms, as always, are self-government, democracy and accountability…

    There would be a limited term for people running these organizations, say four or five years.

    The more democracy we have, the more accountability..

  14. Peter says:

    I wanted to mention that I’ve had recent experience working with CS’ Creative Industries department, and it’s been a good experience – helpful, positive and generally doing what they say on the tin, as it were. In general the CS remit is a bit wider than people realise.

  15. Alf Baird says:

    There does seem to be a common theme with many of Scotland’s social institutions which continue to be experiencing difficulties (culture, police, transport, universities etc) , and it is that a great many if not most of them are not led by Scots, but by individuals who come from the other UK countries, particularly England. Many remember a previous leader of CS who admitted to knowing relatively little about Scottish culture but was keen to learn. Alasdair Gray had much fun with that one. But this raises a more general concern that perhaps we expect too much from those we have a tendency to invite from other countries to lead and run our social institutions in Scotland, when they perhaps are not exactly au fait with Scotland or the Scots, culturally or otherwise?

    Scotland’s position does seem rather like, say Finland, asking Moscow to send its elite administrators to run Finland’s social institutions on behalf of the Finn’s. That was of course much the case prior to 1917 when Finland was still under the imperial control of Russia, and suffering from the latter’s standard ‘Russianization’ policies imposed on its satellite states (i.e. indigenous language and cultural oppression, elite Russians placed in charge of governance etc), but since its independence Finland’s institutions no longer telephone Moscow to send them its elite administrators; instead, Finland has a general tendency to lift up its ain fowk.

    Perhaps Scotland should look to Finland, who gave us the baby box, for even more inspiration? We would find there a ‘Ministry of Education AND Culture’ combined. Is that not a good idea, reflecting some synergies it seems? The Finn’s, whilst introducing more teaching of English as a useful global administrative language, this is not done at the expense of any indigenous language, as we see here with the ongoing suppression of Scots language, which Scots bairns are neither taught to read or write, or appreciate. Culture is a lot more than the arts! The people ARE the culture, the way they speak, the way they think, and what they do.

    So, there are two ideas: create a Ministry of Education and Culture, and consider asking Scots to lead and run Scotland’s social institutions, for a change.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      The key principle should be democracy, not nationality, Alf.

      If the Scottish arts community had voted for Janet Archer as CEO of CS, then she would have a legitimacy, whether she knows much about Scottish culture or not. There may be appointments in which being an outsider is an advantage. Like representing Scottish arts internationally, say.

      What you can’t do is treat arts administration like it was waste management administration, or running the trains or the buses, which is what the SNP do, and most governments probably do.

      It’s not about “efficiency” and “getting value for money for the tax-payer”. There are lots of invisible benefits in the arts which may take time to manifest themselves and are hard to trace at the best of time. Who can tell the effect of seeing a play or reading a book has on this or that child or adult? You can’t measure it like you can other services…

      The Scottish arts community is full of mature, intelligent and articulate people. Hence, the Scottish arts community should be directly involved in deciding who runs Scotland’s arts, who allocates its budget, and in establishing a general set of guidelines which would lay out the criteria for funding.

      I mean, when you think of just how undemocratic it is for a Scottish Minister to set up CS who then appoint a board and then a CEO without any real representation of the Scottish arts community in that process, well it’s like something out of a different age….right? It is democratically indefensible… it’s an anachronistic way of thinking about how modern socities are run, or should be run.

      We need to democratise Scottish arts funding. Any administration should be organized from the bottom up, not the top down. If that can’t happen, then the two should meet half way…

      I mean poor Janet Archer. It’s not her fault. But she has no legitimacy in Scotland in the arts scene. How can she? Plus, anybody who uses the word “bespoke” arouses acute suspicion in me…

      1. Damian Killeen says:

        Yes. But what is the ‘arts community’ and how could it produce a democratically representative body of people willing and able to decide on the allocation of funds across the range of activities currently funded by Creative Scotland? I don’t believe that this would be as straightforwatd as you suggest. The current Board and panel membrrs include a majority of people with direct experience if making art of different kinds in Scotland, as well as reflecting Scotland’s regional, eyhnic and cultural diversity. How would the arts community manage this differently? I would genuinely like to know how a credible alternative could work.

        1. Edward says:

          Absolutely bang on the button Damian – the kind of themes I have in mind when I (it seems pointlessly) raise the issue of the need for the ‘sector’ or ‘community’ to ask questions of itself. Remaining under the comfort blanket of just periodically kicking Creative Scotland will remain an unproductive displacement activity.

        2. Redgauntlet says:

          Hi Damian

          You would have to work out a way to achieve a representative body of Scottish artists, which is surely not beyond us.

          It would be imperfect no doubt, but it should have the right to veto the appointment of the CEO of CS and all the heads of department of CS. It would be like a union. A Scottish artists union which actually fights our corner, because Scottish artists are workers, first and foremost: cultural workers. It’s a job of work. And that union or body should be consulted in any of the big decisions made by Fiona Hyslop.

          Would the Scottish government treat business like it treats the arts? Would it treat education like it does the arts? Can we not just aspire to be mistreated as adults, like everybody else, rather than taken for a bunch of slightly deviant children?

          That’s how CS treats your average Scottish artist – at least that’s my experience – like a deviant child. A patronizing bunch of suits who make a living telling creative people what forms to fill in. It’s like something out of Monty Python…

          As for your comment that the board of CS includes people who have direct experience of making art – a hilarious way of putting it – who are you referring to? There is not a single board member of CS who has ever produced or been involved in the creation of any work of art at all. They’re all bankers and consultants….it’s UNBELIEVABLE…

          Here they are, the suits who hold the purse strings:

          With what criteria have these people been appointed? It’s totally baffling to me. And this is the SNP? UNBELIEVABLE…

          Do I think it will actually change? No, I don’t.

          The only thing a self-respecting person can do with CS is ignore them. They take up a lot of your time, they are very bad for your morale, and they don’t know what they’re talking about most of the time. Ignore them is the only thing you can do…

          …would you give a shit if a potato inspector from the department of agriculture didn’t like your play or your book or your film? No, right? Well, that’s what CS are like, they’re all civil servants and they think like civil servants. Potato inspectors, school examiners, form filling, box ticking sticklers for rules and regulations…

          …ignore them is all you can do.

  16. Damian Killeen says:

    I was not looking only at the Board but also at panel members who advise on decisions. Many of them are directly involved in creative processes. Specialist staff also have hands on experience, some more than others. Senior Management staff, unsurprisingly, have more in the way of management experience and Board members have governance and strategy experience including financial management which, one can argue, is necessary for a body with responsibility for a budget of £100M +. I don’t say this in defence of Creative Scotland but to point out the skills base a national decision making body requires and that would need to be replicated in any alternative organisation that was going to take on the task.

    In relation to an artist led consultative body, I note that Creative Scotland has been criticised for funding more ‘intermediaries’ but these are sectoral, member (i.e. artist) led organisations that have a consultative relationship with Creative Scotland. One could argue that these organisations (plus a few more to address any gaps) should be consulted on major decisions, such as CEO and lead staff appointments and major budget allocations. An overarching, national representative body could be formed to provide this by bringing representatives of all these bodies together. Not a recommendation, just a thought. More radical proposals for an artists’ takeover of arts funding are thrilling but they need more flesh on the bones than we have heard so far. Back in pre-history, community arts funding was devolved from the Arts Council of Great Britain to some form of artists’ alliance in Liverpool. Chaos ensued and it ended in tears with a return to the status quo ante. I am sure Scotland’s artists could do better.

    I believe that the tests for any public funding arrangement are that it should be participatory (at least reflective of the field if not fully representative), transparent and accountable. I am dealing with the latest rejection from Creative Scotland that is addressed in terms of ‘priorities’, ‘difficult decisions’ etc. The professional evaluation of the proposal is very positive but the panel decided on other priorities. My questions about the composition of the panel and the advice given to them by Creative Scotland on the management of priorities go unanswered, except for a reference to the ‘What We Are Looking For’ section of the Guidance notes which, according to the evaluation, my proposal meets. There is a foggy area which seems to be down to the subjective decision making of a panel faced with demands for more cash than they have been provided with. Any proposal for reform of or an alternative to Creative Scotland must show how it can improve on this part of its process which is the part that most aggravates artists who are seeking support from this public fund.

  17. Redgauntlet says:

    “He started out in banking, and then segued into the arts…”

    Isn’t that beautiful? What a CV?

    Funny how nobody at all, ever, as far as I know “started out” in the arts, and then “segued” into banking…

    It’s one way traffic, eh?

    You know why financial consultants and bankers and brokers and bureaucrats want to be on the Board of Creative Scotland? Because they feel guilty. They know that they dedicate their lives to ripping off people, and making shit loads of money from other people’s weakness.

    They know their hands are grubby and that people hold them in a kind of mild contempt. They feel guilty…

    The arts as a kind of absolution and atonement… art as a religion… it’s not about them at all…

    Creative Scotland? Time wasters. Don’t get your begging bowl out in front of the complete pack of shysters who run the arts in Scotland… much better to invest your time in fostering a sense of self-belief, integrity, courage and self-worth…

    I never voted for the board of Creative Scotland. Therefore, they deserve neither my respect nor my attention…

  18. Rapaport says:

    To compound that by not realising that some of these companies are utterly crucial, in RFO form, to the lifeblood of our cultural nation and are genuinely world class shows they simply don’t understand the world they inhabit, and therefore have no right to impose any kind of half-arsed strategy on the rest of us.

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.