Why ‘culture counts’ – a letter to all Scottish Local Authorities

28 Aug

On 27th August 2012, Culture Counts campaign sent out the following letter to all Scottish Local Authorities Councillors and Chief Executives. The letter was accompanied by a document (attached below) highlighting the benefits of culture and presenting our arguments why ‘culture counts’:


27 August 2012

Dear Councillor

At the beginning of 2011 key organisations in Scotland representing the arts, media, culture, heritage, creative industries and museums came together with a common aim of positively and progressively highlighting the value of arts, culture and creative industries. We believe that culture counts.

As well as contributing to our national wellbeing, culture defines the heritage, traditions and character of local areas, communities, families and individuals. It influences how people feel about living, working and investing locally and contributes to:

  • strengthened community identity and pride
  • positive health and wellbeing
  • enhanced educational outcomes
  • increased economic development
  • increased self-esteem for individuals
  • improved quality of life

Scotland’s Local Authorities play a major role in supporting this work both through direct investment in local groups and activity and through ownership and management of key local cultural assets such as libraries, archives, museums and theatres. These are challenging times for those making decisions on budgets and the enclosed document outlines in more detail the benefits of continued investment in culture.

Additionally, the Scottish Government has recently affirmed the importance of culture with the inclusion in the updated National Performance Framework of a new Indicator for Culture – Increase Cultural Engagement.

We believe that culture counts and ask you to ensure that its importance is reflected in the stated policies and objectives of local government. In recognition of the significant social and economic contribution made by the arts, culture and the creative industries to communities in Scotland we would encourage local government to:

  • Implement strategies to increase cultural engagement meeting the new Indicator for Culture.
  • Recognise and articulate in Single Outcome Agreements and Community Partnership Planning the full potential of culture’s contribution across a range of National Outcomes.
  • Maintain core investment for culture.
  • Maintain and develop any specific local initiatives to encourage growth.

Yours sincerely

Arts & Business Scotland, BECTU, Craft Scotland, Cultural Alliance, Culture Sparks, Equity, Federation of Scottish Theatre, Festivals Edinburgh, HI-Arts, Literature Forum for Scotland, Musicians Union, National Galleries of Scotland, National Library of Scotland, National Theatre of Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Promote YT, Regional Screen Scotland, Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Contemporary Art Network, Scottish Council on Archives, Scottish Games Network, Scottish Jazz Federation, Scottish Library and Information Council, Scottish Opera, The Audience Business, Traditional Music Forum, Voluntary Arts Scotland

Culture Counts are key bodies in Scotland’s arts, media, culture, heritage, cultural industries, libraries and museums sector who share the common aim of positively and progressively highlighting the value of arts, culture and the creative industries.

We believe that culture counts.


‘Increase Cultural Engagement’ national indicator now published

22 Mar

The new National Indicator ‘Increase Cultural Engagement’ has been published on Scotland Performs website.

Based on the Scottish Household Survey, the indicator measures the percentage of adults who have either participated in a cultural activity or who have attended or visited a cultural event or place in the last 12 months. The 2010 indicator of 85% is a 1.5 percentage points decrease from the 2007 baseline.

The Government identified the following key influences on this indicator:

  • Availability and quality of cultural offerings
  • Location and accessibility
  • Capacity of cultural organisations to deliver.

It is one of 12 new National Indicators (there are 50 indicators in total as of December 2011), which feed into the National Performance Framework.

UK Arts Index launched

27 Jan

The publication of the UK Arts Index by the National Campaign for the Arts gives us a good opportunity to look at two contrasting points of view: on one hand: can value of art be represented by a set of indicators, on the other: shouldn’t we treat art as priceless and hence beyond any economic rationalisation?

In his blog, Sam West acknowledges both points of view, however, he emphasises that being able to demonstrate the value of the arts is essential during this period of economic crisis, especially for organisations that lobby on behalf of the sector.

As an objective measure, the Index allows us to compare indicators for Scotland against other parts of the UK. The table below illustrates National Treasury, Lottery and Local Authorities funding across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

Overall, the first ever Index shows healthy growth of the arts as a result of sustained funding and investment. And despite being a data-heavy report, it actually makes an interesting read as it presents the information in the political and geographical context.

On the other side of the spectrum is another blog we’ve been following: “Priceless?” written by Dr Claire Donovan at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This interactive blog takes a ‘cynical-sentimental’ approach to valuing culture, i.e. acknowledges that there is a need to account for spending public money, while at the same time doubting whether you can put a price tag on something as intangible as a cultural experience.

And what do you think? Which end of the spectrum are you at? Do you think that the UK Arts Index offers us the best possible way of measuring the arts?

New National Indicators – including one for culture!

15 Dec

On 14th December, the Scottish Government has published the latest updates to the national indicators of progress, which feed into the National Performance Framework. There are 12 entirely new indicators, including one for culture: ”Increase cultural engagement’. This is certainly a positive step towards emphasising the importance of culture in Scottish civic life.

Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney said:

“I am delighted to launch the updated National Performance Framework. This refreshed framework reaffirms the Government’s commitment to the outcome based approach we set out in 2007”.

For the full list of new indicators, visit the Scottish Government’s website


Cuts to culture budget

22 Sep

The Scottish Government yesterday published its Spending Review 20122 – 12 and Draft budget for 2012 – 13.  Its review of spending highlights the successes of the arts, culture and creative industries. But the outlook for culture is challenging. Culture budgets have been cut and the proportion of the overall government budget allocated to culture is decreasing. Local authority budgets have also been cut.

The specific figures are:

Next year, 2012/13, there is a decrease in the culture budget of £5.4 m for next year which is 3.5%.

ref. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/358356/0121130.pdf

In real terms this is 5.9% or £9.1m.

Over the period of the spending review, which is 2011/12 to 2014/15, the culture budget decreases by £22m which is 14.2 % in real terms.

(Table 12.02 page 173)

These cuts are disproportionate to the overall cut in Government spending between 2011/12 and 14/15, and represent a worrying decline in expenditure on culture as a proportion of the overall Government budget from 0.55% in 2011/12 to 0.50% in 2014/15 (in 2010/11 the figure was 0.59%):

The Spending Review does contain some positive allocations of expenditure for culture, for capital expenditure on the V & A and Glasgow’s Concert Hall and Theatre Royal. It also commits to expenditure of £10m for the Youth Music Initiative and £.3m for Arts and Business and the Cultural Enterprise Office. Both of these funds are ringfenced within Creative Scotland.

There is continued funding for several initiatives including the National Performing Companies International Touring  Fund and the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop’s summary of the budget highlights the good news.

So for Culture Counts, one of our three requests has been met,  to maintain and develop incentives for growth through specific initiatives locally and nationally.

We are disappointed that the other two requests have not. We asked that the Scottish Government Maintain continued core investment for culture but core investment for culture is decreasing as a proportion of the overall government budget.

The case for our third request is strengthened by this budget, that Culture and creativity is specifically included in any national outcome structure, strengthening the framework for local authorities to support culture .

The lack of a specific outcome for culture in the Performance Framework means that culture is described in the Spending Review in terms of its contribution to other outcomes.

COSLA’s response to the cuts gives a flavour of the challenges culture will face:

“The hard nosed facts are that in reality Scottish local government is going to be 7% down over the period of this spending review.

“When you add in £1bn worth of demand on the vital services we provide that takes us to 15% down, and that can mean only one thing a significant reduction in local services and local spend, neither of which is good news for local economies throughout Scotland.”

While there is no requirement to provide for participation in culture locally through the outcome agreements, the arts and culture are significantly exposed.

additional info: Fiona Hyslop’s statement on culture budget.

The Scottish Spending Review 2011 published today

21 Sep

The review has been published today. The summary can be found here and Culture Counts’ response is coming up soon…

Creative Scotland’s achievements in its first year

14 Sep

Yesterday Andrew Dixon, CEO of Creative Scotland met the Education and Culture Committee and gave good news about the creative sector in Scotland and the achievements of Creative Scotland in its first year:

• the business model works

• 87 per cent of its Foundation clients are satisfied

• the move to new offices at Waverley Gate has been transformational

• savings of £2m and ongoing savings of £1.5m which so far has been reinvested in the arts, film and television

• staff numbers down from a high of 155 combined Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen to 95 now

• new funds have been levered from Paul Hamlyn, Baring and McKendrick

In response to a question prompted by Culture Counts’ campaign for culture to be made an explicit outcome in the Scottish Government’s performance framework, Andrew Dixon stated that local authorities are THE most important partner for Creative Scotland.