A missed opportunity to enhance Scottish culture
UNISON Scotland's response to the Consultation
on the Culture (Scotland) Bill.
- Despite the strong words about the need for local councils
to ensure that cultural entitlements are delivered for each
of their citizens, there is a lack of any back up in the
way of specific statutory provision.
- The bill fails to do anything more than promise Ministerial
guidance, and place a duty on the authority to provide information
to central government and its citizens. Unexceptional, but
not the firm commitment to delivery that is needed.
- UNISON is clearly of the view that the section of the
bill proposing a repeal of the 1887 Public Libraries Act
should be withdrawn and the legislation should include provisions
to ensure that local authorities should be prevented from
setting up charitable trusts to avoid tax.
- It is clear that there is a need for cultural planning,
and it is sensible for this to become part of community
planning. But the sheer complexity of the guidance notes
may alienate those whose voices the planners need to hear.
- The fact that Creative Scotland will NOT have responsibility
for key national companies, nor any co-ordination with existing
national collections calls into question whether this is
the right organisation to deliver the functions outlined
for it. Indeed the National Collections and Creative Scotland
seem to have no link despite clear potential overlap in
- UNISON welcomes the continuation of the statutory functions
being provided by existing national collections. However
this highlights the weakening of statutory functions at
a local level. Surely if the provision of cultural functions
in communities is as important as successive ministers have
claimed then the need for statutory establishment at local
level is as clear as it appears to be at national level?
- The removal of reserved places on the board of the NLS
should either be carried out entirely or not at all.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
over 160,000 members working in the local government, the Scottish
Health Service and other public sector providers, as well as
in some of Scotland's largest private sector areas including
energy. UNISON has one of the largest number of members who
are involved in delivering culture-related services - services
such as libraries, museums, theatres and halls, arts development,
art therapy, community education, the voluntary and community
sector and many others. Our members are also keen participants
in cultural life, and UNISON itself is in the forefront of support
for culture that delivers for local communities.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to this
consultation, but have to say that the outputs of this bill
do not begin to live up to the commitments given by the First
Minister, and the succession of Cultural Ministers. The overall
aim of the Executive's Cultural Policy, is generally supported
by UNISON. However the delivery will not be enhanced by this
The Executive makes the fair point that not all
of its cultural objectives need be delivered by legislation,
and it points to some decisions already taken and its key aims.
However these are necessarily selective, and do not all have
the impact we would hope. The establishment of the National
Theatre of Scotland, for example, would be a positive development
were it to be an additional or co-ordinating body. If, however
it continues to act as a producing theatre company to plug touring
gaps left by cuts in resources to other companies, it will not
fulfil its potential.
The removal of the National Companies' funding
from the Scottish Arts Council, to be directly funded by the
Executive also looks like leading towards confusion, by adding
more government-funded cultural bodies to an already confused
In local government too, it is important that
the bill recognises the key role plated by councils in both
the direct provision of culture, and the support of outside
cultural organisations. However the proposals in this bill to
allow councils to walk away from their statutory responsibilities
in the area, and to attempt to create complex sets of structures
and reporting mechanisms in order to achieve watered-down ‘entitlements'
and nominal ‘involvement' by cultural providers and the community
can only serve to undermine the provision of cultural services
at a local level - thus running counter to the Executive's stated
Local Government Functions
Much of this section is given up to somewhat woolly
provisions to enable authorities to provide ‘cultural entitlements'
and indicating the central guidance and information collecting
that the Executive will provide. The associated guidance document
positively bamboozles with systems and procedures.
Despite the strong words about the need for local
councils to ensure that cultural entitlements are delivered
for each of their citizens, there is a lack of any back-up of
this function in the way of specific statutory provision
The bill fails to do anything more than promise
Ministerial guidance, and place a duty on the authority to provide
information to central government and its citizens. Unexceptional,
but not the firm commitment to delivery that is needed.
Indeed, the provision in the bill to remove the
statutory running of libraries and museums and galleries from
local authorities, replacing this with a clause allowing them
to hive this off to a pseudo-charitable trust, will make the
aims of the Executive more difficult to achieve.
The removal of one of the few statutory duties
on local authorities in the cultural area, can only serve to
weaken the delivery of cultural services, add to the problems
of existing genuine charitable trusts and add yet another barrier
to the joined-up delivery of culture that local councils are
supposed to achieve.
UNISON is clearly of the view that this section
of the bill should be withdrawn and the provisions of recent
Labour Party policy suggesting that local authorities should
be prevented from setting up charitable trusts to avoid tax,
should be adopted.
It is clear that there is a need for cultural
planning, and it is sensible for this to become part of community
planning. But the sheer complexity of the guidance notes may
well alienate those whose voices the planners will need to hear.
Additionally, the ability to provide joined up
working and service delivery will not be enhanced by setting
up separate employers and organisations to deliver different
functions eg education and museums or libraries; parks and sports
Consultation Questions - Section 2
In responding directly to the consultation documents
questions in the section (par 2.13) UNISON believes:
a) Developing local cultural entitlements could
help increase participation in cultural activities, however
the cultural activity needs to be provided, and this bill does
not assist in this function. In addition the plethora of central
guidance and information requirements that seem to be demanded
throw some suspicion on whether these will be able to be genuinely
b) Yes further measures are needed. To deliver
culture at a local level, there needs to be an increase in the
statutory underpinning of the direct provision of cultural services
by local authorities. Existing statutory services must be protected
and the cover of others should be increased - for example in
covering more museums, and the need to have a statutory cultural
c) Councils and the Scottish Executive need to
work together, to cut back on the plethora of organisations
that have a function in providing funding and services in this
area. They also need to work with community and arts organisations
to identify the needs in the communities.
d) The initial draft guidance under this bill
is anything but clear and helpful. It is hugely complex and
off-putting for the lay citizen, who (presumably) is the person
whose views will be needed. This is primarily due to the need
to include so many widely disparate (but mainly centralised)
The provision of a single authority responsible
for advice, guidance and distribution of part of the funding
for cultural provision is not of itself, a bad decision.
However the fact that Creative Scotland will NOT
have responsibility for key national companies, nor any co-ordination
with existing national collections calls into question whether
this is the right organisation to deliver the functions outlined
Additionally, whether the creation of a new cultural
body can be done by peopling it with a majority of board members
from the previous bodies would be questionable at the least.
The ‘power of direction' given to Scottish Ministers
seems in itself to be unexceptional. It does however, draw attention
to the question of the remit of Creative Scotland and its overall
Consultation Questions - Section 3
In responding directly to the consultation documents
questions in the section (par 3.13) UNISON believes;
a) On balance there should be a single national
cultural development body, but that the remit of that body and
its relationship to other cultural organisations should be much
b) The remit and its powers call into question
c) Yes, but any organisation should, indeed would
Indeed, these questions are not the important
questions on the establishment of Creative Scotland. Its role
is confused and unclear, as is whether it will become any different
kind of organisation to the Scottish Arts Council.
UNISON welcomes the continuation of the statutory
functions being provided by these bodies. However it only highlights
the weakening of statutory functions at a local level (see section
2). Surely if the provision of cultural functions in communities
is as important as successive ministers have claimed then the
need for statutory establishment at local level is as clear
as it appears to be at national level.
There seems to be a missing piece of this ever
more complex jigsaw, in that these bodies and Creative Scotland
seem to have no linkage. It would seem sensible that these bodies
who all have separate functions associated with the provision
of cultural advice and the national delivery of culture should
have a clear relationship with each other with statutory cultural
services at local level, and with the Executive.
The removal of reserved places on the board of
the NLS should either be carried out entirely or not at all.
The retention of a ‘back door' place for the Faculty of Advocates
has no place in the stated aim of a fair and open public appointments
Consultation Questions - Section 4
In responding directly to the consultation documents
questions in the section (par 4.12) UNISON believes;
a) Yes, the National Collections should remain
as statutory centres of excellence and advice.
b) The powers and functions are right
c) The Faculty of Advocates should not have a
representative on the NLS Board in the absence of other organisations
d) Yes the Collections need the powers to obtain,
loan and dispose of items.
e) The National Record of Scotland, sounds a
little too similar to the National Archive of Scotland. Records
and documents are considered similarly in this sphere of work.
A name that recognises the nature of the buildings, structures
and monuments that the organisation cares for should be developed.
Offence of dealing in tainted objects
UNISON has no strong views on this section apart
from a general agreement that an offence should be created.
The date of 2003 does however, seem recent. Much ‘looting' took
place much earlier. Consideration should be given to further
Local authorities' broadcasting powers
This power is needed to give Scotland's authorities
the powers already available to their colleagues down south.
This seems to be another argument why the function
of broadcasting should be a devolved function, as UNISON argued
at the time of devolution.
UNISON Scotland is disappointed that an opportunity
to provide an innovative and ground-breaking initiative, advancing
cultural provision to all the people of Scotland has been largely
The failure to recognise and improve the statutory
underpinning necessary to deliver this is disappointing. The
attempt to remove this where it exists, flies in the face of
The Executive - however it is constituted - will
consider this consultation after the election. We ask that a
major relook at this legislation is undertaken in order that
the generally supported aims of cultural rights and provisions
can be delivered.
For further information please contact:
Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835