"Scotland is a place where culture is valued, protected and nurtured. Culture is woven through everyday life, shapes and is shaped by society and its transformative potential is experienced by everyone. Scotland's rich cultural heritage and creativity of today is inspired by people and place, enlivens every community and is celebrated around the world." Vision statement – A Culture Strategy for Scotland
A Culture Strategy for Scotland articulates a bold and distinctive vision. Published by the Scottish Government in February 2020 and informed by a wide-ranging national conversation across the culture sector, and beyond, it asserts the centrality of culture and creativity to the future wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland: cultural, social, economic, and environmental. In stating that culture in Scotland is valued in and of itself, the strategy sets Scotland apart from other countries by seeking to move beyond asking the culture sector to repeatedly prove its worth and instead to focus on how everyone can best be supported to participate freely in the cultural life of the community and enjoy the arts.
The two years since its publication, just weeks before the start of Covid-19 pandemic, have served to underline even more strongly the importance of culture in the life and wellbeing of the nation. We turned to culture – film, television, books, on-line choirs, digital broadcasts – in our droves. Artists and creative activity came to the fore, supporting home schooling, combatting social isolation, and providing much needed moments of connection and joy. Artists helped – and continue to help – us make sense of the experience we've all been through whilst the lockdown has given us a glimpse of a Scotland without live music, clubs, plays, and festivals. In short, the potential of mass participation in culture as a building block towards the Wellbeing Economy was clear to see.
At the same time, despite significant and much appreciated investment in emergency support from the Scottish Government and impressive work by Creative Scotland, EventScotland, Museums and Galleries Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, the Scottish Library and Information Council, and other agencies, the sector is extremely fragile. Many of the issues considered by the National Partnership for Culture are not new, indeed many are highlighted in the Culture Strategy, but they are now more critical than ever. Many professional artists and companies are in a deeply precarious position. With the impact of the pandemic compounded by extreme inflationary pressures and the impact of Brexit their livelihoods are under threat. The aspirations of the Culture Strategy cannot be delivered without a vibrant and flourishing cultural ecology that supports the creation, presentation, and enjoyment of creative and cultural activity in every part of Scotland. Sustained and long-term investment in cultural organisations, from national companies to community organisations, artists and cultural workers – so many of whom are freelancers – is critical if Scotland is to achieve a recovery based on Climate Justice and a transition to a Wellbeing Economy, following principles laid out by the Advisory Group for Economic Recovery. A move away from short term project funding to longer term arrangements is also essential to maximising the impact and effectiveness of investment, as is developing a Fair Work framework for the culture sector that protects and facilitates self-employed working as well as employees.
The National Partnership for Culture (NPC) has been charged with supporting delivery of the vision, ambitions, aims, and actions set out in the Culture Strategy, making recommendations to the Scottish Government that would support a more strategic and connected approach across government, the sector, and beyond, to ensure that the transformative potential of culture can be maximised for everyone. This first report focuses on four areas which the partnership judged as critical to recovery; Education and Learning; Community and Place; Health and Wellbeing; and Fair Work, as well as recommending appropriate measures, data and research that would best support decision-making related to the delivery of the Culture Strategy.
The recommendations in this paper build on the vision and ambition outlined in the Culture Strategy, whereby culture is 'mainstreamed', and are proposed as a key part of how Scotland can recover from Covid as a fairer, greener, and better country in which to live and prosper. The paper presents proposals that are conceived as building blocks towards a national approach to ensuring Scotland is a country where culture is nurtured and flourishing, building structures of collaboration between culture and health, education, community development, and economic regeneration. It presents culture as a cost-effective and multi-dimensional delivery partner but makes clear that culture can deliver the most when partners, whether they are health boards, local authorities, public bodies, or the third sector are equally committed to delivering for culture in return. The intended approach is both additional and complementary to existing cultural provision and as noted above, cannot be delivered without a thriving and vibrant ecology of cultural activity across Scotland. It will also require additional resource, as well as finding ways to maximise the benefit gained from existing investment which at present is often undermined by the disjointed and piecemeal way in which it is distributed.
Recommendations are aimed at enhancing, supporting and sustaining mass participation in culture and widening the role of culture in society, creating more opportunities for people to actively participate in experiencing as well as making their own culture. This participation should be facilitated by co-creation undertaken by professional and amateur practitioners, agencies and organisations working at a local, regional and national level, utilising and augmenting the existing cultural infrastructure and supporting sustainability and resilience within the culture sector.
There are numerous good practice examples across the country of culture in education, health, and communities. However, they are unequally distributed, sometimes working in isolation, and many of those delivering them find it difficult to sustain and scale up what they know is working. The principle underpinning all these recommendations would be the pooling of experience and resources across different fields and agendas. Important national initiatives such as the Culture Collective and Creative Communities have already grown from the Culture Strategy but embedding these ways of working will require long term commitments and further changes to how culture is supported. The National Partnership for Culture believes we can use these, and other initiatives, as foundations around which we can build new ways of working, attracting and developing people and practices that ensure Scotland puts culture and the cultural workforce at the heart of the effort to build a country based on wellbeing and climate justice.
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