Ashley Smith-Hammond

The Scottish Government published a draft Culture Strategy for Scotland for consultation on 27 June 2018. TL;DR? Don’t worry we’ve got you covered.

The opening of A Culture Strategy for Scotland draft for consultation refers back to the Engagement Report which was published at the end of March. The themes highlighted in this report appear threaded through the outlined plans of the proposed strategy but it’s clearly driven by the Scottish Government’s agenda for the future. It will be the tool the government uses to deliver against the new national outcome for culture:

We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely.

The National Performance Framework is designed to work in addition to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as a measure of how the country is doing. All of the 16 outcomes together look to improve the wellbeing of people living in Scotland.

The new strategy outlines a vision in three parts:

  • Culture that is innovative and transformative – embedding culture across policy areas.
  • Culture that is empowering – linking people, participation and communities.
  • Cultural excellence – building on the strengths of the current sector and working to solve some of its current challenges.

Each of the three propose several key outcomes and methods to achieve these. If you only read one page in the strategy make it page six, which summarises each area’s aims and proposes ideas to achieve these.

Here’s what jumped out to me as new ideas to watch and issues worth flagging.

NEW

The strategy proposes to generate additional income for culture through a new Scottish National Investment Bank and/or the application of tax powers. If you’re wondering what that means, here’s more on what the Scottish Government’s bank plan looks like. Basically, it’s a source for long term investment in key areas of economic growth or social improvement.

There is a proposal for a new ‘cultural leadership post’ within Scottish Government to work across policy areas and levels of government. It’s not entirely clear what this means but the potential for an additional advocate sounds positive. It will require someone who has credibility and connections in other policy areas to generate buy-in on both sides.

Freelancers and others employed within the cultural sector are promised greater support and more sustainable careers.

Section 4.4 notes that Scotland’s population growth is derived from immigration not from its internal birth rate. There are clear challenges for Scotland for this in the face of Brexit and the restrictions that may follow.

YES AND ALSO

The focus on equalities, diversity and inclusion is laudable but these terms are not all equivalent. If the goal is greater equality, then an increase in diversity and inclusion can be a good tool toward that end. There’s a risk, though, that increased diversity and inclusion could be delivered in an unequal way. If the goal is equality, let’s make it clear.

The strategy places a great deal of focus on diversification in particular. Two prongs: proposing greater inclusion of people from protected groups within the cultural workforce, as well as calling for a greater diversity of what can be considered cultural practice, have an intended but indirect outcome of widening audiences to better reflect Scotland’s population mix. Direct work to widen audiences is, however, mostly absent – though the strategy applauds Creative Scotland’s EDI plan. A more direct focus with aims and actions would be welcome to show that the government is serious about access for all.

How to measure the impact of the strategy against the performance framework in ways meaningful to other policy areas is still undefined. This is of particular interest because of our own expertise on impact measurement and our significant data sets on Scottish audiences. One key issue should be the improvement of the Scottish Household Survey (SHS), especially on cultural participation. As recently as 2016, the SHS was looked to as a source of potential savings and reductions were proposed in either frequency or sample size. Neither is optimal as at the moment Scotland’s data is already too limited, as the strategy itself notes.

HAVE YOUR SAY

You or your organisation may wish to feedback on these or other issues in the strategy. Make sure to put your oar in before the 19 September 2018 deadline.

Main image credit: March for Science Edinburgh 012 by Joe Gordon (CC BY-NC 2.0)