Culture and the New Scottish Parliament

Posted in Civics, News, Texts by chrisfremantle on July 3, 1998

This event was held following the referendum on devolution which had taken place the previous September, but prior to the establishment of the new Scottish Parliament.  It was inspired by Gavin Renwick and Wendy Gunn’s project Whaur Extremes Meet and the evident need for a space for discussion about cuture and politics particularly in the context of significant change.

Summary of Meeting held on 3 July 1998 at Lumsden Village Hall

Culture and the New Scottish Parliament

Chairman: Eric Robinson

Attendance: Robert Smith MP, Cllr. Rhona Kemp (Chair COSLA Language and Culture Ctte.), Cllr. Jock McGregor, Cllr. Stanley Tennant, Cllr. Mitchell Burnett, Cllr. Kenneth Benzie, Jim MacDonald (Chair Gordon Forum for the Arts), Sandy Stronach (Chair Doric Festival), Alison Simpson (Banff and Buchan Arts Forum), Roxanne Permar, Suzannah Silver, Sarah MacKenzie Smith (all Grays School of Art), David MacLean (Scott Sutherland School of Architecture), Mary Anne Alburger (Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen), Ian MacKenzie Smith (SSW Board and Museums & Galleries Commission), Jonathan Young (Head of Service, Planning), Ron Reid (Leisure and Recreation), Barbara MacLeod (Senior Arts Development Officer), Sheila Waterhouse (Arts Development), Fiona Bushe (Visiting Specialist), Frank Bruce, Jonathan Claxton, Chris Bailey, Frederick Bushe, Keiji Nagahiro, Gavin Renwick (all artists), Phil Sands (Mobil North Sea Ltd.), Mavis Wainman, William and Edith Petrie, Gordon Gillies, Kenneth MacLean.

The Scottish Arts Council Initial Submission on Culture and the New Scottish Parliament to the Constitutional Working Party was circulated at the meeting.

Eric Robinson opened the discussion by highlighting four issues for culture and the new Scottish Parliament – structure, policy, regional needs, and rural issues.

It was agreed that critical points should be highlighted from the meeting, rather than a verbatim report. For the purposes of this report culture is used to include art, music, drama, poetry, language, etc.


There is increasing pressure to deliver a widening range of subjects, and focus on the core curriculum. The result is that cultural and art teaching is being marginalised. This must be remedied, with culture becoming a fundamental component of the curriculum involved in every subject. If Scotland is to have a unique identity, this must be part of the educational system.

Language is critical in the support of culture and all children should have the right to be taught in their mother tongue. The strength of Gaelic culture is a result of the promotion of the language. This is a model for Doric. At present the strength of Gaelic culture has created a focus for tourism in the Highlands, brought £9 million into broadcasting as a direct support for the language, and created a strong cultural identity.

The involvement of youth in culture is vital. Sport presents a model for youth involvement. Sport is seen as an everyday part of life, not the domain of the adult, or of the school. ‘Education for leisure’ is a necessity in the light of the evolving nature of employment.

IT, which is currently prioritised, should be integrated into other disciplines. Alford Academy published the definitive CD-ROM on the Scottish Colourists – this is an excellent example of integration.

Visiting Specialists should be a statutory provision. Without culture teaching in Primary Schools children are disadvantaged in pursuing cultural subjects.

The Review of Scottish Culture report to SCCC was brought to the attention of the meeting. This report highlights many of these issues. This is clearly an area that requires further discussion.

Structures and Lines of Communication

The new Scottish Parliament should be transparent, its agencies should be transparent, and there should be ‘multiple lines of communication’ on cultural issues. The parliament should have a Select Committee on Culture. It was highlighted that the nature of the electoral process will create regional groupings of MSP’s. This should enable regional identity and culture to have a line of communication.

Regional and local arts forums, Local Authorities, and individuals should all be contributing to culture in the new Scottish Parliament. The national cultural agency should be transparent and dspersed. It was noted that SAC did not reflect on itself directly in its submission.

The tax system provides an opportunity for supporting the arts.

Scottish Culture and Culture in Scotland

There needs to be a balance created where the many Scottish cultures are promoted, and culture in Scotland is promoted. Scotland needs to develop culture in relation to Europe and look to models in other small European countries and regions. Beyond this Scotland needs to develop its culture on in an international context.

Point 2.12 in the SAC submission was commended “…the ability of the arts to be free ranging, unimpeded and dangerously creative.”

Broadcasting and International Cultural Affairs should not remain a Westminster responsibility. This is clearly an area which requires further discussion.

This note was originally published on the Scottish Sculpture Workshop website.

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