Building a New Scotland: Culture in an independent Scotland

This paper sets out the Scottish Government's vision for culture in an independent Scotland.


Culture has the unique power to inspire, enrich, and transform people's lives, as well as being a key economic sector.

The terms 'culture sector' or 'culture sectors' broadly refer to individuals or organisations that derive income from work associated with culture, creative activities, heritage or the arts, as well as those who volunteer or have any other professional associations with it. But Scotland's cultural life goes beyond this, with creativity and cultural heritage embedded throughout our communities through activities such as music, language, art and storytelling, to name but a few. In its broadest sense, culture also includes our thriving events sector alongside activities more commonly associated with cultural life.

Cultural engagement in Scotland is high and makes a positive difference to people and their local communities.[1] Because of this, Scottish communities value their access to culture, [2] and others are inspired to visit, live, work and do business here because of it.[3] Scotland's culture celebrates the diversity of the people who live here. We can be proud to have adopted the guiding principle that everyone has the right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts.[4]

Scotland also has world-leading cultural assets that are central to building diverse and inclusive communities and have helped to establish Scotland's unique identity on the world stage.[5] We have a strong heritage and tradition of an international and open culture,[6] as our festivals demonstrate. Scotland's culture is a highly valuable asset to the country and is central to our wider social and economic ambitions.

Box 1, below, sets out the importance of culture, both now and with independence.

Box 1: The importance of culture

Culture is a human right – it is recognised in article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[7] and elaborated in subsequent international treaties,[8] while the European Court of Human Rights has also recognised the importance of cultural rights[9]

The UN has described the protection of cultural diversity as "an ethical imperative" which is "inseparable from respect for human dignity"[10]

Culture helps to support many other positive outcomes including community cohesion,[11] improved health,[12] tackling poverty,[13] and addressing climate change[14]

Culture connects us with other countries and can support our place on the world stage, building international diplomatic links and fostering cross-border collaboration[15],[16]

Culture is an important part of our economy, contributing to economic growth, creating jobs, and supporting other sectors of the economy to thrive[17]

Culture helps us think, and understand who we are as individuals, as communities and as a country[18]

This paper sets out how Scotland's culture and creative industries have benefited from the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, but have been damaged by Brexit. It goes on to describe how, with independence, culture would be well placed to contribute to building a new Scotland. It explores how independence could help culture in Scotland to flourish via new powers to respond to these sectors' specific needs.

The structure of this paper

This paper is organised in four main sections.

The 'Transformational power of culture' section describes the value we in Scotland place on culture, and how the sector has been supported using devolved powers. This includes developing innovative ideas to put culture at the heart of our communities, making more of its potential to improve physical and mental health and build communities.

The 'Broadcasting' section sets out how an independent Scotland would build on the successes of our globally renowned public service broadcasters, using new powers to explore the creation of a new Scottish public service broadcaster along with new regulatory and governance structures, and developing a broadcasting strategy that better reflects and prioritises the specific interests of Scottish audiences.

The 'Scotland on the world stage' section makes proposals for culture and creative sectors to be still more international and outward looking with the powers of independence; where we collaborate, work together and share ideas across borders; and where our artists could tour, showcase and exhibit around the world.

Finally, the section on 'Scotland's creative economy' reflects on the strength of Scotland's creative, events and cultural sectors, and sets out proposals for how these could be further supported with independence.



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