Creative Industries Leadership Group minutes: September 2021

Minutes of the meeting of the Creative Industries Leadership Group (CILG) held on 8 September 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Ms Gilruth, Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development (ministerial co-chair)

Creative industries

  • Brian Coane, The Leith Agency / Institute of Advertising Practitioners Scotland (industry co-chair)
  • Colin Anderson, Denki
  • Sarah Cameron, Senscot
  • Jacqueline Donachie, Glasgow Sculpture Studios
  • Chris Hunt, Freelance Creative
  • Janice Kirkpatrick, Graven
  • Lorna Macaulay, The Harris Tweed Academy
  • Jane Muirhead, Raise the Roof Productions
  • Dougal Perman, Scottish Music Industry Association
  • Carol Sinclair, Carol Sinclair Ceramics
  • Alex Smith, XpoNorth
  • Jenny Todd, Former Publisher Canongate Books and Penguin and Publishing Consultant


  • Louise Acheson, Screen Scotland
  • Clive Gillman, Creative Scotland
  • Melissa Gunn, South of Scotland Enterprise
  • Iain Hamilton, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • David Martin, Skills Development Scotland
  • Derek McCrindle, Scottish Enterprise
  • Andre Reibig, Scottish Funding Council
  • Claire Renton, South of Scotland Enterprise

Scottish Government

  • Simon Cuthbert-Kerr, Scottish Government
  • Liz Ditchburn, Scottish Government
  • India Divers, Scottish Government
  • Lucy Fallis, Scottish Government
  • Anna Feintuck, Scottish Government
  • Heather Holmes, Scottish Government
  • Susan McColl, Scottish Government
  • Hazel Parkinson, Scottish Government
  • Jonathan Pryce, Scottish Government
  • Bettina Sizeland, Scottish Government


  • Rachael Brown, Cultural Enterprise Office
  • David Eustace, Creative Consultant
  • Cameron Fraser, Ko Lik Animated Films
  • Lucy Mason, National Theatre of Scotland
  • Richard Scott, Axis Animation
  • Pamela Tulloch, Scottish Library and Information Council

Items and actions

Introductory remarks

Brian Coane welcomed Ms Gilruth to her first meeting of the Creative Industries Leadership Group (CILG). 

Ms Gilruth was delighted to attend her first meeting, having been appointed as Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development in May 2021, with the creative industries being a significant part of her portfolio. May was some 15 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a time of major disruption, upheaval and challenge for the sector. The sector was now in a better place than it had been, though there were still challenges, especially in terms of funding. She envisioned that this was a moment of opportunity for the creative industries to build a strong, more sustainable sector. She had been impressed with what she had learned about the creative industries, such as the transformative impact the V and A Dundee had on the waterfront. As a Fife MSP, she could appreciate this transformation.

Ms Gilruth knew the sector had been impacted by the pandemic in different ways, with record years for some businesses and sectors, in particular gaming and digital, but also significant challenges for a significant number of businesses having to close their doors for a long time. It was the job of government to support the creative industries as they moved forward, and to work with the sector, alongside the CILG. She was aware of the huge potential for growth and innovation in the sector which could contribute to a number of wider agendas. She asked the group to consider where they saw the creative industries in 5 years or 10 years or 20 years. Since the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government had provided more than £175 million of support to the creative industries, culture and heritage sectors which went beyond the amount of consequentials received from the UK Government.

The route-map for the reopening of cultural venues had been published. This recognised that further work was required to get the sector back to full strength. This group had an important role in informing that work. Ms Gilruth expressed that it was important that government listened when there was a problem and responded and changed accordingly, and welcomed feedback. The Scottish Government had been progressing its 100 day commitments since the election. Some of these would help the creative industries to recover. They included the Theatre and Dance Touring Fund and Scotland on Tour project. Further initiatives in the Programme for Government had been published. The Cabinet Secretary and herself were taking a Culture Recovery paper to Cabinet in the next few months which would set out how the government intended to go forward including actions to take. The First Minister was extremely keen that this work was going forward at a pace.

Ms Gilruth acknowledged that partnership building was very important in empowering through the COVID-19 pandemic. She acknowledged the recent work to refocus the group, change the remit and terms of reference and make the fundamental change to its purpose from being an advisory group to a leadership group, making it more aligned to other Scottish Government leadership groups and providing it with a framework that was robust and fit for purpose. This would help the sector come together as a whole to articulate its needs and realise its full potential. She noted the set-up of the working groups and thanked them for their work to date.

Ms Gilruth noted that it was important that the group was as strategic as it could be, and action-focused. Brian Coane had been considering about how this could be done, and had been speaking to members as well as the Secretariat. The Minister thought the thematic approach on a year to year basis was a good one. That meant that the next few meetings would relate to skills and resilience and allow the group to delve deeply into each of these themes and suggest actions across the meetings.

Summary of discussions from previous meeting and matters arising

Brian thanked Ms Gilruth. He noted that it was a good time to have fresh thinking and a fresh direction. The last two years had shown that there were ways to do things differently and to think creatively, the group wanted to aim for this.

Brian wanted to record that Toby Webster and Philip Hannay had left the group. He noted there was no intention to replace them at this present time. Having looked at the Review of Industry Leadership Groups, he considered that having a smaller group would be better. This also gave an opportunity to refresh the membership of the group if particular knowledge or expertise was needed for the future as the group’s agenda evolved.

Ms Gilruth noted that the summary of discussions of the meeting of 23 June 2021, chaired by industry, had been approved through correspondence and had been published on the Scottish Government website. The group had no comments on the published summary of the previous meeting or the specific actions.

CILG working groups

Brian Coane introduced this agenda item. In March, two working groups had been set up, on skills and resilience. The groups would report back with their recommendations in March 2022. These would be action orientated. At the June meeting the working group chairs had provided updates on their work followed by a discussion. Since that time the groups had held further meetings and discussions with stakeholders. He was aware of the time that the working groups were putting into the work and thanked the chairs and the members of the working groups for their work. He considered that there had been good progress made since the last meeting.

Carol Sinclair provided an update on behalf of the Creative Workforce Working Group (CWWG) looking at skills. The group had identified and was working on four key topics: (1) what success looks like in the creative sector, (2) life-long learning and multiple entry points to the sector, (3) equality, diversity and inclusion, (4) talent retention in fragile geographies. Progress had been made on most of these topics.

There were two things that the working group was aware of: (1) that success was not indicated by having a job (many creative professionals were freelancers/self-employed so did not have a job per se). A lot of the support agencies, external organisations and new entrants into the sector automatically considered that a job was the holy grail. There was a need to talk further about business skills and the skills of developing and recognising opportunities as a skill in the creative industries tool box. (2) ongoing and steady growth was not necessarily a success factor for many creative practitioners and businesses.

The invisibility of freelancers, the lack of data on them and a lack of understanding of them were issues. Carol welcomed the discussion that had been had on freelancers from PEC at the last meeting. The paper on freelancers circulated for the meeting also articulated these issues.

Carol had a further meeting with Eliza Easton, PEC, to discuss the Preston Model on localised procurement which the group recognised protected localised geographies and talent retention in areas. However, it was noted that specialised services may not be available locally. The group would look at this issue further.

On lifelong learning, Carol met with Sandy Begbie from the Young Person’s Guarantee to discuss opportunities for young people. It was apparent that there were gaps in understanding of the creative industries. There was a need to ensure that the Young Person’s Guarantee team understood the needs of small businesses, micro-businesses, and sole traders. If one person took on another person in their business, it was significant for their business and their day to day activities. A number of actions arose from the meeting to recognise the value and opportunities of the creative sector. There was a need to recognise the self-employed aspect. Parallel work was being undertaken by the YPG team. It was important to bring together opportunities for young people with self-employment.

On lifelong learning, Carol noted that the working group was looking at good practice examples. They included TRC Media as an example of institutional training for the whole sector. The working group would shortly meet TRC Media which had been mentioned by a number of members of CILG, to discuss the transferability of its funding model to other parts of the creative sector.

On (3), equality, diversity and inclusion, CWWG was considering the freelance charter for the film and TV sector. It was also looking to explore universal basic income and the financial disadvantages in trying to secure a diverse workforce. In October, the group will speak with Skills Development Scotland on the its workforce research report.

On (4), fragile geographies, the Preston Model, was something that the group wanted to look at further for place-based procurement. It will collate information on mentoring programmes, especially the music sector, to look at best practice and to see where there is transferability and recommendations for wider adoption.

One of the biggest barriers to access to work was the precariousness of the freelance world. It was challenging for people to be offered only a couple of weeks of work at a time. This did not provide financial security. It was important that PACT, TRC, and the broadcasters were recognising this – this was why TRC Media had the RAD programme aimed at black and ethnic minority groups’ social inclusion, and disability. It provided participants with a year of work (paid employment) with attachments to companies, and let them embed into the industry and allow them to build networks.

The same issues existed in visual arts, but this sector did not have a multi-million pound industry behind it. It was important to remember the role of the public funded arts at the grassroots level, as this was the development room for many people that went on to work in a variety of industries. These practitioners had small financial turnover, but contributed in a much greater way as they moved through career paths. Creative people did not always have anticipated pathways, they moved into different areas of the sector. Transferrable skills needed to be built into the education system.

There was a need to look at meaningful mechanisms between academia and the commercial market place, networks and how institutions service the future market place. LevelUp, a partnership between XpoNorth and the University of the Highlands and Islands, provided a meaningful interface between academia and industry. It allowed students to begin building their networks earlier and prepared young people for moving into the workplace.

Action: information on the LevelUp initiative to be shared with the group.

Commenting on CWWG’s work, it was noted that some established businesses did not use freelancers due to some issues of indemnity, tax issues and risks to client and business relationships. Instead, they flexed by making the most of opportunities. Making a profit and giving good quality sustainable jobs were important: without profit a company would not be in business, especially if it was not in receipt of public funding. It was important that design and architecture were not lost in the portfolio as they were levers for every economic sector. They worked across a wide range of industrial and business sectors and were the professional creativity within these sectors – they had no one else to turn to. The schools of art in Scotland had been set up as schools of design. They were to commodify the fruits of science, technology and the IPs that flowed from them. In the design sector, conversations were now back with the technical universities. The question was asked - how can we join up the schools of art and design with what is happening in science and technology? Creativity was needed to invent new products, services, processes and businesses that will employ people and employ the new economy.

Schools were no longer educated on what design was – it had fallen through a crack in the curriculum. This was taking place at a time where we needed to reinvent our housing, our public estate, conserve energy, use materials better and deliver in a more sustainable way. There was a need for Scotland to get behind and value its professional creativity. Government could show how much it valued the sector by not pitching for nothing, sitting on boards for no recompense, while other members were paid. There was a challenge to government to value what the creative industries did as well as what other sectors benefited from creative skills, such as in banking and accounting.

It was important not to lose sight of the large companies that were doing good work and employing a lot of people and supporting the development of the workforce. Dealing with the creative sector was challenging as it was made up of organisations of all different sizes. The working group was looking at freelancing as it was a common thread across most of the creative industries and they also connected them. It was suggested that Scottish Enterprises better understood larger organisations.

Small businesses were very under-rated, but they provided the stability within the economy. Small businesses or family businesses were rooted to a place in the community. For Scotland’s development, it was these smaller businesses, the SMEs, and the freelancers that provided the backbone of the economy (in the chat Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise noted that they worked with small businesses). There was a need to address workplace development across all sizes and scales of businesses and not lose the commercial focus. Other businesses in other sectors used a lot of freelancers.

The focus of CWWG was also relevant to other sectors including international trading and global learning as key skill-sets for other sectors. The UK publishing industry was the largest exporter of books in the world and it was considered that Scotland was disadvantaged as business was dominated by larger corporates. There were some risks arising due to Brexit. The UK Government was consulting on changes to copyright laws which would be hugely damaging to the UK publishing sector. Ms Gilruth noted that she had been cited on these issues.

Action: officials to provide an update on the copyright issue.

Ms Gilruth responded to the points made on equality, diversity and inclusion, noting that there was more to be done in this space. She was interested in Scotland’s role in design. She recognised the importance of creativity and design skills in rebuilding the economy. She noted that there were a lot of actions for government emerging and that officials would come back on the points raised.

Action: officials to respond to points raised in the discussion.

Dougal Perman provided an update on behalf of the resilience working group. The group was trying to answer the question of how to increase resilience in the creative industries. The focus had been refined to examine people: business was about people. You could have the greatest processes but if you did not have people, or support the people who were in the business you did not have any business in the first place.

This led to three more questions:

(1) How do we support people? e.g. through funding, through being aware of different ways of working and retaining talent (not just geographically but also virtually). We needed to know about the support structures in the organisations that exist within Scotland, as opportunities to work together and strengthen the sector were being missed. It was necessary to make sure people knew about Scottish based business support, as well as support for volume imports, and group buying as the UK had negotiated new trade relationships and the Scottish Government was looking at export opportunities. This could be done through co-operative structures such as forming consortia or other co-operative models. Also how do we facilitate people through sustainable working practices?

(2) How do we value people and get them to value themselves? Dougal was aware of Creatures, an EU collaboratively funded project with 11 partners, which was looking at how creative practice was used in transformation. Value had been included in the freelancer paper. It was difficult to count the economic worth of the creative industries as it did not count the contribution of freelancers. There were other ideas of value that could be explored such as the triple bottom line, the appreciation of the value of society, culture and value as well as economic value. Practical examples could include encouraging best practice, paying freelancers on time, teaching people to price themselves properly and fairly, using constructive language that empowered people and celebrating and valuing great leadership.

(3) How do we adopt models that enhance adaptability and flexibility? Flexible and agile working were key – the sector had a lot experience of this over the pandemic, a lot could be learned from these. It was important to be aware of people’s different working, learning and doing styles. Having flexibility and being able to pivot gave people resilience.

Freelancers were important in the creative industries. Different models suited different organisations and companies and the way they worked. It was important to value creative people. This also came into resilience in the workforce. The potential for creatives to sell themselves into other industry sectors was immense but underexploited. For example, financial services could need creative talent in their skill base. Looking for unrealised potential was a way to grow the market in a sustainable way. Diversifying where the revenue came from made us more resilient. The strategy of the working group was to celebrate success and highlight opportunity, identify weaknesses and determine threats, analyse performance and consider mitigation to threats.

It was noted that the members of the working group were doing this work on top of their other commitments and were passionate about what they were researching and trying to achieve. However, they had limited time and had to be practical as to what they could achieve. The recommendations would likely include further work that the group would have liked to have undertaken such as a comprehensive SWOT analysis of the creative industries sector and mapping of the trading relationships in the creative industries.

Most of the work of the group was being undertaken during their meetings. The group was inviting speakers. It had met with Screen Scotland. Other guests had been arranged. Members of the group were asked if they wanted to speak to the working group on the topic of resilience.

Action: CILG members to contact Dougal to speak to the working group on the topic of resilience.

The working group had developed and issued a short survey. Some members of CILG had completed it. Members were encouraged to complete it and to share it with their networks.

Action: CILG members to complete the freelancer survey and share it with their networks.

It was noted that Creative Scotland’s sector development organisation group had formed a resilience group. The working group wanted to ensure that the work of the two groups did not duplicate one another. A meeting would be arranged between them. 

Resilience was considered to stem from an equality issue. In fashion and textiles there had been strategies developed around export but there was no one in place that dealt with the recent challenges of Brexit, Covid, the High Street, or e-commerce. There was sometimes a gap between where support was targeted and how freelancers can access it.

On comments from the floor, one member noted there was potential for there to be a multiagency approach. This could be a business package. The key businesses with the most growth potential would benefit from a joined up support package that covered what the businesses did. For example SDS could be more involved with the publishing sector. This would be a unique offering for Scotland. Scotland was of a size that made this possible to happen. The group would pick up on the idea of specialism vs generalism. The working group wanted to undertake further meetings with the economic development agencies as well as Scottish Funding Council and Creative Scotland.

Action: observers were to arrange a meeting to discuss a business package proposal.

Freelancers in the creative industries - discussion

At the last CILG meeting in June, Eliza Easton from the Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) gave a presentation on freelancers. It highlighted that 32% of the creative industries workforce were freelancers in comparison to 16% of the UK workforce as a whole. This indicated that more work should be undertaken to see how they are supported. It was noted that determining the number of freelancers was complex. The nature of their work was not to be doubted. While they were sometimes regarded as being less important than permanent roles, they undertook highly specialised essential work. Creative Scotland had published the Creative Freelancer’s Guide and members were asked to share it around their networks.

Ms Gilruth acknowledged that the members were all coming from different perspectives. She invited members who were freelancers to make themselves known and share their experiences.

One member had been a freelancer in the visual arts for 30 years. Domestically, they had a family and a partner also working as a freelancer and had been able to undertake the ‘real life’ activities such as buying a house. They pointed out that the PEC study noted that there were few freelancers who had that role for 20 years and more. They had a specialised skillset which they charged for, depending on who was employing them. Their level of income fluctuated throughout the years. However, they were able to represent the country internationally. These fluctuations continued throughout their freelancing career. In the visual arts there was a small number of high profile people making a lot of money but there was a large grassroots scene that contributed across many areas who were micro-industries.

Some people dropped out of the sector because of the financial instability. Form filling was an important part of work to get pockets of money from across a wide breadth of areas. Creative artists needed to be better recognised as a workforce, they were not fully recognised through statistics. There was a need to invest in them with RFO funding. It was considered that Creative Scotland’s regular funding had not changed in 10 years. There was a need to continue with the arts and to invest in order to create opportunities that could be fed through to artists in the next 5-10 years. Schemes like Town Artists were considered to be worthwhile. Reference was made to the Glenrothes Town Artist. It was important to produce a creatively educated population, this was important for moving forward.

Ms Gilruth was MSP for Glenrothes. She noted that there was a new BBC documentary on town art in Glenrothes. She commented on the importance of the art to the town and the relationship of place and art - people connected to place through art.

A member considered that there was a need to provide commission opportunities, residencies and art collections. Some of the COVID-19 funding could be used to buy art from artists to go into public collections and public art commissioning, this would have a lasting impact. The question of how do you get art into communities was posed. Ms Gilruth noted that the accessibility of art was important, people needed to feel like art was for them. There was a manifesto commitment to support National Towns of Culture. There could be an opportunity to link policy work with having a local artist.

The publishing sector was reliant on freelancers. Businesses found it difficult to support them as everyone was in survival mode after the pandemic. It was proposed that at fiscal level there could be tax breaks for freelancers and recognition of them as a distinct group.

Ms Gilruth said that she would take this away, recognising reserved and devolved issues, as an action point.

Action: Ms Gilruth and officials to look into the possibility of tax breaks for freelancers.

Another member had been working as a freelancer for 30 years, also having been self-employed, working in partnership and in a small one-person limited company. They had been able to balance freelance work and creative practice. There was a sense that portfolio careers were at the heart of creative practitioners. The term ‘lifestyle business’ was considered to be a disparaging term for creative practitioners. There was an opportunity to make the freelance workforce more visible and to be able to understand the contribution that it made. There was a need to recognise the models of practice and their value and promote them. It was suggested that they could speak to the agencies about how they support that.

The introduction of a Universal Basic Income would be an important security net for freelancers. Some people fell between the funding schemes in the pandemic because they fell between definitions and through the gaps.

Ms Gilruth thought it important to make becoming a freelancer a positive choice. One member noted that it was seen as unpredictable and some people steered their children away from a career in the creative industries due to this. People working in the creative industries loved their jobs. It was important for it to be in the school curriculum and for it to be seen as a good choice. There was recognition that a career in the creative industries could be seen as risky and there was a tendency in Scotland to be risk averse. It was important to nurture creativity and ensure that school children could pursue a career in the creative industries and have a job that they loved. There was a need to change that narrative in schools.

Another member had worked freelance since 2001. Over the years the nature of the work and the portfolio career had changed a lot. In the last year freelancers were a lot more vulnerable in terms of the volume of work for less money. There was an opportunity to come together and find new and innovative ways to look at it and for the next generation. The application forms in schemes run by the agencies did not always recognise the way that freelancers worked: they requested how many jobs funding would create rather than how much work would be created.

Ms Gilruth noted that a box ticking approach would not work. It was difficult to audit creativity in the school curriculum.

Ms Gilruth asked the group what actions they would like to see the Scottish Government take to make an impact. She recognised that there were issues around devolved and reserved competencies, especially on taxation. Members suggested the need to look at benefits and how to join them up – business and training grants should be made available to individuals, the benefits system and Universal Basic Income to provide support and stability for people getting into the industry. These could allow 2-3 years of support through funding tied to the benefits system to get off Universal Credit. The creative industries could be used as a pilot.

Ms Gilruth noted that on the benefits system there was the option to invite a UK Government Minister to talk to the group and get more pragmatism into this space. She would pick some of the points up with Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce. Due to the pandemic she was aware that many children were not getting cultural visits outside of school.

Action: Ms Gilruth and officials to reach out to Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce.

One member had 20 permanent staff. In the last financial year they had issued over 300 freelance contracts. It was suggested that businesses needed to have a broad group of people working with them and to remain relevant through the work they produced. People had transferrable skills that could work in other areas where there were chronic skills shortages. There was a perception about parts of the TV industry which could be seen as elitist.

Ms Gilruth noted that TV programmes such as River City were important for providing opportunities to people in Scotland to be on the television. The workforce did not reflect society. She noted the importance of family in helping people get their foot in the door by enabling them to work for free.

One member noted that all these issues came back to the issue of the curriculum and education. Creativity was seen as risky and often squeezed out the door by STEM subjects. The skills to spot opportunities, to solve problems, to collaborate and work in teams needed to be taught in schools.

Ms Gilruth noted the detriment of STEM to squeeze out other subjects in the curriculum. She considered that there appeared to be a disconnect between policy and practice in skills and it was important to return to this.

Action: Ms Gilruth and officials to pick up points in discussion on the visibility of freelancers and the link between education and creativity and what work is currently being undertaken in this space.

The creative industries included sub-sectors that required individual approaches. There was a discrepancy in the way each were calculated and/or recognised. Work could be done around this by government in terms of how the sectors are measured and approached (e.g. ONS Statistics).

Ms Gilruth noted that there were a number of asks of government about how to build the next generation of freelancers, and how does the education system take value in them.

There was a need to think about the different support structures and the classifications and descriptions of freelancers that could be taken away. In another sector, freelancers were able to help one business deal with the peaks and troughs of work during COVID-19.

AOB and date of next meeting

No AOB items were raised.

The next meeting would be on Wednesday 8 December. It would be an industry meeting without Ms Gilruth and would likely be online. The next Ministerial co-chaired meeting would be in March. It was noted that by December the working groups would be shaping up their recommendations.

Brian thanked the members and Ms Gilruth for their contributions. Ms Gilruth thanked everyone.

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