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What\'s the future for culture?

April 7 2006

The Scottish Executive has issued its review of the work of its Cultural Commission and many are left wondering what exactly it all means. What is clear is that nothing significant will change until after the election in May 2007, which leaves a year for speculation and negotiations to thrive. As far as the Architecture Policy Unit (APU) is concerned, it plans to launch a new architecture policy statement this year, which will incorporate some of the issues raised in the Culture Commission’s report. However, it will be business as usual as far as A+DS and the Lighthouse are concerned, says the APU.
Ian Munro is head of Capital at the Scottish Arts Council (SAC). He admits that it is hard to know what the consequences of the Cultural Commission and the Executive’s review will be. We know that the Scottish Executive intends to create a single body called Creative Scotland, which will embrace both Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council, and that responsibility for distributing lottery cash will remain with those two bodies at least until 2009 when the current funding arrangement comes to an end.
The SAC has stated that it will review capital spending on arts projects in 2006-07, with the possibility of re-opening the invitation for funding applications in the following financial year. The SAC is also making money available for feasibility studies for arts organisations. However, lottery funds continue to decline so if the SAC were, under the new regime, to re-open its major grants programme, it would still only be able to fund a few large projects. The Big Lottery, the new funding distributor for community-based projects, aspires to create ‘Living Landmarks’ in depressed areas, and may become a key player in the commissioning of new public buildings.
Will the new arrangement make it more difficult for arts organisations to act independently of government and pursue their won artist agendas? As far as Munro is concerned, the fundamental relationship between the Arts Council, or the new body that replaces it, will not alter fundamentally. “The Executive is not expecting us to become a government agency, we will still be an arm’s-length organisation. The debate is always about the length of those arms,” said Munro.

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