A Culture Strategy for Scotland

A Culture Strategy for Scotland shows how important culture is to Scotland’s prosperity and sets the future direction for supporting culture in Scotland.

5. Ambition 2: Transforming through culture

Title: Subrina "Brina" Ward performing her Jamaican Reggae versions of songs by Robert Burns at BEMIS Scotland commissioned 'A Toast tae the International Lassies' at Celtic Connections 2017
Credit: Photographer - ABCassidy Photography

Subrina "Brina" Ward performing her Jamaican Reggae versions of songs by Robert Burns

Demonstrating that culture is central to Scotland's wellbeing and cultural, social, economic and environmental prosperity.

Our aims are to:

  • Place culture as a central consideration across all policy areas including: health and wellbeing, economy, education, reducing inequality and realising a greener and more innovative future
  • Open up the potential of culture as a transformative opportunity across society

To do this we will:

  • Establish a new National Partnership for Culture to continue our national culture conversation and advise Scottish Ministers on matters affecting and affected by culture in Scotland
  • Establish a measuring change group to inform progress towards realising the national outcome for culture and the delivery of the culture strategy
  • Collaborate to realise the transformational power of culture in achieving a broad range of policy outcomes including the development of:
    • Cross-government policy compacts embedding culture at the centre of policy-making
    • Partnerships with other government agencies and public bodies to support economic growth
    • Support to help Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland expand and develop
    • Work to embed the principles of Article 31 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) across the full range of publicly funded cultural activity
    • Work with Creative Scotland and Education Scotland to help improve cultural experiences for learners of all ages
    • Partner with Creative Scotland and Engage Scotland to identify best practice and barriers, developing new approaches to supporting schools, teachers and pupils to engage more confidently with contemporary visual arts and design
    • Continuing work with Creative Scotland and the National Youth Arts Advisory Group to secure ways to ensure that the voices of children and young people continue to be heard and they are involved in cultural decision-making
    • Ways to ensure that Historic Environment Scotland's pioneering work on climate change is widely promoted so that we all understand how we can manage the effects on our historic buildings
    • Ways to show how heritage and culture can transform public thinking to transition to a net zero society and economy in tackling the climate emergency
  • Support activity focused on delivering the new national outcome for culture through the new national partnership and measuring change group

Realising the full potential of culture

The guiding principles set out in this strategy highlight that culture in Scotland is valued in and of itself and is central to the future wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland - environmental, cultural, social and economic.

The full potential of culture to transform the lives of individuals and communities as well as contribute to the overall wellbeing of the nation is not yet realised. There is a need to forge better connections across government and improve links between culture and areas such as health, education, tourism, energy, community development, international relations, and the economy. Links between national and local government policy and approaches and links to the private sector are also critical if culture is to play the positive role that evidence demonstrates it can.

Being creative and enjoying culture can play a part in transforming opportunities for individuals and society. This strategy supports the development of a more collective understanding and appreciation of the value and impact of culture to ensure it is better supported across Scotland.

National Partnership for Culture

In response to consultation feedback we have established the National Partnership for Culture to provide a cross-sector, interdisciplinary voice which can both advise and influence Scottish Ministers on matters affecting culture in Scotland.

National Partnership for Culture

The new National Partnership for Culture will support delivery of the collective vision, ambitions, aims and actions set out in the culture strategy, help to inform and influence policy decisions, and continue the national culture conversation so we can drive the transformational potential of culture.

The partnership is independently chaired and its membership and participation will reflect Scotland's many different cultures, languages and communities. It will include the voices of young people and it will play a key role in helping unlock opportunities by bringing together partners from across the culture sector: artists; creative producers; policy makers and academics; along with other sectors to identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership working.

Measuring change group

The partnership is also tasked with establishing a measuring change group to inform progress towards realising the national outcome for culture and the delivery of the culture strategy. It will build upon existing research and consider what further evidence about the impact of culture is required to better inform local and national policy and decision makers

Policy compacts

We will also work across the Scottish Government to create strategic cross-policy compacts to deliver co-ordinated approaches to realising shared policy outcomes through culture in key policy areas such as health and wellbeing, community empowerment and regeneration, exploring options for leadership, resource sharing, compatible planning and complementarity policies.

Policy compacts

We will create cross-policy compacts to strengthen dialogue and enable a range of internal and external stakeholders to work together to pursue joint outcomes and maximise the positive impact of culture on society.

Culture and the National Performance Framework

The National Performance Framework sets out a vision of national wellbeing for Scotland and charts progress towards this through a range of social, environmental and economic outcomes which are measured by indicators.

The current set of 11 national outcomes reflect our values as a nation and the aspirations we hold for our future. The framework now includes a national outcome for culture for the first time and promotes our commitment to the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals[29] which are aimed at improving wellbeing across the world.

A National Outcome for Culture

We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely

As well as the national outcome for culture, we know that culture contributes to each of the other national outcomes set out in the National Performance Framework either directly or indirectly, presenting opportunities for local and national government and the culture sector to strengthen partnership working through culture to unlock solutions and maximise impact through culture. The framework enables effective working across policy and delivery areas and encourages an holistic and joined up approach to public service delivery.

A Culture Strategy for Scotland: National Performance Framework


National Performance Framework

Infographic text:

Our Purpose - To focus on creating a more successful country with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increased wellbeing, and sustainable and inclusive economic growth
Our Values - We are a society which treats all our people with kindness, dignity and compassion, respects the rule of law, and acts in an open and transparent way

We have a globally competitive, entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy
We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally
We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally
We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential
We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society
We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone
We are healthy and active
We value, enjoy, protect and enhance our environment
We are creative and our vibrant and diverse cultures are expressed and enjoyed widely
We respect, protect and fulfil human rights and live free from discrimination

Culture and the global climate emergency

Climate change is a defining challenge of our age with major implications for the ways in which people live. The transition to net-zero in Scotland will require transformational change across society. Culture is integral to our ways of life, connecting people to place and helping them to understand and relate to environmental challenges. Culture thus offers potential for galvanising climate action and could play a major role in influencing the widespread behavioural change that will be required to meet our ambitious targets.

Culture and heritage projects are often local and place-based, presenting a unique opportunity to engage directly with communities across Scotland. The arts, including screen and broadcasting, can be a significant communication tool in raising awareness of climate change and the actions that will need to be taken across society. Artists and practitioners can help communities to visualise and understand the impacts of climate change, can provide leadership through debate and practice and can encourage people to imagine the possibilities and potential of a greener future.

This is the premise behind the Climate Heritage Network, which has been led by Historic Environment Scotland (HES), in partnership with the California Office of Historic Preservation and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), bringing together culture and heritage professionals and organisations to mobilise action on climate change. HES is already recognised as a global leader when it comes to understanding the links between climate change and cultural heritage. We will work to ensure that its pioneering work on climate change is widely promoted and that the wider culture sector is prepared and ready to seize the opportunity to play its role in our transition to net-zero.

Glasgow will play host to the United Nation's Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, in November 2020. As the largest event of this nature ever to be held in the UK, Scotland welcomes the opportunity to showcase its exceptional landscape, venues, hospitality and culture and ensure that COP26 visitors experience the best of Scottish welcome. The Scottish Government will work with partners to ensure that the event delivers a lasting legacy for the whole of Scotland. We hope that COP26 can support global efforts to transition to a net-zero world in a way that is fair and just. We must leave no one behind.

Culture and health

Culture improves places for individuals and communities. It plays a key role in maintaining good mental health and wellbeing and it has been shown to reduce levels of social isolation, strengthen social networks and increase self-confidence and resilience. It can support good health and wellbeing for all ages.

As part of the Scottish Government's drive to carry out public health reform with a focus on prevention and early intervention, a new public health body, Public Health Scotland (PHS), will be established in April 2020. PHS, developed in partnership with CoSLA, will provide strong public health leadership and be Scotland's lead national agency for improving and protecting health and wellbeing.

It will have a leadership role in research, innovation and the public health workforce, and will adopt a whole system approach to supporting and enabling others to take action together across organisational boundaries and in communities.

We will work with PHS to create opportunities for realising shared health and wellbeing outcomes through culture.

Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland

In addition, we will support the further development of Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland to include all forms of cultural engagement. The expanded network will advocate for cultural approaches to prevent poor individual and population health and promote cultural intervention as an effective means of tackling health inequality and supporting rehabilitation. It will improve collaboration across the sectors and share good practice and opportunities for joint working. We will also work with the network and Creative Scotland to develop and implement a joint action plan that will build on recent evaluation findings.

Case Study: National Museums Scotland - 'Museum Socials'

Since October 2015, National Museums Scotland's Learning & Programmes' Community Engagement team have been hosting Museum Socials for people living with dementia.

These free monthly events provide an informal learning experience, giving participants access to a range of opportunities to engage both with the national collections and with wider social activities. The programme is run in collaboration with National Galleries Scotland, The National Library of Scotland, St Cecilia's Hall and Edinburgh Zoo, with each venue offering a monthly dementia Social event. The Museum Socials provide an informal learning and social opportunity for people living with dementia, their family, friends or support workers.

Title: Investigating objects at a Museums Social in the National Museum of Scotland
Credit: Photographer - @rutharmstrongphotography

Investigating objects at a Museums Social in the National Museum of Scotland

Culture and children and young people

Article 31 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child[30] (UNCRC) states that children have the right to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. It also says that 'States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.' In fulfilment of this duty, we will continue to work with partners across the sector and beyond to embed the principles of Article 31 of the UNCRC across the full range of publicly funded cultural activity.

Schools and other formal and informal education establishments from early years to higher and further education are critical to enabling young people across Scotland to access and build a lifelong foundation in culture through to adulthood. Culture and creativity help young people grow confidently as citizens and can play an important role in helping children cope with any stress and adversity they may be experiencing in their lives.

Creative learning

We will work with Creative Scotland and Education Scotland to help improve cultural experiences for learners of all ages. We will collaborate together, and with practitioners, on ways to inspire, empower and support learners to develop important skills for the 21st Century 'in' and 'through' the arts and creative learning across the curriculum.

Title: A group of young people play together as part of the big band at SCO VIBE, a fusion orchestra project for 12-18 year olds. Edinburgh, July 2017.
Credit: Photographer - Fraser Band

A group of young people play together as part of the big band at SCO VIBE, a fusion orchestra project for 12-18 year olds. Edinburgh, July 2017

Culture is a huge resource through which many aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence can be delivered and creative approaches to teaching can also be successful in raising attainment across non-creative subjects. The Scottish Attainment Challenge is seeking to ensure that all of Scotland's children and young people reach their full potential. Culture and the arts have a big part to play in making this a reality.

Supporting Expressive Arts in the curriculum

We will partner with Creative Scotland and Engage Scotland to identify barriers and determine goals for future models that will help schools, teachers and pupils to engage more confidently with contemporary art and also with the design element of art and design. The programme will work with schools across Scotland to map a national picture of where schools are engaging with, and through, expressive arts with a focus on identifying barriers to engagement with the visual arts and design and gaining a better understanding of teacher confidence in engaging with and delivering contemporary visual arts and design. The programme will build on innovative approaches to contemporary visual arts and design education and will inform future approaches to improving support for teachers in particular.

In Scottish schools the growing Gaelic-medium sector has established a strong link with the arts and is providing a range of cultural opportunities. Excellent links between schools and culture and the arts can be seen in the Fèisean movement, in both the national and local Mods and in MG Alba's Film G. Interest in Scots and its culture are growing in our schools with the likes of Scots Hoose supporting learning along with other bodies including Scots Radio, who run The Doric Film Festival which is now in its second year and continues to have growing interest from young people.

Whilst acknowledging the autonomy of local authorities to make decisions in funding for instrumental music tuition, we want to help ensure that instrumental music tuition remains accessible to all. We worked with the Music Education Partnership Group and CoSLA to develop guidance[31] to support local authorities in their instrumental music tuition policies which was published on 25 January 2019.

The guidance:

  • highlights the CoSLA Children and Young People Board's decision that instrumental music tuition should be provided free of charge to students who are entitled to free school meals or those studying for SQA qualifications
  • recommends local authorities review their charging policies and concessionary schemes to ensure that pupils in their area are not prevented from learning a musical instrument because of their background, location, disability or financial circumstances
  • promotes the sharing of good practice and information between local authorities; and
  • places an emphasis on the need to appropriately engage parents and carers when making changes to fee levels, offering examples of good practice and recommending local authorities avoid issuing invoices to parents and carers of children receiving tuition without warning and explanation

We continue to work with partners in further and higher education to ensure creative education is a key priority and will continue to work with the range of national music education organisations, including Royal Scottish Conservatoire, and stakeholder groups, such as the Music Education Partnership Group, to promote excellence in music education and provide opportunities for the musicians of the future.

Cultural experiences should be embedded from the very start of children's formal learning but need not be restricted to formal environments.

We know that the opportunities children and young people have outside of school are important for their development and wellbeing. Out of school care services enable many parents to work, but they also offer opportunities for children to take part in life-enhancing experiences, through access to music, arts and drama. Children and young people have freedom to choose how they spend their time in out of school care settings and can explore and enjoy cultural activities in ways which are meaningful and enjoyable for them. We have maintained free access to the national collections so they are available to all regardless of ability to pay.

Time to Shine

We will work with Creative Scotland and other partners to build on what has been achieved through Time to Shine, the National Youth Arts Strategy, and work with the National Youth Arts Advisory Group to consider further how to ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard and that they are involved in decision-making.

Out of school care can benefit children by promoting positive social interactions and relationships, and provides opportunities for play in safe, supportive environments. Often rooted in local communities, these services offer children creative outlets and provide opportunities for them to engage in cultural activities through a variety of means.

In August 2019 we published a draft framework for out of school care in Scotland which focuses on positive outcomes for those children who stand to benefit most from these services, including children with disabilities and additional support needs, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In developing this framework we have listened to children and young people's views, using theatre as a means of engagement. We are continuing to engage through creative art and theatre-based workshops with children and young people as part of the consultation process.

There are many examples of young people developing innovative business models and encouraging innovation. Cultural organisations and local authorities should tailor information for young people - including those not in education, employment or training - to support their creative projects to sustain a living, and inspire creative entrepreneurship.

Culture and older people

In A Fairer Scotland for Older People - A Framework for Action[32] published in April 2019, we committed to making sure that the voices and experience of older people would be reflected in the culture strategy. We live in an ageing society and it is fundamentally important that everyone is enabled to age actively, maintain good health and be engaged. Culture provides a broad platform to do just that, often bridging the gap between generations, and enabling older people to not only pass on their cultural knowledge and skills to future generations, but to also take part in a variety of cultural activities, enriching their life and maintaining social connections.

Culture and technology

Technological innovation continues to change the way we live and work. The speed and degree of change in digital emerging technologies is shaping future jobs and therefore the education, training, creative thinking and creative skills needed to do them. We also know that creative and cultural jobs are some of the least likely to become automated in the future. Creative and design skills are also an essential skillset for digital products and services design. This underlines the benefits of supporting a strong cultural and creative foundation in education.

Title: A design student sketches a 3D character, Abertay University, Dundee
Credit: Photograph reproduced courtesy of Abertay University, Dundee.

A design student sketches a 3D character, Abertay University, Dundee

Technological change is also transforming how culture is developed, produced, delivered and experienced, such as online streaming, digitisation and in online communities. Technology has the potential to increase access to culture for a broader range of audiences, to support new and interesting forms of cultural and creative expression, production and activity and demonstrate what can be achieved through creative uses of technology. This is not limited to, but might include, opening up access to collections, new ways to provide interpretation, remote access and sharing our culture around the world.

The growing demand for online cultural content is reflected in new initiatives, including those from the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Ballet's digital seasons, and the programme of digitisation increasing public access to Scotland's national collections.

Advances in digital technologies and the use of data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are happening at pace, presenting economic and social opportunities. We recognise the importance of supporting the sector to work together to evolve thinking and to harness the potential opportunities afforded by technological innovation and change. However, we also recognise the challenges and concerns which must be addressed if we are all to benefit from these opportunities. Through collaboration, learning and shared practice, the Scottish Government will work with stakeholders to develop principles and tools that build the skills and capabilities to address ethical dilemmas and risks in design.

These will be clear statements of how Scotland will use digital, data and AI to improve public services, boost productivity and drive inclusive growth in ways which protect privacy, enhance security and promote accessibility, inclusion and diversity. These and other actions will create the conditions which enable industry and public services to innovate with confidence, encourage inward investment to Scotland and give our people the reassurance that technological advancement will benefit Scotland socially and economically through the principled and ethical exploitation of digital technologies.


Email: culturestrategyandengagement@gov.scot

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