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.

Ambition 2: Empowering through culture

The draft strategy's second ambition focuses on empowering through culture. The consultation paper describes culture as for, and of, each and every community across Scotland, with everyone having the opportunity to flourish through culture.

Ambition 2Empowering through culture: Opening up and extending culture so that it is of and for every community and everyone.

Question 6: What is your view of the ambition 'Empowering through culture'?

Question 7: If you have further comments on the ambition, 'Empowering through culture' please provide them below. What do you like, dislike, or what would you change?

Table 4: Question 6 – What is your view of the ambition 'Empowering through culture'?

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 39 1 1 5 46
Faith Group 1   1 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 24 3 7 34
Third sector 12 1 1 2 16
Union or political party 4 1   1 6
Total organisations 118 4 6 18 146
% of organisations answering 92% 3% 5%
Individuals 49 9 7 4 69
Individual (on behalf of a community) 1   1
Total Individuals 50 9 7 4 70
% of individuals answering 76% 14% 11%
All respondents 168 13 13 22 216
% of all respondents 78% 6% 6% 10%  
% of all those answering 87% 7% 7%*

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

A clear majority of respondents – 87% of those answering the question – supported the 'Empowering through culture' ambition. Organisational respondents were more likely to support the ambition than individuals (92% of those answering and 76% of those answering respectively).

The analysis below begins with comments made by those who supported the ambition and concludes with an analysis of comments made by those who did not. Issues raised by those who did not answer Question 7, or who did not know at Question 7, tended to raise similar themes to those who supported the ambition.

Views of those who supported the ambition

Many respondents expressed general support for this ambition, including approval for an accessible, inclusive approach, the importance of community-based culture or the emphasis on poorer communities and social justice. It was also suggested that greater emphasis could be placed on the power of culture to break down barriers within and between communities.

However, a number of respondents raised issues with respect to the wording, in terms of both tone and clarity, including that it is vague, and that statements are too general or lack practical details. It was also thought that the ambition is poorly worded and could appear to take a top-down approach. In particular, the phrase 'opening up and extending culture' was suggested as potentially implying that communities do not already engage in cultural activities and as running counter to the inclusive approach to culture which it is trying to promote. Suggestions included making it clear that the proposals would build on existing success or would sustain and extend participation, or that there should be a distinction between culture itself as 'by and for all', while 'opening up' the opportunities offered by the cultural sector.

A number of respondents proposed alternative wording for the ambition including:

  • 'opening up and extending perceptions of culture so that it is recognised as for, and of, every community and everyone'.
  • 'opening up and extending culture so that is of, and for, every community and individual'.
  • 'recognising that culture is for every community and everyone'.
  • 'increase opportunities to influence and participate in culture that represents all Scotland's communities'.
  • 'expand the idea and practice of cultural activity to be genuinely inclusive for every community and place in our society'.

Several respondents commented on the approach taken in the draft strategy not to define what is meant by 'culture', with suggestions including that it would be helpful to include examples of what culture might mean for different people. Some respondents thought there was a risk of being too vague or too open-ended, allowing both focus and resources to be spread too thinly. In particular, it was argued that care should be taken to ensure that diversification does not affect the sustainability of Scotland's cultural heritage offer, and that 'heritage' should be referenced specifically since many communities are involved in cultural activity through engagement with their local heritage.

It was suggested that the draft strategy could give more of a sense of the range of grassroots cultural activity currently thriving across Scotland, and a number of respondents pointed to current projects they saw as being in line with the ambition or suggested that the draft strategy could complement or build on existing initiatives. Examples of such initiatives included:

  • theatre or music groups for those with learning disabilities.
  • a poetry group at a local community's art centre.
  • archive projects.
  • tailored musical activities for people at every stage of life.
  • opportunities to develop film-making skills and to engage with UK independent films.

Importance of community ownership

Respondents often agreed with the emphasis placed on communities and place, sometimes expressing a view that grassroots culture is not currently valued. There was also support for the draft strategy's position that local culture is just as important as national culture. The importance of encouraging communities to take ownership of their cultural assets was highlighted, as was the need for more emphasis on listening to what communities want culturally, without making assumptions.

Importance of excellence

There does not need to be a tension here between excellence/aspiration and access/inclusion.

(Two Culture organisation, group or company respondents)

While acknowledging the importance of inclusion, a number of respondents suggested that the draft strategy could do more to recognise and support cultural excellence or to strike a balance between 'inclusive culture' and 'quality culture'. It was argued that there is no conflict between pursuit of excellence and the extended view of culture envisaged by the draft strategy.

Data collection

A number of respondents commented on issues associated with collection of data. This included the need to reach a consensus on data sharing between organisations and that full consultation across the sector would need to take place before any changes to how cultural engagement is measured, are introduced. It was also argued that requirements to measure and report on success should be proportionate to the scale of delivery since this can be an onerous task for small organisations. Monitoring and evaluation are discussed further at Question 16.

Resource issues and the role of volunteers

Empowering is great, but it still requires financial investment.

(Individual respondent)

A number of respondents highlighted issues associated with funding, often pointing to the degree to which existing grassroots projects rely on volunteers or referencing the effects of recent cuts in public spending. Comments included:

  • that there needs to be financial investment, including in education, where there have been cuts to music lessons and libraries. Loss of capacity, skills, and resources has eroded cultural opportunities.
  • that the role of volunteers should be highlighted alongside a recognition of the importance of experienced professionals.
  • that although volunteer-run groups are often self-funding there is a need for strategic, developmental support and seed funding initiatives to boost capacity or that without proper resources, there is risk of burn out or disillusionment at grassroots level.

Comments on the consultation paper

Comments on access, participation and engagement included:

  • the draft strategy suggests children living in poverty who engage in cultural activities could become 'the audiences of the future.' Why not the artists, creators and heritage professionals of the future?
  • there could be mention of work done by the Scottish Arts and Homelessness Network and by Scottish Prison Arts.

With respect to the communities and geography section of the consultation paper suggestions included:

  • the need for recognition that a 'community' may comprise people identifying with a common interest or faith rather than a local area. Deaf communities and British Sign Language users were often referenced, with a particular suggestion that deaf children in mainstream schools may not have opportunities to attend deaf clubs or organisations where they can experience deaf culture.
  • particular care is needed to ensure black and minority ethnic groups are involved in the movement to extend the view of culture and develop opportunities to participate in culture.
  • that transport is often a limiting issue, especially for school children, and that for a family living on universal credit, fares could represent a significant proportion of income.
  • geographical isolation can be overcome by tours from national bodies and organisations, not only performing, but also providing opportunities for young people to attend workshops.

It was also suggested that, in the light of regional variations, it would be useful to define what levels of cultural provision should be available, whether this should be live or could be digital, and the extent to which it could be affected by location or population size.

Additions suggested

Respondents also suggested a diverse range of issues that they felt should be included in this section of the draft strategy. Those cited most frequently were:

  • to emphasise the importance of culture within education, where there was suggested to be evidence that the Curriculum for Excellence provides less opportunity for creative and artistic expression within schools.
  • to include museums, which hold collections of cultural importance and help to define a sense of community.

Other topics, often raised by only a single respondent, included:

  • reference to integration with other strategies such as the anti-poverty, public health and digital inclusion strategies.
  • a cultural infrastructure policy to ensure 'the right spaces in the right places'.
  • stronger reflection of the culture of the Highlands and Islands, including crofting lifestyles.
  • consideration of the loss of craft making skills.
  • consideration of how Scotland's cultural offering and diversity can be emphasised internationally including through the tourism industry.
  • greater emphasis on participation and engagement of older members of society living in poverty.
  • greater reference to the role of religion.
  • support for opening up and extending the ability for everyone to access a career in heritage.

Views of those who did not support the ambition

The small number of respondents who did not support the ambition referred to the greater importance of basic subsistence issues or suggested that people on low incomes are taking part in culture, but not culture that the government funds.

Others raised issues regarding aspects of the scope, tone or wording, reflecting similar themes to those who supported the ambition.

Other comments included that the ambition should read 'recognising the value of culture in daily life, supporting access, and encouraging exchanges.'

Question 8: Please provide comments on the aims and actions under this ambition. What do you like, or dislike, or what would you change?

A number of respondents expressed general support for the aims under this ambition although sometimes added further comment including that:

  • the actions are vague or that more specific and measurable actions will be necessary.
  • the actions could more obviously flow from the aims.
  • it would be helpful to explain integration with other Scottish Government policies in similar areas.

Other respondents noted support for one or more aim, although sometimes disagreement in other instances. Amongst issues raised were that:

  • this section is too inward looking or should take a broader view.
  • an unintended consequence could be to weaken the base of Scotland's cultural heritage offer, including by reducing numbers attending individual sites or events and by fragmenting funding opportunities.

Suggested additions included:

  • that it would be appropriate to include mention of engaging with 'great' art alongside the community driven nature of the aims.
  • more emphasis could be placed on how the use of technology can help facilitate the actions and that improved distribution options – for example, broadband provision – should be addressed. It was also argued that technology/digital culture could be represented more strongly, and that social media should be identified specifically rather than digital networks.
  • consideration should be given to the languages of all minority groups alongside Gaelic.
  • intergenerational aspects of culture could be mentioned.
  • international connections should be considered.
  • cultural experience and opportunities for participation and learning should be incorporated within the school curriculum.
  • the potential power of blurring of the boundaries between different types of culture should be stated.

Aim 1: Extend the view of culture to include the everyday and emerging, the established and more formal.

Among comments welcoming Aim 1 were that this resonates in island communities where respect for the continuity of established traditions is evident in many aspects of life and core to defining cultural identity. It was also noted that Scotland has a wealth of migrant cultures that are often overlooked, and it was suggested that this aim places value on cultural diversity. Issues raised with respect to Aim 1 included that it requires better explanation, is too all-inclusive or requires clarity around how quality will be recognised, and success measured.

Other points on Aim 1 included:

  • why this is not already happening should be investigated.
  • that planning policy could ensure that consideration is given to the cultural importance of grassroots live music venues and that these venues should enjoy recognition as culturally important spaces.
  • there should be another action addressing how to foster a greater sense that more formal expressions of culture can be for everyone, to avoid perpetuating an idea that different types of culture are for different types of people.

Action 1: Promote an inclusive and extended view of culture which recognises and celebrates the value and importance of emerging, everyday and grassroots culture and creativity.

The emphasis on emerging, every day and grassroots culture and creativity was welcomed by a number of respondents, although it was noted that there is no practical detail on how this would be promoted. It was also suggested it may not be helpful to categorise different types of cultural activity since this may reinforce boundaries rather than promote inclusion. The absence of a role for quality and excellence was also noted, with an argument that excellence does not equate to elitism.

Other suggestions included:

  • the action could be modified to end '…and creativity in all languages and forms.'
  • there will be a need for some sort of selection and prioritisation which should be based on the significance of the cultural assets being considered.
  • it would be helpful to reference intangible cultural heritage or living culture.
  • the issue of broadcasting and the launch of the new BBC Scotland channel should be included.

Aim 2: Develop opportunities for people to take part in culture throughout their lives.

Amongst respondents who expressed support for Aim 2, some gave examples of groups already providing opportunities to participate. The importance of exposure to culture at an early age was often highlighted, with a suggestion that early years policy should be referenced explicitly throughout the draft strategy. Issues raised with respect to Aim 2 included that this could be read as suggesting that there are specific, 'acceptable' cultural activities, or that the Scottish Government could be perceived as seeking to use artists in the promotion of its political philosophy.

Other comments on opportunities to take part in culture throughout life included:

  • a suggestion that the draft strategy should reflect the growing evidence for the use of social prescribing as an alternative to traditional GP appointments, especially for the elderly.
  • reporting benefits realised by providing art in hospitals and in care homes, including for people with dementia.
  • an observation of the value of culture to people at the end of life, including in coming to terms with dying and preserving their legacy.

It was also noted that participation may be limited by infrastructure, with a suggestion that the aim should be reworded to read 'Develop the infrastructure and opportunities to allow people to participate in culture throughout their lives'.

Action 2: Develop an approach that supports long-term partnerships between cultural and creative organisations, businesses and organisations in Scotland's most deprived communities, including schools, care homes and organisations working towards achieving social justice.

Although Action 2 was often welcomed, there was a view that the phrase 'most deprived communities' should be amended, including a suggestion it should be changed to 'most deprived areas'. Other comments with respect to the wording of Action 2 included: a suggestion that people in their own homes and unable to access cultural activities should also be supported; that early years should be included; and that the draft strategy should seek to support access to culture for everyone, from all walks of life.

With specific reference to partnerships, the importance that these should be long term was often highlighted, with a requirement for longer-term funding arrangements than currently available. In addition, the need for an ethical frame- work to be in place before such partnerships are created was suggested, especially when working in deprived areas. It was also argued that communities should decide with whom they want to work, with a suggestion that local groups should receive funding to commission central cultural organisations.

Suggestions were also made with respect to individual organisations that could be or would like to be involved, and to sectors that the draft strategy could reference as partners including:

  • the college sector and community learning and development.
  • the science and health engagement sectors.

Local authorities and Integrated Joint Boards were also suggested to have a role to play in forming partnerships, and existing partnerships – such as those involving historic houses – were noted. The importance of business engagement, including strategic development with an awareness of the tourism industry, was also highlighted.

Aim 3: Recognise each community's own local culture in generating a distinct sense of place, identity and confidence.

A number of respondents expressed support for Aim 3 including a suggestion that it is one of the most important aims in the draft strategy. It was argued to be very important for communities to feel valued and that one of the ways they can do this is through the culture of a place. As an example, the Heritage Lottery Fund's 'Great Place Scheme' was described as encouraging Scotland's communities to put heritage at the heart of local plans and decision-making.

Among further comments about Aim 3 were that it is inclusive but potentially insular or limiting, rather than opening up broader horizons, or that there is a risk that only the 'cultural elite' within a community will participate. Recognition of the importance of cultural heritage alongside contemporary culture in place-making and destination development was also suggested to be important. While it was suggested that too great a focus is placed on geographic communities, when many communities are not defined by geography, recognition of the challenges arising from geographic inequalities was also welcomed.

Since Scotland is a multi-cultural country, it was argued that the draft strategy should be published in a number of different languages.

Action 3: Explore ways in which people can have a greater say in shaping the cultural life of their communities including participatory models of decision-making and community ownership.

Several respondents specifically welcomed Action 3, with comments including that this is innovative or critical to the success of the draft strategy. However, it was also suggested that the wording is vague or could be strengthened, that there is currently insufficient detail, and that the draft strategy needs to convince people that empowering is genuinely about real engagement with communities and enabling self-determination. In particular, it was argued that three years after the Community Empowerment Act 2015 was enacted, there was more that the Scottish Government could now do beyond exploring ways for people to shape their communities. However, it was also suggested that the 2015 Act should not be used as a way for government or local authorities to avoid their responsibilities.

Comments specific to participatory budgeting included that this can be challenging and must not become a burden to communities. It was argued that co-creation/co-production requires local infrastructure and experience and that, while participatory budgeting models may be suitable in areas with a large population including administrators and volunteers, smaller rural communities may lack adequate capacity.

The need to improve the models used was suggested, as was the need to provide enough support and allow sufficient time for what can be a challenging process, and to pilot the proposed approaches. The importance of government continuing to take responsibility for expanding cultural infrastructure and supporting cultural programmes was also highlighted.

In addition, it was reported that the heritage community has concerns that the consequences may not be fully explained when communities acquire heritage assets. There was an associated suggestion that advice on differences between rural and urban communities in relation to such acquisitions should be provided.

Other points on individuals shaping the cultural life of their communities included that:

  • wider access to different arts and cultural experiences will put people in a stronger position to define the kinds of experiences they want to bring to their communities.
  • existing structures such as Community Planning Partnerships and arts forums or networks could be involved.
  • a relationship between community culture and increased health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of the draft strategy.

As a means of delivering on Actions 2 and 3, a policy of support for cultural centres in communities of all sizes was proposed. While varying according to the context of the specific community, it was suggested such centres would all be accessible, inclusive and supportive of people participating in cultural activity.


Email: Donna Stewart

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