I don’t think anyone believed that when Creative Scotland was established it was going to be an easy ride. Almost tortuous in its creation it has had, what could only be described as a tumultuous couple of years before culminating this week in the resignation of CEO, Andrew Dixon.
One thing is certain though, and that is there is no going back. There is simply no case to return to an age when arts bodies were little more than a source of money distribution. The world has moved on and Scotland has to keep up. We now live in a competitive, international market place for culture, knowledge and ideas which is constantly changing and which does not stand still for a minute.
I accept that many of our artists don’t like Creative Scotland. There was great unhappiness about lottery money replacing core funding and there was frustration about managerialism, access and intriguingly the language used in conversations with artists. All of these may be correct and genuinely felt but we have to be careful that we don’t take several steps back in the context of what we need to do to move forward.
Creative Scotland was a bold idea. For the first time it brought artistic disciplines together with economic development. Yes, of course art has to be at arm’s length and simply for art’s sake, but what if the gallery is being closed down, the record can’t be brought out for lack of funding or the orchestra is abandoned due to lack of sponsorship?
The idea of anything being even described as “creative industries” has also received a fair share of opprobrium and, for some, uttered between the most gritted of teeth. Well, let’s look at what these creative industries contribute. Creative industries contribute some £2.4 billion Gross Value Added to the Scottish economy employing some 60 000 people across some 8 000 businesses. Our creative industries are one of the major drivers of our economy and they have to be looked after, supported and nurtured.
It is just something we do spectacularly well. In music, film, design, publishing, computer gaming and so many other creative and artistic endeavours we are in the top league with a massive reputation for excellence. Scotland, for a small nation, also has a great international cultural footprint and we are fortunate that we have a high recognition factor throughout the world.
That is why we do need strategies to compete and develop our own distinct product. It’s why we need a body that can bring together our cultural businesses with economic development and international promotion.
Then there is the internet. The migration of cultural content online goes on unabated. Just ask music, film and increasingly publishing. Culture is simply created, consumed and shared in an altogether different environment. The battle over IP rights, monetisation of the net and the tension between content creators and distributors is what consumes the creative hub of London. Scotland has to get engaged in this debate and we must stake our place in the ever shifting sands of this new environment.
We have to be careful therefore about our next step with our national arts body. That is because the comfortable world of old where arts consumption, creation and distribution were almost passive activities is not there to go back to. Creative Scotland is by no means a perfect body but it is a body created to be equipped for the new world in which we now find ourselves.