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Culture Bill Briefing 153 February 2007
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Culture Bill Briefing 153 February 2007

Local entitlements to culture? Myth or reality?


The Scottish Executive has published a draft Culture Bill which is out for consultation until 31 March 2007.In addition it has published draft guidance for local authorities on how to deliver the concept of cultural entitlements and how to lead cultural planning in the community. UNISON has large numbers of members working in culture-related services –Education, Libraries, Museums, Theatres, Arts Development, Community Education, Therapeutic Arts and many other services, our members are also citizens of Scotland and keen consumers of culture.

This briefing highlights the main points of the Bill and asks for comments on the proposals.


The Scottish Executive has published this Bill to achieve some of the aims of its January 2006 statement Scotland's Culture (the Executive claim that some of those aims are covered by existing legislation or do not require legislation). Scotland's Culture was the Executive response to the Cultural Commission's Report – a Review of Culture in Scotland. UNISON contributed to that report. http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/culturecom.html. Scotland's Culture has two aims: to support talent and excellence nationally, and encourage the use of culture to make a positive impact on areas; and to deliver cultural entitlements locally and get local authorities to plan their delivery of culture.

Overview of proposed legislation

The Bill proposes legislation in three areas:

  1. local provision – the bill proposes to reform existing legislation governing local authorities' duties to deliver cultural services, and encourages them to work with communities to plan cultural services and deliver 'cultural entitlements' to everyone.
  2. It proposes to establish a 'new' national quango – Creative Scotland – from the existing Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen. This will encourage and fund artists, and cultural providers (although funding of some national cultural companies has already been taken into the Executive itself) and issue advice on standards.
  3. 'Updates' are proposed to the governance of the National Collections – the National Library, National Museums, National Galleries, National Archives and the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historic Monuments (to be renamed the National Record).

In addition legislation is proposed to outlaw dealing in 'Tainted' cultural objects – items removed illegally from their own culture - and to bring the powers of local councils to use TV and radio to provide information up to the position of councils in England & Wales. This last will also require Westminster legislation.

Local Provision

The bill states that local councils must:

- Inform people about proposals for cultural services and how they can access

them (their cultural entitlement)

- Have regard to Ministerial guidance about delivering services. Guidance will follow on planning, services, who and how to consult, how to access services, assessing performance, and ways in which authorities can perform other functions.

- Provide information to ministers

It adds a 'cultural consideration' that councils must consider before records are destroyed

It repeals the requirement for authorities to directly provide library services, (effectively enabling them to be transferred to a trust).

The separate guidance document goes into some detail on the ways authorities should undergo consultation, engage with communities, utilise cultural services to assist in delivering other objectives (anti –poverty strategies, community development etc) and the need to tie the delivery of cultural entitlements into community planning.

Creative Scotland

This section defines the new functions of the new body – see above. It also provides the power for Ministers to issue instructions to the new body. It might be worth asking if this is intended to be a 'new' body, whether a new approach is likely if the joint board is made up overwhelmingly of existing board members?

National Collections

The legislation reforms the governing bodies of the various national collections – although they remain as NDPBs (except the NAS which remains as an Executive department.) Essentially this removes any special places on the boards reserved for groups (including trade unionists on the NLS Board!). But it retains a special place for the Faculty of Advocates!

It also outlines the general powers of these bodies – including working with local collections and their powers and duties of disposals and loans.

Dealing in Tainted Cultural Objects

This is the section that creates a new Scottish offence of 'dealing in tainted cultural objects', and defines the meanings of the offence and how a 'tainted' object is created. The penalties for this are also spelt out. The individual, as well as any corporate body, is liable.

Action for branches

Branches are urged to discuss this proposed legislation with members who work in cultural services – libraries, museums, arts development, theatres and halls, art therapists, education workers and many others.

In particular they should discuss the key issues raised by this Bill that might affect the work of these members, - eg cultural entitlements; hiving off services to trusts; how to increase access to culture; how cultural planning can fit into community planning etc and other issues and formulate any responses. These should be sent to Chris Bartter at c.bartter@unison.co.uk


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Chris Bartter

@P&I Team
14 West Campbell Street
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax: 0141 221 8953