UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on this important
document. As the union that represents staff in local authorities,
other public service providers and the voluntary sector, we think
we are uniquely placed to bring a number of perspectives to bear.
In addition to representing staff in Scotland's 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.
UNISON is also a major supporter of arts and cultural activity
across Scotland through sponsorship and practical support. Recent
projects have included outreach drama work with domestic abuse
groups; support for events at the Edinburgh Mela ; funding projects
in the Orkney Festival, sponsorship of Glasgay! And many more.
1) A step forward
This is an important document for the delivery of the National
Cultural Strategy because:-
We think that this role should be expanded and that the Scottish
Executive or other bodies could usefully carry out or facilitate
most surveys of service provision and possibly collect such useful
information and publish it centrally.
- In our comments on Celebrating Scotland we made
clear our view that the role of culture/cultural services in
the communities of Scotland was our central concern. We are
pleased that this view is given considerable weight in the guidelines.
- We also made clear our view of the key role of local authorities
as Scotland's biggest provider and supporters of cultural activities.
We welcome the recognition of that leadership role in the guidance.
- Partnerships at all levels are also given a correct importance
within the guidance and again, local authorities with their
key role in community planning, social inclusion and ability
to link cultural, education and commercial enterprises have
a unique place in delivering these.
- The guidance identifies some useful surveys eg the National
Audit of Museums Collections and also examples of good practice.
In an area weak in statutory obligations or other national guidelines,
these are very useful.
But with some problem areas
However, the guidance does not go far enough in a number of areas.
- Whilst it recognises the falling resources that have been
available for cultural activities through local authorities
and suggests some ideas for attracting other funding, it does
not deal with the root of the problem - the continuing problems
of resourcing (local finance/staffing/training) that local authorities
It may be considered to be beyond the scope of such guidance,
but a clear recommendation that authorities require sufficient
resources to staff services with properly qualified and trained
staff to enable quality services to be delivered would be a step
- Connected with this, the recognition of the lack of legislative
obligation or indeed enforceable national standards in this
area of cultural provision, is welcome. However, the guidance
makes very little attempt to establish or encourage such standards
in the provision of services. Compared with the examples quoted
of the guidance provided by the Department of Media, Culture
and Sport in England and Wales to local authorities on preparing
a cultural strategy or in their role as inspectors of library
services, the backup and encouragement in Scotland is weak.
The Guidance should suggest ways forward in establishing ‘bench
marks' ‘standards' or even legal obligations in local authority
delivery. (eg not all local authorities have attained the Standards
for the Public Library Services first produced in 1986! Almost
a quarter of local authorities do not employ an archivist!)
- Problems of PFI/Privatisation/Trusts/Outsourcing: The
guidance makes reference in a number of areas to the use of
Trusts, PPP/PFI provision and the use of other external organisations
to deliver cultural services that should be delivered in house.
UNISON recognises that external organisations have an important
role to play in the cultural field, but we feel that the downside
of ‘outsourcing' should be made clear. Many official, academic
and other organisations have published evidence that which indicates
PPP/PFI projects are more expensive and less flexible than public
sector provision, that they replace public sector ethos with a
profit-driven one; and that they place barriers in the way of
- There should also be clear reference made to the new protocol
recently issued jointly by the Scottish Executive and the STUC
which aims to eliminate lower wages, conditions and provisions
being provided to PPP-employed staff.
The two-tier workforce where these problems apply still exists.
Efforts should be made to ensure that the principles of this protocol
are applied retrospectively as soon as can be done.
- Whilst the guidance is good on the need for community planning
and partnerships in the delivery of cultural services, it fails
to recognise and incorporate some of the key stakeholders in
this process. The lack of reference to the involvement of service
users, citizens in general and in particular the staff who deliver
these services is a major flaw in the exercise.
- The lack of reference to one key area of cultural activity
(ie broadcasting) emphasises the mistake in not including this
area as a devolved function in the Scotland Act. Nevertheless
it is clearly an area that local authorities should attempt
to include in their partnership and community planning work
and advice should be offered on ways to do this.
Comments on Key Issues
- Guidance on cultural matters and its importance
It is particularly helpful to have guidance in cultural matters
given the lack of consistent and comprehensive statutory provision
and/or national standards or benchmarks. The document would
be more helpful if these areas were covered and national guidance
- The Role of Councils
The draft is very good at identifying and recognising the key
role of councils and the survey of the range of activities is
comprehensive although sometimes misses some areas (particularly
their role in the provision of facilities in the communities
- halls, community centres, school facilities etc).
- Definition of Culture
A good, comprehensive definition, let down by the lack of reference
to broadcasting. (see 2e above).
- Relevant advice or guidance missing?
Not aware of any that is currently available but it would be
useful to provide a list of what is available - separate
from the references.
- Role of elected members/officers/management structures
This is really a superficial survey of arrangements. It does
not look at service quality in any depth and avoids much comment
that could be useful (eg on the pros and cons of different management
structures). It also takes no account of the downsides of the
outsourcing of cultural provision, eg the lack of flexibility
inherent in ‘contracting out' facilities.
- Partnership working
This approaches the idea from a very ‘top-down' viewpoint.
Listing as prospective partners ‘national' bodies and institution
fails to take account of the need for community involvement
and the need to involve staff within the sector (both local
authority and other sectors).
- Other examples of good practice
There will undoubtedly be many other examples. One we are aware
of is the outreach drama work of 7:84 Theatre Company. The Company
has worked recently with GCC (and other authorities), local
health trusts and voluntary organisations to produce drama with
mental health service users (Out Here) and domestic abuse
(Hostages to Fear).
Specific Corrections and Suggestions
3.1 could usefully include libraries, community centres,
halls and galleries in the providers list.
Table B The provision of ‘cross-cutting' services should
include local authority provision of facilities at local level
- often the only facilities available in many areas.
3.5.3 replace the word "many" in line 2 by ‘some'.
Charging for refreshments/shops etc is not a hugely significant
3.5.14 It is wrong to say councils ‘manage' services when
they are ‘outsourced'. They may fund them or set criteria, but
the management is done by the external body (Trust, Contractor,
Voluntary organisation). The Scottish Executive itself recommends
that no more than 25% of Trust Boards should be local authority
- To propose a ‘Best Value' case for outsourcing is too one-sided.
It would be better to set down the criteria for ‘best value'
- quality, effectiveness, efficiency, continuous improvement,
focus on outcomes, and improving accountability - and to suggest
that all service delivery arrangements should be considered
- including the taking back in-house of previously external
3.6.5 There should be a reference to the need for local
authorities to follow the newly published Scottish Executive/STUC
protocol on employment issues for staff in PPP's.
4.1.3 Partners identified should include users/staff.
4.2 Again no local groups or staff included.
5.2.4 Mechanisms to be added should be ‘regular gathering
of the views of user groups' and ‘consultation with trade unions
6.2.5 Again the reference to PPP's should include taking
account of the recent Scottish Executive/STUC protocol.
6.6.14 There should here, be both reference to; including support
for other languages used by Scots as part of their cultural heritage
(eg Urdu, Hindi, Cantonese etc); and a reference to the need to
integrate such provision into mainstream of services and cultural
Revision and Monitoring
It is important that this guidance should be seen as a step along
the road of reinforcing the key role of local authorities in cultural
provision. To this end it would be useful if some clear process
was set up in order that the effect of the guidance could be monitored
and regular input made to updating and strengthening the guidance.
The executive is to be commended for the publication of this
guidance, but it should be aware of the need to build on what
is still a shaky base. UNISON would be happy to be involved in
further consultation and/or even direct involvement in any groups
discussing this area of the National Cultural Strategy.
For Further Information Please Contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835