UNISONScotland's initial reponse to
The Scottish Executive's consultation document on
a National Cultural Strategy
UNISON Scotland is glad to have this chance of responding
to the Consultation document Celebrating Scotland - A
National Cultural Strategy.
UNISON is Scotland's largest public service union, with
members working in many disparate parts of Scotland's
cultural life, from voluntary arts projects to Scotland's
major theatres; from education to sport and leisure; from
community and therapeutic arts to library and information
provision; and from archives to architecture.
We have taken a high profile in our campaigning for a
Scottish Parliament and have been prominent in our support
for Scottish arts and culture. Our sponsorship of 1997's
7:84 Theatre Group's production and tour of Caledonia
Dreaming, for example, neatly encapsulated these different
but related aims.
We therefore feel fully qualified to comment on the consultation
It seems to us that the need for a National Cultural
Strategy is clearly demonstrated by the number and diversity
of cultural agencies, providers and finders currently
active in this area.
Given this diversity we suppose it is unsurprising that
the consultation document is lacking in clear and practical
recommendations - but we do look forward to future detailed
discussions on the need to reform Scottish artistic and
cultural agencies and the ways in which accountability
can be promoted.
We hope therefore, that the submission of this basic
response will not be the end of our input. As the consultation
document says '...discussion and debate continue'.
That this happens will be extremely important if the
eventual strategy is to be seen as belonging 'to the people
of Scotland'. In such a diverse sector it will be important
to give everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion
and to hear everyone's voice.
The Community - central to
UNISON wants to be clear about our support for many of the
benefits of cultural activity identified in the document.
It is also clear however that most, if not all, of these
benefits can be addressed most successfully by addres sing
the issue of people becoming 'involved in the [cultural]
life of his or her community'! Get that involvement and
you will have a dynamic innovative and civilising culture,
contributing to the educational aid economic development
of that community; involving all the people and creating
a distinct identity!
We suggest, therefore, that the role of arts/culture
in the community should be seen as central to this process
mad the devolution of decisions to a more local level
could assist in the development of this key area.
Conversely many things that require to be supported,
if the cultural life of Scotland's communities is to be
expanded are under attack. Cuts in local authority and
other public service budgets have had a disproportionately
damaging effect on community arts. These resource issues
must be addressed, if community arts are to take the important
place they deserve in the life of our communities.
The huge range of activities that can and should be incorporated
under any serious definition of culture highlight the
key role that local authorities should play in providing
and promoting these activities in local communities.
It is arguable that the activities listed should also
include sport and other physical activities if a comprehensive
approach to cultural life is to be attempted. We can understand
why this huge area of activity is not listed here but
- unless sport is to be covered separately - UNISON thinks
that it should be considered as part of the overall cultural
Other activities mentioned (TV, film, video and multimedia
and the likely explosion of activity in digital art/culture)
point to the error that was made in excluding broadcasting
from the remit of the Scottish Parliament.
Broadcasting clearly should he included in any national
cultural strategy - and our Scottish Parliament should
have a voice and role in this increasingly important area
of cultural life.
Encouragement and support for Gaelic and Scots is important,
but should not be at the expense of other minority cultures
and languages. Work in all these areas should also be
aimed at including people with other cultures in mainstream,
not perpetuating isolation.
Producers and Providers
The 'mixed economy' that funds, and will continue to
fund, cultural activity should be recognised as a potential
benefit, but the need to cut out cross-funding and duplication
argues for some kind of partnership between organisations
(funders, providers and consumers).
UNISON contends that this partnership will be most effective
at a local level, by locally accountable organisations.
Therefore, we would argue for some kind of partnership
bodies at local level (the geographical areas would probably
be different in different parts of Scotland). These bodies
would need to involve organisations including the public
and private sector, community and voluntary groups. artists
This proposal is very similar to the concept of community
planning. put forward recently by many authorities. We
would argue that similarly, local authorities would be
best placed to lead these cultural bodies.
Arts and culture will always demand more resources than
there are available. In the current vibrant state of Scottish
culture it is unlikely to be any other way.
However, the deliberate reduction in real terms of financial
resources to Scotland's biggest supporters and providers
of cultural activity - the local authorities - has meant
increasing problems for arts organisations and decreasing
levels of service in directly provided services. Reduced
opening hours/ (increased charges/ failure to maintain
buildings etc. are common throughout Scotland.
This has been felt proportionally worse in many areas
of the arts because there is little or no legislation
protecting provision this area. Statutory duties for local
authority cultural provision are few and far between.
UNISON suggests that the Scottish Executive and the Scottish
Parliament should look at the need to broaden and strengthen
the obligations on local authorities to provide proper
cultural provisions - and to provide the appropriate resources
for them to carry this out.
If the concept of local forums, local decisions, and
community-based arts is accepted, then this argues against
the centralising of powers in the variety of national
organisations and quangos in the arts and cultural scene.
These organisations have little or no accountability to
Scottish people at a local level.
As we indicated earlier; UNISON favours some kind of
locally based partnership deciding local needs. We see
no reason why these should not also he responsible for
allocating grants and resources.
The need for local authorities' key role in such partnerships
has already been suggested. ln addition to the arguments
given then, there are more.
- Local authorities are major providers of facilities
(balls, theatres, libraries, schools), based in the
very communities referred to - often the only facilities
in some communities.
- They can provide the links with education and the
provision of technological back up; and links with commercial
These further support the need for such partnerships.
and the need for a lead role for local authorities, in
order to coordinate local cultural provision
Conversely, further fragmentation of local cultural provision
is threatened by hiving-off local authority responsibilities
to trusts, central government or private business through
PFI, outsourcing, or privatisation. This simply places
more barriers in the way of 'joined-up' provision of local
Whether provided through housing, social work, community
work, arts development, halls, libraries and information,
and/or schools - these services are community resources
and should be accountable to service users. A plethora
of employers/owners can only provide barriers to partnership.
UNISON is genuinely excited about the potential for Scotland's
cultural life provided by this initial consultation.
It is clear that much discussion must take place. and
this response highlights key parts of UNISON's approach:
The need for a National Cultural Strategy
The need for arts and cultural provision to be decided,
and for funding to be delivered, at an appropriate local
level, through accountable structures;
The key role for local authorities In that process:
The need for a full look at cultural provision Including
sport and broadcasting and the need for the Scottish Parliament
to have a responsibility for the latter;
The need for proper resources to be devolved to local
decision makers and to he backed up by legislation;
The need to increase team working and partnership In
the provision of cultural services.
In short -
giving people a say In their services;
choosing quality services
The themes of UNISON's Serving Scotland campaign.
| Serving Scotland Manifesto | Responses and Submissions