Culture strategy for Scotland consultation: analysis of responses - full report

Analysis report setting out the detailed findings of the public consultation on a draft Culture Strategy for Scotland.

A vision for culture in Scotland

The consultation paper suggests that the draft strategy is bold and ambitious and is centred on the fundamental value of culture and its empowering and transformative potential. There is a commitment to long-term change through greater collaboration and integration across culture, communities and policy development. The vision statements are that:

  • Culture in Scotland is innovative, inclusive and open to the wider world.
  • Cultural excellence – past, present and emerging – is celebrated and is fundamental to future prosperity and wellbeing.
  • Culture's empowering and transformative power is experienced by everyone.

Question 1: What is your view of the vision as set out above?

Question 2: If you have any further comments on the vision, please provide them below. What do you like, or dislike, or what would you change?

Table 2: Question 1 – What is your view of the vision as set out above?

Support Do not support Don't know Not answered Total
Academics, University, Higher Education or Further Education 6   6
Culture (arts, cultural heritage, creative industries) organisation, group or company 42 1 2 1 46
Faith Group   2 2
Local Authority or Culture Trust 14 1   1 16
National Collections and Performing Companies 9   9
Public Body 9   1 1 11
Representative or umbrella group 25 1 8 34
Third sector 15   1 16
Union or political party 4 1 1 6
Total organisations 124 3 4 15 146
% of organisations answering 95% 2% 3%
Individuals 50 10 5 4 69
Individual (on behalf of a community) 1   1
Total Individuals 51 10 5 4 70
% of individuals answering 77% 15% 8%
All respondents 175 13 9 19 216
% of all respondents 81% 6% 4% 9%  
% of all those answering 89% 7% 5%*

* if figures do not sum to 100% this is due to rounding.

A clear majority of respondents – 89% of those answering the question – supported the vision set out in the draft strategy. Organisational respondents were more likely to be supportive than individuals (95% of those answering and 77% of those answering respectively).

The further comments made were often extensive and, as at other questions, the analysis below presents a summary overview. Please note that general comments about the accessibility of the draft strategy are covered at the analysis at Question 17.

Views of those who supported the vision

Those who supported the vision often went on to make a broad statement of support, with further comments including that the vision is positive, inclusive, comprehensive, or ambitious. For example:

The vision provides a wide and diverse interpretation of culture – which offers an inclusive path to engage as many individuals as possible. This is an important message for Scotland to send out.

(Culture organisation, group or company respondent)

There was some support for the 'broad-brush', non-prescriptive approach taken to describing culture in the draft strategy, including reference to the full range of activities created and experienced by communities throughout Scotland and culture's contribution to wellbeing.

In terms of elements of the draft strategy which respondents particularly liked, there was reference to the empowering and transformative themes, with some respondents noting these, or the draft strategy more widely, to be very much in line with the ethos behind the work of their own organisations. There was also support for the emphasis on cross-sectoral working.

However, although supporting the overall vision, others suggested the draft strategy could be more ambitious. There were calls for the draft strategy to be more inspirational, motivating or exciting and a specific suggestion that:

...there is a need for a simple, inspirational overarching vision statement that sets the time for the strategy and that is used by government to vocally, passionately and publicly express the importance of cultural activity and acknowledge that culture is for everyone.

(Representative or umbrella group respondent)

The absence of a definition of culture was also an issue for some respondents and it was suggested that such a definition should be included. Further comments included that whilst finding an agreeable definition of culture would be challenging, the draft strategy and its vision and aims would benefit from the clarity a definition would bring.

Suggestions for change to the vision itself included that it should:

  • better reflect that education will be key, with a suggestion that the vision should include a reference to education. This was the most frequently made suggestion for change. There was also specific reference to lifelong learning.
  • take a pro-active approach to raising cultural awareness across government departments, including education and skills and external affairs.
  • recognise the important economic role of culture.
  • place a stronger emphasis on helping under-represented people and communities to access cultural power structures to ensure diverse lived experience is better reflected.
  • be more specific and time-bound. For example, the vision could set out a bold picture of what culture in Scotland should look like in 2030.

Other suggested changes to the draft strategy included:

  • acknowledging that enjoyment of the arts and participation in cultural life of the community is a human right, as set out in Article 27 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • recognising that diversity of culture and the diversity of provision and participation are significant strengths in Scotland.
  • creating a better balance and recognition of all culture sectors and types throughout.
  • drawing a distinction between cultural curators and cultural creators.
  • more explicitly making the connection between culture and the individual – especially in the spirit and context of Community Learning and Development strategies, and the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
  • recognising the intrinsic value of culture. It was suggested that there is a danger that, as currently expressed, culture could be perceived as a function solely in the service of other areas of public policy.
  • considering the duality of the national and the regional. Specifically, it was suggested that the strong regional elements of that identity and culture should be acknowledged.
  • referring to place-making, including cultural regeneration and provision to further facilitate this and create an environment for creativity based in communities.
  • giving additional consideration to the 'right' to access and participate in culture for all. This may include culture as a part of lifelong learning and development and integration into society.

Some respondents identified sectors or areas that they wished to see greater coverage or prominence on in the draft strategy. These included:

  • most frequently, heritage, including reflecting the range and depth of Scotland's heritage – from museums, libraries and archives, to historic buildings, industrial sites, parks, landscape and natural heritage as well as intangible cultures, traditions and people's memories.
  • built heritage specifically. It was suggested that built heritage is one of Scotland's most important cultural assets both at the level of individual experience and at community level.
  • conservation and heritage science, reflecting the importance of the conservation subsector in enabling the arts, creative industries and cultural heritage and to recognise conservation as a cultural practice itself.
  • the nation's archives, including for the contribution the archive sector makes to the cultural life of Scotland, enhancing our knowledge and understanding of a broad range of aspects of culture. It was suggested that archives provide the foundation of cultural projects because they are core repositories for culture and the cultural resources bequeathed to us by previous generations.
  • libraries, including the public libraries that make a significant but under-recognised contribution by working in local communities to encourage participation, provide access and increase opportunity.
  • craft and applied arts. It was suggested that craft practice is significant in Scotland and needs to be recognised, preferably as both an art form and a creative industry.
  • the range of other important manifestations, influencers and contributors in relation to Scotland's culture, such as sports, religion, multi-culturalism and food.
  • a greater commitment to Scottish culture, not simply culture in Scotland.

It was also noted that there is no mention of the work or role of the creative unions and the importance of their work in giving a collective voice to artists and practitioners and to improve the working lives of these people.

Other issues which respondents wished to see addressed included that:

  • culture is sometimes described as a vehicle for other outcomes, and is sometimes used as an outcome or output in its own right – this could be clearer.
  • the relationship between the vision statement and the National Outcome could be more clearly articulated.
  • the draft strategy could be clearer in stating the Government's role in stimulating cultural activity through support for local and national organisations and institutions that provide platforms for people to create, appreciate and enjoy cultural activity.

In terms of the vision (as opposed to the draft strategy document which is discussed further at Question 17), suggested additions included that:

  • specified and detailed actions and measures are needed. This was a frequently made point and was sometimes connected to a suggestion that the current actions do not give a sense of how the vision will be delivered. A specific suggestion was that the final strategy should be accompanied by an action plan.
  • timescales should be added, along with which organisations have responsibility for delivering the vision.
  • how this draft strategy will relate to other relevant strategies and key policies, and how it enables other agencies and organisations to better fulfil their visions and aims should be included.
  • it should make stronger links to priority programmes in education such as the National Improvement Framework, Scottish Attainment Challenge, Developing the Young Workforce, National Youth Work Strategy and the Adult Learning Statement of Ambition.

Innovation and inclusiveness

Respondents sometimes commented on culture in Scotland being innovative, inclusive and open to the wider world. Many of the issues raised are covered at subsequent questions, but particular issues to arise at Question 1 included that it would be useful to provide further information about what is meant by innovation. It was suggested that innovation can simply refer to new practices, products or exhibitions and shows but, more fundamentally, it indicates a transformative approach which can change how we see, not just what we see.

Other comments included that while innovation is important it can lead to exclusion if it becomes the dominant factor. It was also noted that 'innovative' does not reflect that fact that many cultures are traditional and long-established and that they are as valid as new expressions. It was also stressed that Scotland needs to keep effective, established projects and ways of working.

Cultural excellence

The reference to cultural excellence was welcomed by some, with one respondent commenting that they are:

...keen to ensure that the idea of 'excellence' is acknowledged and championed throughout the strategy….ensuring excellent cultural provision is available to all should be a priority for Government.

(Representative or umbrella group respondent)

Further comments included that the draft strategy should acknowledge there is good work being done across the sector, and that it would be helpful to highlight examples of excellence in cultural provision or good practice to show what success might look like.

Suggested additions included extending this part of the vision to include excellence of experience across all genres, whether in formal or informal learning, participation, performance at all levels of ability, or as an audience member.

However, a frequently raised issue was that excellence implies there is a standard against which cultural activity can be judged, and that this could be seen as elitist. For example, it was commented that:

...often 'cultural excellence' can be a problematic term that invokes hierarchy and elitism – who determines the excellence? Especially in an artistic and funding context, where is the power dynamic in this relationship and how do we break down structural privilege (and) support transparency?

(Culture organisation, group or company respondent)

Views of those who did not support the vision

Those who did not support the vision, or did not know if they did, raised very similar issues to those who had offered support. These included that the vision is vague, so broad as to almost be a truism, or that:

...a vision should be aspirational and clear to all, allowing a diverse range of individuals and organisations to contribute to its realisation. Having it in three parts and using conditional language in some places might work against this.

(Culture organisation group or company respondent)

It was again suggested that a definition of culture is required.

It was also felt that more emphasis could be given to the role of cultural heritage, and that if the draft strategy suggests delivery will only be achieved through creative processes, those working in the cultural heritage sector will feel excluded.

There was a similar suggestion that the vision could more adequately include the cultural component of the built environment and landscape of Scotland. It was suggested that this is one of the most far-reaching and permanent aspects of any country's national culture, participated in by everyone, visitors and locals alike.

Others raised issues about delivery of the draft strategy and asked if it is practical, affordable or realistic.

More broadly, it was suggested that culture should evolve spontaneously and naturally and without government interference.


Email: Donna Stewart

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