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SCAN's letter to Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture

Image: Fiona Hyslop is the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture. Image c. Scottish Government

Dear Cabinet Secretary,

We are writing in the context of the sector-wide recommendations of Culture Counts and ongoing collaborative discussions between Creative Scotland and development bodies across a range of artforms, recognising that we are all part of a rich and integrated cultural community which is at the heart of Scotland’s future wellbeing and prosperity.

The process of creating, making and connecting through art feeds long-term change. It is, as the Culture Strategy for Scotland indicates, a positive force. As such we welcome the recognition of culture’s core role in the economic recovery by the Scottish Government’s Economic Advisory Group (EAG) in their report dated June 22 – we also welcome your recent comments in Holyrood magazine that, “the time for a wellbeing economy has well and truly arrived.”

As you know, SCAN’s members work at the heart of communities from Shetland to the Borders and from East Lothian to the Western Isles. They are a highly skilled workforce of artists, art workers and creative thinkers. They sustain a network of free at the point of access, responsive institutions that anchor local communities and open their doors to their neighbours and visitors alike.

The pandemic has presented huge challenges for our sector, as it has for Scotland as a whole. We are determined that we play a key role in societal renewal from our own local communities outwards, and in doing so we share the Scottish Government’s ambition for a more equal, fairer and sustainable society underpinned by universal human rights.

The EAG report recognises that the response to the challenges of Covid recovery should not be prescriptive and that “action will be needed across a very wide front, involving all sectors and all parts of Scotland.”

We urge you to take bold fiscal action through:

· An ambitious ring-fenced investment for cultural renewal where citizens can creatively address recovery locally

· A nationwide investment programme for artists, production facilities and cultural civic spaces which forms the bedrock of imagination for renewal and recovery.

· Additional investment for cultural input into curricular and extra-curricular learning that embeds creative skills for future generations.

We believe that our ambitions are essential for an ambitious renewal programme, and would be deliverable within the wider context of a doubling of the current cultural budget and providing a five-year stabilisation deal for the cultural sector, so that we are able to contribute fully to the national recovery and build a cultural workforce based on the principles of equality and fair work, enabling publicly-funded organisations to pay union rates and support the living wage.

In addition we believe that action in a number of wider policy areas will support the needs of the visual arts workforce, providing vital support for freelance creatives and helping deliver the transformative change needed to renew, reset and recover. Those areas are:

· Introduction of the Citizens Basic Income across Scotland

· Tackling digital exclusion and improving digital infrastructure

· Investment in green infrastructure

We note that at a time of great economic pressure, and thanks to public support and government interventions, our members have strived to maintain employment in the visual art sector and nurture their communities of artists and freelance workers under difficult circumstances.

They have used their community reach and resources to fill gaps in provision and their digital skills to support wellbeing and community cohesion during lockdown.
They now need your help, so together we can build back better for Scotland.