Scotland’s Cultural Commission from a Visual Arts Perspective

On 22 April 2004, Frank McAveety, MSP,(1) Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport,(2) published a Cultural Policy Statement. In it, he outlined his aim, shared with the First Minister, Jack McConnell,(3) to ‘establish Scotland as a vibrant, cosmopolitan, competitive country and an internationally recognised creative hub.’ Prescribing a palliative role for culture which can ‘revitalise us individually and as a community,’ he outlined ‘a new cultural vision for our country and a radically different way of delivering and sustaining our cultural services.’(4) The Statement announced the creation of an independent Cultural Commission(5) which would undertake a thorough review of cultural provision over a one-year period, paving the way for its radical overhaul as part of ‘a generational opportunity – to look seriously and maturely at our culture and decide the framework for its support in the future.’(6) Consistent with the public policy focus of investigative research, this report aims to analyse the archival material that exists around the Cultural Commission in order to evaluate how cultural policy has been formulated within Scotland’s professedly open, devolved government. Upon the dissolution of the Commission in 2005, the archive was divided between three main locations, which were neither immediately obvious nor accessible. A digital record of the Commission’s remit, personnel, minutes and more than 400 sectoral responses are maintained online;(7) some (but by no means all) of the hard copy material collected by the Commissioners and Secretariat has been deposited at the University of Stirling Department of Film and Media Studies;(8) some random correspondence, generated by the Scottish Executive in relation to the Commission process, has been scanned non-sequentially and made available online.(9) This investigation aims to cross-reference these sources with additional documents, including those requested from Scottish Government and Commission staff, in order to construct an overview of the structure, ethos and processes of the Commission and the extent to which it fulfilled its radical aims.

Over the past three decades, Scotland has become internationally established as a major centre for contemporary visual art production. In 1996, this led to Turner Prize victory for Douglas Gordon, with a nomination for Christine Borland the following year, Establishment recognition that Scottish artists could no longer be ignored. Throughout the latter part of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, artists from Scotland dealing with substantive ideas and a consideration of socio-economic context were visible throughout Europe and beyond. This was due in no small part to the efforts of the four art schools (at Aberdeen, Dundee Edinburgh and Glasgow) and to a network of artist-run galleries working together to promote the work of their contemporaries to an international audience (to be considered in more detail later). In order to assess the likely impact of the Commission’s methods on individual cultural workers, visual art will be taken as a case study; but first it is necessary to consider the background to the Commission process.

In 1999, as part of the new partial(10) powers under devolution, Rhona Brankin, MSP, Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport, launched a consultation on the National Cultural Strategy which took place across several public meetings and generated more than 300 responses. The result of this process was the publication Creating our Future – Minding our Past which detailed ‘the simple but radical objective to place culture at the heart of all the Executive does.’(11) Harnessing culture in achieving ‘social justice, economic development, regeneration and equality,’(12) this approach was translated into four strategic objectives:

Promoting creativity, the arts, and other cultural activity.

Celebrating Scotland’s cultural heritage in its full diversity

Realising culture’s potential contribution to education, promoting inclusion and enhancing people’s quality of life.

Assuring an effective national support framework of culture.(12a)

Beneath the first strategic objective lies the aim of ‘Enhancing Scotland’s creative industries’(13) primarily through new technologies, broadcasting, film and product design. From the outset, then, one understanding of culture by the devolved government was its part in the creative, or cultural, industries(14) on the basis of an estimated annual contribution to the economy of £5 billion and 100,000 jobs.(15) In 1947, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer published a critique of the homogenising effect of such mass cultural forms as television and film, which provide entertainment in a generalised style that detracts from original thought: ‘Today aesthetic barbarity completes what has threatened the creations of the spirit since they were gathered together as culture and neutralised. To speak of culture was always contrary to culture. Culture as a common denominator already contains in embryo that schematisation and process of cataloguing and classification which bring culture within the sphere of administration’.(16) This pervasive trend they termed ‘the culture industry’, but any derisive intent has now been lost in a celebration of its economic benefits.

The other main conception of culture in the National Cultural Strategy is that of its social usefulness, which it proposes to maximise by ‘Audit[ing] all public support for the arts and culture in terms of its social benefits, including its planned contribution to social inclusion.’(17) The adoption of this rhetoric caused sufficient concern within arts communities to prompt the formation of a group of unnamed artists and arts professionals, known as the Cultural Policy Collective, who published a pamphlet examining the premises of social inclusion and concluding that it is ‘premised on the top-down ‘democratisation’ of culture, a process aimed at engaging members of ‘excluded’ groups in historically privileged cultural arenas. Such a policy neither reforms the existing institutional framework of culture, nor reverses a process of damaging privatisation. Instead, it attempts to make the arts more accessible in order to adapt its target audiences to an increasingly deregulated labour market’. (18)

One final point of contention in relation to the Executive’s understanding of culture is centred on the notion of ‘excellence’ which also appears under the first strategic objective.(19) While this benchmark of quality is never properly defined, it is thought that it can be nurtured by establishing centres of excellence, recognising creative achievements through the giving of awards and promoting partnerships that maintain the highest standards. At its most benign, this continued focus on excellence by governments under New Labour seems intended to disarm the presumed elitism of high culture while retaining some consideration of the inherent worth of individual artforms. In his consideration of socially-engaged art being appropriated by the state, Saul Albert describes this rhetoric of excellence entering the literature of public and corporate funders alike, adjacent to considerations of how the public might access such excellence, ultimately robbing culture of its radical potential.(20)

In the wake of the National Cultural Strategy being published, a Joint Implementation Group was set up to realise its strategic objectives. From the minutes of the four meetings to take place between August 2001 and January 2003,(21) a few points are noteworthy in relation to the subsequent Cultural Commission. Firstly, it is significant that James Boyle attended the inaugural meeting in his capacity as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council.(22) Others invited to participate could be described as institutional/bureaucratic figures representing national museums and galleries, the Scottish Executive Education Department and CoSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) but no artists. The emphasis on excellence, social inclusion/social justice and the creative industries persisted, with Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, Mike Watson,(23) setting up separate meetings with representatives of the creative industries. The Group was also informed of a letter, dated 18 December 2002, from Bridget McConnell,(24) Chair of VOCAL (The Voice of Chief Officers of Culture, Leisure and Community Services in Scotland) proposing a national review of local government cultural and leisure services.(25) A final point of interest is that the last meeting of the Group was asked to consider a paper on the Creative Industries forum: ‘In particular, comments were invited on the proposition for an agency “Creative Scotland”, combing [sic] a number of responsibilities currently residing with a number of different agencies.’(26) The relevance of these events will hopefully become clear in due course.

Returning to the Cultural Policy Statement in order to determine the approach advocated for the Commission, this states that ‘the key values of access and excellence will be the guiding principles.’(27) An explicit focus is on ‘how to use public spend to lever growth in the cultural and creative industries,’(28) while creativity is framed in entrepreneurial terms aimed at giving Scotland a competitive edge.(29) This reflects the thoughts of influential American social scientist, Richard Florida, whose work on the Creative Class describes the optimum creative people as software designers and the most successful creative projects as those that can be replicated and disseminated widely and profitably – a logic that runs counter to most individual artistic practices.(30)

The day before the Cultural Policy Statement was published, McAveety had officially written to James Boyle,(31) asking him to resign his post as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council to head the Commission from 1 June 2004 to 31 May 2005 although, judging from his subsequent Work Plan,(32) Boyle began work on the Commission while still Chair of the Arts Council.(33) In none of the papers subsequently released by the Scottish Government can any information be found about how Boyle’s appointment came about, what the rationale for it was or what advice the Minister received before or after Boyle was appointed.(34) The appointment of the other Commissioners – Brian Lang (Principal and Vice Chancellor, St. Andrews University), Shonaig McPherson (Senior Partner, McGrigors),(35) Craig Armstrong (composer), Gordon Jeyes (Director of Children’s Services, Stirling Council), Ian Ritchie (businessman),(36) George Black (Chief Executive Glasgow City Council), Colin Marr (Director Eden Court Theatre, Inverness) and Lucy Mason (Chief Executive of Dance Base) – was equally undemocratic, with Boyle making recommendations to McAveety which were seemingly accepted unchallenged.(37) The response from Craig Armstrong, the sole creative practitioner invited onto the Commission, does not appear in the archive – only his letter of resignation to the Herald, dated 14 June 2004, in which he states ‘Contrary to what I hoped, the commission does not contain practising artists in sufficient proportion from varied artistic and cultural backgrounds. With respect to the other commissioners this lack of representation undermines the legitimacy of the commission at a time when the Arts in Scotland are already in difficulty’.(38)

Similarly, Boyle appointed to his Secretariat people with whom he had worked previously. He later ‘provides justification for why I did not satisfy the normal procurement competition requirements in the appointment of Richard Smith, Rachel Blanche, Caroline Adam and Ron Clark. In summary, there was considerable urgency in making these appointments and to go down the route of competitive tendering would have caused unacceptable delay.’(39) This begs questions about why the Cultural Commission was such a rushed process, contrary to normal bureaucratic practice.(40)

Turning now to a consideration of the methods employed by the Commission. The brief for Boyle’s new post contains scope for radical thinking and restructuring, and an evaluation of the potential for institutional change, soliciting suggestions for new legislation where necessary. It also prompts consideration of the interactions between different areas of government and the public, private and voluntary sectors, with three of the four main intersections between Scottish Executive activity and the culture sector identified as having links to the private sector.(41) Rather than covering specific disciplines – such as music, literature, visual art – Boyle identified fourteen ‘cultural sectors’ representing more general categories such as ‘Arts’, ‘Heritage’, ‘Screen Industries’, ‘Business’ and ‘Creative’, designating a lead agency for twelve of them. ‘For the other 2 sectors (Universities and Artists) we have taken the decision not to appoint lead agencies, but rather to write to the individual institutions and bodies separately canvassing their views.’(42) The section on Artists seems misguided from the outset – ‘Small groups already in some form of association Poets at St Andrews, actors Dundee, musicians Glasgow, Playwrights, Edinburgh etc.’ – with visual artists notable by their absence from the list at this stage.(43) In November-December 2004, a significant proportion of time was spent liaising with the twelve lead agencies, meaning that the voice of visual artists was not represented in these discussions. The same is true of the six ‘Thinking Groups’ set up to consider Access, Creativity, Delivery, Education, Rights and Support.(44)

Having considered how the remit and methods of the Cultural Commission might discriminate against individual artists, it is now appropriate to address the research undertaken by, and the responses submitted to, the Commission. Lacking in personal papers and correspondence, the non-chronological hard-copy archive held at Stirling conveys little more than a sense of the Commission’s ethos, with its emphasis on institutional structures – via the annual reports of national museums and galleries – and its evidence of neoliberal logic – in the briefings and conference schedules of Arts and Business.(45) Two other elements of the Commission process with a presence in the archive are of interest – the inherited reviews of voluntary arts organisations and local authority cultural provision which were initially resisted by the Commission(46) and eventually farmed out to private consultants. While the latter of these(47) – initiated, as we have seen, by Bridget McConnell prior to the Commission process – will be dealt with later, as part of a profile of Culture and Sport Glasgow; the review of voluntary arts organisations demonstrates methodological flaws which need to be brought to light here.

In September 2004, the Cultural Commission contracted Bonnar Keenlyside – a cultural consultancy run by Anne Bonnar and Hilary Keenlyside(48) – to undertake a review of the input of the voluntary sector to culture in Scotland.(49) Interestingly, the same consultancy had been commissioned by the Scottish Arts Council to undertake a survey into artists’ economies the previous year which showed 82% of artists practising in Scotland to be earning less than £5,000 per year and 28% to be earning nothing whatsoever, effectively working as volunteers.(50)

While the final Bonnar Keenlyside report was available on the Cultural Commission website,(51) the Stirling archive also contains interim findings(52) and a presentation to an advisory group(53) which had a strong institutional and local authority bias but lacked members of voluntary organisations or individual artists.(54) Studying these three documents together, it becomes clear that the methodology developed in discussion with the advisory group involved quantitative surveys, qualitative interviews and development sessions. The 4,500 surveys – two thirds of which were distributed by local authorities, relying on their networks and expertise – generated a 16% response rate, with 4% of respondents being categorised as visual arts organisations (representing approximately twenty-eight visual arts organisations).

Scotland is noted for its grassroots galleries, run by artists on a voluntary basis; however, the list of individually-consulted voluntary organisations given at the December advisory group meeting spectacularly omits the main voluntary visual arts organisations. The Commission’s Researcher and Analyst, Rachel Blanche,(55) was prompted to draft a briefing paper about Transmission in Glasgow(56) and Embassy in Edinburgh. Like the Bonnar Keenlyside research published two months earlier, this entry-level analysis demonstrates no advance knowledge of these organisations or the wider sector, largely culling information from the galleries’ websites to consider their activities in entrepreneurial terms rather than trying to describe the more intangible benefits that accrue to artists from being members of their creative communities.(57) The context for this study is further skewed by seeming to suggest that the Scottish Arts Council support has consistently sustained Transmission, when this did not become a factor until 1990, after seven years of subsistence operation. Indeed, Blanche admitted to not having met anyone from the visual art sector during her one-year research process.(58)

Of the 400+ submissions received by the Cultural Commission from its stakeholders, that from Transmission Gallery is most deserving of citation. Charting the role of the gallery in reversing the exodus of creative talent from Scotland, the committee responded to the Commission in the strongest terms:

Nobody can take away from Scotland its achievements in the field of visual arts in the past two decades. History will always recognise the remarkable reversal of fortunes within the Scottish art scene throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s. But writing history from the bottom up takes an enormous effort and commitment. It is now time for the effort and commitment on behalf of the grassroots to be recognised and funded accordingly. Artists in Scotland would like to see the commission pioneering a trend towards the direct support of practitioners. No amount of consultation can tell us what we already know: That Scotland’s artists are one of her culture’s most undervalued, most publicly exploited resources. It is time for a second reversal in fortunes. A reversal in fortunes which results in funds being delivered not to major institutions, property portfolios and bogus consultancy firms, but direct to the artists where the work, and history, are being made.(59)

In the two-and-a-quarter page section on visual arts in the 540-page final report published by the Cultural Commission in June 2005, the following are identified as key concerns for the sector:

Teaching visual literacy in schools

The importance of higher education

Support for visual arts businesses

Supporting galleries

National acquisitions policy and strategy

Expanding on the third category, the Commissioners propose to expose artists to the ravages of the market: ‘Individual artists are one-person businesses. They need to have all the start up skills and backing open to other small businesses in the creative arts sector. […] The fundamental challenge is to sell more visual art.’(60)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the emphasis on institutions and the creative industries in the final report, of the 124 recommendations made only a handful address the needs of individual creative practitioners directly:
By 2007:
21) Support for creative Individuals become a discrete part of a single agency.
51) That a national awards scheme for creative individuals should be introduced.
By 2010:
103) That a national council for the creative individual be created and an inspiring name adopted.
Beyond 2010:
123) A scheme of fiscal support for creators and for creative individuals (interpretive artists) should be developed and promoted to the UK government by the Scottish Executive.(61)

In a response to these and other recommendations, the Scottish Government described a new cultural development agency, Creative Scotland, with a remit for supporting creative individuals. The Government agreed to the proposal to create a new award for artists (recommendation 51) and asked the Scottish Arts Council to take this forward, a strategy which is re-iterated in response to recommendation 103. In considering the final recommendation pertinent to individual artists, Chris Dodds of the Scottish Executive Education Department countered, somewhat ambiguously, that ‘fiscal support is reserved to the UK Government. The Executive welcomes such approaches to assist and promote the creative sector.’(62)

While the fragmented and partial archive that exists of the Cultural Commission does not allow a transparent reading of its processes, a few things are clear. Firstly, the lack of democratic accountability in appointing the Commission, its Chair and Secretariat compromised its credibility from the outset. Secondly, by framing culture in terms of the creative industries and by focusing on its social usefulness, certain artforms were deprioritised. Despite Scottish visual artists having achieved international prominence in the decades leading up to the Commission, the methods deployed by the Commission and its notable lack of artistic champions led to vital funding for individuals, advocated by several respondents, being omitted from the Commission’s recommendations, which threatens the continued survival of artists within the Scottish cultural economy. Indeed, for all the radical rhetoric, sizeable budget and considered responses, nothing much has changed.

In considering the results of the landmark opportunity for structural reappraisal that the Cultural Commission purported to offer, it is interesting to note that the idea of Creative Scotland – a body first proposed in January 2003, during meetings to implement the 1999 National Cultural Strategy, well in advance of the Commission beginning its work – has been taken up by Government. This will effectively merge the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen and their respective roles of supporting the arts and screen-based industries. As this analysis has shown, the logic underpinning this decision prioritises the creative industries over the less profitable areas of individual creative endeavour, which is likely to continue within Creative Scotland. This outcome was perhaps anticipated by the exclusion of practising artists from the Commission, its ‘cultural sectors’ and ‘Thinking Groups’. Rather than compensating for the lack of artists in these fora, the review of voluntary organisations undertaken by Bonnar Keenlyside showed a distinct lack of awareness of the contribution made to Scottish culture by artist-led organisations. On 23 September 2007, Anne Bonnar was appointed as Transition Director for Creative Scotland.(63)

________________________________________________________________________
1) Frank McAveety’s Ministerial position was terminated after he missed the start of a parliamentary session at which he was due to answer the first question and excused his late arrival on being unavoidably detained at an Arts Council event; seen by journalists finishing his lunch in the canteen at the time, he was forced to apologise for ‘inadvertently misleading parliament’ in June 2004, just after the Cultural Commission began its work. The incident became known as porky-pie gate.
2) Culture has entered Ministers’ portfolios in different ways since devolution as follows:
2000-2001              Minister for Environment, Sport and Culture: Sam Galbraith
2001-2003              Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport: Mike Watson
2003-2004              Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport: Frank McAveety
2004-2007              Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport: Patricia Ferguson
2007-ongoing          Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture: Linda Fabiani
1999-2001              Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport: Rhona Brankin
2001-2003              Deputy Minister for Culture and Sport: Elaine Murray
3) First Minister of Scotland from November 2001 to May 2007. On 30 November 2003, McConnell gave a St Andrew’s Day speech which set the tone for the Cultural Commission. In it, he said ‘I believe we can now make the development of our creative drive, our imagination, the next major enterprise for our society. Arts for all can be a reality, a democratic right, and an achievement of the early 21st Century.’
4) Frank McAveety, Cultural Policy Statement, 2004, p. 1.
5) The commitment to undertake such a review had been made in the 2003 partnership agreement between Jack McConnell (Labour) and Jim Wallace (Liberal Democrat): ‘We will consult on the future governance of the arts, culture and the creative industries in Scotland. We will look at the creation of a single cultural organisation for Scotland. This will include a review of the structure and purpose of the Scottish Arts Council as well as the other national and regional cultural bodies and companies. It will look at the future role and funding of the arts in Scotland.’ See page 43 of Partnership Agreement: Joint Statement by the Leaders of the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish Liberal Democrats.
6) McAveety, op. cit, p. 7.
7) Cultural Commission wesbite.
8) The archive sits, abandoned in a store room, with no-one at Stirling taking any responsibility for it or having any knowledge of the location of the catalogue. Research revealed that Professor Philip Schlesinger had been responsible for bringing the archive to Stirling: ‘It was a conversation with James Boyle that resulted in the archive coming to Stirling as he did not want it to be lost. I think there was an attempt to roughly categorise it on advice from the Stirling archivist […] I think that all of the material received was in the public domain. […] I don’t think that the archive that came to us had any correspondence in it. Basically, it was a simple clear-out by the CC of whatever wasn’t wanted.’ Email to Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, 26 February 2008.
The full index of the archive is reproduced in the Final Report of the Cultural Commission pages 406-539. Appendix One details the sections of the archive catalogue relevant to visual art.
9) Cultural Commission in Scottish Government archives.
10) The principal powers reserved to the UK Parliament are: UK constitutional matters; defence; foreign policy; economic, fiscal and monetary policy; corporate law and regulation; employment and equality legislation; social security; transport; safety and regulation; nuclear safety; film, video and broadcasting; assisted area designation; the National Lottery; the Ordnance Survey; abortion, human fertilisation and embryology; control and safety of medicines; vivisection.
11) Rhona Brankin, Creating our Future – Minding our Past: Scotland’s National Cultural Strategy. Scottish Executive, Edinburgh, 2000, p.1.
12) Ibid, p. 2.
12a) Ibid, pp. 65-68.
13) Ibid, p. 65.
14) The creative industries are the activities which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have the potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property. They comprise Architecture, Advertising, Arts and Cultural Industries, Design (including Fashion, Design and Crafts) Film, Interactive Leisure Software (computer games, consumer packaged software), Music, New Media, Publishing, Radio and Television. Ibid, p. 14.
15) Figures provided by Scottish Enterprise. By contrast, tourism is estimated to contribute £2.5 billion to the Scottish economy and generate 170,000 jobs. Ibid, pp. 32-3.
16) Adorno and Horkheimer, The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Dialectic of Enlightenment. Verso, London and New York, 1944.
17) Brankin, op. cit. p. 67.
18) Cultural Policy Collective, Beyond Social Inclusion: Towards Cultural Democracy, 2004, p. 1.
19) This approach is echoed by Arts Council England in its 2002 document Ambitions for the Arts 2003-2006, authored by its Chief Executive: ‘By excellence, we mean the highest possible achievement, not a value system placed on one group by another.’ Patricia Hewitt, Ambitions for the Arts 2003-2006. Arts Council England, London, 2002, p. 3.
20) Saul Albert, ‘ Who Will be Transformed? Community Art Excellence’, 2007, p. 1.
21) The minutes of four biannual Joint Implementation Group meetings are available online. A date of 9 June 2003 was set for a fifth meeting, but this process was superseded by the Cultural Commission.
22) Thereafter, Boyle’s representative at the meetings was Graham Berry.
23) Labour MSP Lord Watson was expelled from the party in 2005 after being sentenced to sixteen months in prison for setting fire to curtains in an Edinburgh hotel, a charge he initially denied.
24) McConnell’s husband, Jack, was First Minister at the time.
25) Minutes of Joint Implementation Group meeting 14 January 2003, item 4.6., p. 16.
26) Minutes of Joint Implementation Group meeting 14 January 2003, item 7.1., p. 19. The paper to which this refers includes the following: ‘The idea of a new body “Creative Scotland” arose from a number of sources during the review of Scottish Screen, and has been discussed again during the process undertaken by the Creative Industries Forum. There is recurring interest in exploring the idea of combining the relevant development roles of the three key agencies into one such body which could work across the agency boundaries and across the public/private sector divide.’
27) McAveeety, op. cit. p. 8.
28) Ibid. p. 15.
29) Ibid. p. 5.
30) Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class and How it’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Basic Books, Cambridge, MA, 2002.
31) According to his biography on the Cultural Commission website, ‘James Boyle was a lecturer in adult education for four years before beginning a 25 year career in the BBC where he held various posts including Head of Radio Scotland and Controller Radio 4. He has written many scripts for radio and a number of TV plays for educational television. James Boyle is a Civil Service Commissioner and a former Chair of the Scottish Arts Council.’
The Scottish Government press release detailing Boyle’s earlier appointment as Chair of the Scottish Arts Council mentioned that he was a director of media production company Wark Clements which, at the time of writing, is the subject of a police investigation over alleged data theft.
32) James Boyle, Cultural Commission Work Plan April 2004-May 2005 dates the start of work on the Commission to April, while Boyle’s official resignation as Chair was not tendered until 20 May 2004.
33) This letter of 21 April 2004 details an initial twelve month appointment and outlines the role and the fee (£359 per diem initially, increasing to £366 per diem with effect from 1 August 2004) [Pages 25-36 of document]. The figure of £63,000 appears in the budget line for Chairman, as part of a £229,057.90 budget for staffing alongside a budget of £257,642.10 for administration (including £15,000 for travel and £23,690 for accommodation). See Boyle, op. cit., p. 2.
An email from Gavin Barrie, dated 21 September 2003, traces the overall Cultural Commission budget of £487,000 to:
£163,000 from NGS [National Galleries of Scotland] running costs;
£174,000 from Scottish Museums Council account; and
£150,000 from Cultural Organisations account.
See page 69.
James Boyle’s appointment is referred to elsewhere by name as early as 5 April 2004 (email from Angela Saunders, Education Department Cultural Policy Division, now Europe, External Affairs and Culture Directorate Culture and Gaelic Division, Scottish Government), with reference being made to a male ‘designate chair’ a on 1 April (email from John Mason, Head of Tourism, Culture and Sport Group), pages 53 and 59.
On 25 May 2004, the SNP called for an investigation by the Commissioner for Public Appointments into Boyle’s appointment on the grounds that it did not follow the standard Nolan process. On Friday 11 June 2004, Kenny MacAskill (SNP MSP for Lothians) questioned McAveety about why Boyle’s post was not advertised.
34) Despite the generally helpful approach of the Scottish Government in relation to this research, a Freedom of Information request made to the Scottish Government on 9 February 2008 received a response a month later, declining to provide details of communications between McAveety and Boyle (including their quarterly meetings) on the following basis:
Section 29(1) – “Formulation of Scottish Administration policy etc”, which includes Ministerial communications; it would not be in the public interest to release the information covered by this exemption due to the need for Ministers to receive full and frank advice and to be able to express their views in private while maintaining a united front when decisions have been reached;
Section 30 of the Act – “Prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs”; this includes internal discussion and advice (which includes policy advice to Ministers from officials on matters including public appointments); it would not be the public interest to release information covered by this exemption in view of the need for Ministers and senior officials to take decisions on the basis of the best available advice and be confident that such advice is given without reserve.
Letter from Mike Berry to the author, 7 March 2008, ref: B1983142.
It is, therefore, difficult to gauge the Minister’s response to the Commission process. However, a minute from the Cultural Commission board meeting of 18 April 2005, referring to a Ministerial Update Meeting which had taken place four days earlier, reads, ‘The meeting had been unsatisfactory. A better presentation is needed. The Commission agreed not to deviate from the original remit and key messages contained in the St. Andrews Day Speech.’
35) Board member of Braveheart Investment Group, chairman of the Board of Scottish Council for Development and Industry and the Scottish Council Foundation think-tank.
36) On the Cultural Commission website, Ian Ritchie is described as follows: ‘Ian Ritchie has a range of business interests. He is a Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, a Non-Executive Director of Channel 4, and a Trustee of the National Museums of Scotland. He is a Non-Executive Director of Scottish Enterprise, a Member of the Board of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, and a Trustee of Bletchley Park.’
37) On 10 June, McAveety acknowledges Boyle’s recommendations for commissioners and proposes to write to them the same day. See pages 19-20). Responses are logged from Shonaig Macpherson, Gordon Jeyes, Brian Lang, George Black, Ian Ritchie and Colin Marr.
38) See page 14. Armstrong was replaced by Scots traditional singer, Sheena Wellington.
39) Boyle, op. cit., p. 5, available at page 70. On 15 June 2004, Karen Watson (Programme Manager of the Commission Secretariat) was advised by David Brew (Head of Cultural Policy Division), that ‘Appointment of consultants by noncompetitive tender requires some form filling and approval.’ See page 11.
40) In the same way, on 30 March 2004, Angela Saunders sent an email [restricted and subsequently declassified] to Alan Owenson referring to her earlier email (23 March) and telephone conversation. The message – to which job descriptions for the head of the Cultural Commission Secretariat, policy officer and administrative officer were attached – refers to the need to bypass the usual system of advertising in the process of appointing members to the Secretariat: ‘Decisions have taken place at very senior level regarding the arrangements leading to our requirement for the posts…’ See page 8.
The operational structure of the Commission was also a point of contention, with James Boyle trying to lever maximum flexibility. This prompted John Mason to suggest (in an email of 8 May 2004) setting up a company limited by guarantee, with Gavin Barrie (Education Department, Cultural Policy) sending by email on 24 May 2004 a blueprint for the Cultural Commission Company, with the Scottish Ministers as its sole Member and James Boyle its only director, appointed by the Ministers, thereby stretching the arms-length principle to its limit. Expanding on the setting up of a Company Limited by Guarantee, Barrie’s advice provides some insight into public sector practices:
• The Solicitors arrange to buy an “off-the-shelf-company” (usually from Oswalds) that approximates to what we require (Scottish Screen, the National Gaelic Resource Centre, and Bord na Gaidhlig (Alba) were all bought off the shelf as educational charities).
• The off-the-shelf company will come with a Company Memorandum and Articles of Association which will need modified to suit the Cultural Commission.
This document continues:
• The Solicitors find individuals to act as Promoters, Subscribers, Directors, Company Secretary, and Shareholders in order to get things in place. Sometimes civil servants are appointed as Directors initially.
• We need to find people to own the shares and thus the company. This could be the Scottish Ministers, though that might not give the impression of independence and impartiality
• There is an application to Companies House for a Certificate of Incorporation for the company. Once it has its certificate it can begin to operate as a legal entity i.e. to enter into contracts, hire staff etc. There is a fast track process for “same-day” incorporation.
See page 35.
This situation was eventually resolved by bringing in Karen Watson from the First Minister’s office, to whom financial control was delegated. See page 75.
41) ‘The Commission’s recommendations will take into account the Scottish Executive’s relevant partnership commitments within the cultural sector; namely:
• to develop national and local programmes in arts and culture aimed at achieving
excellence;
• actively to promote our young talent by increasing links between public support and
commercial enterprise;
• strengthening the link between art and culture and the promotion of tourism and
economic growth;
• developing Scotland as a creative centre for film, TV and new media.’
Page 33 (emphasis added).
42) Page 312.
43) Ibid.
44) See Annex 3 of Boyle, op. cit., available at page 73.
45) Founded during the Thatcher era, Arts and Business aims to bring together corporate sponsors and arts organisations. In the archive, there is evidence of a conference, brokered by Arts and Business, called ‘Mission, money and models: New approaches to sustaining the arts in the United Kingdom’, which took place at the British Museum on Monday 28 June 2004 and was attended by the great and the good of the institutional art world as well as by Rachel Blanche, Researcher for the Cultural Commission (index no: FU092). According to the list of conferences attended in the Final Report of the Commission, a follow-up conference of the same name was organised for 7 February 2005, page 311. Arts and Business also made two submissions to the Commission – one official and a more personal one from its director, Barclay Price.
46) An email from Karen Watson to Angela Saunders of 15 June 2004 reads, ‘I spoke with James Boyle yesterday regarding the studies and for the time being he doesn’t want any of the Commission’s budget allocated to this work.
Therefore suggest, unless the Department wants to progress the work urgently, that the studies are left hanging until after the Commission’s interim Report is submitted, when we will review the decision whether or not to proceed with some of the work.’ The response to this, which came through the same day, was: ‘The fact that the studies were included in the budget clearly accounts, in part, for the bottom-line figure. That said, as you know my concern was how integral their subject matter is to the Commission’s remit (e.g. we can’t both set about researching all the existing benchmarks and standards). I therefore suspect that by the time of the interim report, much of your mapping etc will already be in place so there would be no reason to repeat it in context of these briefs. Whoever does the various mappings, as we discussed, I am sure they will be of lasting benefit and import in informing the Commission’s recommendations and our future policy.’ See pages 6 and 7 .
47) ‘PMP/Donaldsons were appointed in October 2004 by the Cultural Commission to undertake a wide ranging piece of work which included:
· auditing Scotland’s cultural facilities
· consulting with local authorities regarding cultural provision and strategic
direction
· establishing benchmarks and best practice in cultural provision.’
48) According to the Bonnar Keenlyside website, Anne Bonnar has a background in theatre and PR while Hilary Keenlyside combines experience of theatre and opera with an MSc in Management from London Business School.
49) The remit for the study of voluntary sector input is at page 21.
50) This research was published as Patrizio, A. Catto, A. and Law, W. (2004) Making Their Mark: An Audit of Visual Artists in Scotland. Scottish Arts Council, Edinburgh.
51) Cultural Commission website.
52) Interim Findings 16 November 2004. Printout of slides from PowerPoint presentation.
53) Advisory Group meeting December 2004. Printout of slides from PowerPoint presentation. Index no: VS018.
54) The advisory group was made up of Karen Watson (Cultural Commission), Rachel Blanche (Researcher and Analyst for the Cultural Commission), Stewart Atkinson (Dumfries & Galloway Council and VOCAL), Fiona Campbell (Voluntary Arts Scotland), Caroline Docherty (Scottish Arts Council), Carol Main (Voluntary Arts Scotland), Jill Miller (Glasgow City Council and VOCAL), Claire Downs (CoSLA) and Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations.
55) While no mention was made of this at the time of the Commission, the website for Blanche Policy Solutions retrospectively claims ‘Rachel Blanche, who set up her company Blanche Policy Solutions in 2003, was recognised for her central involvement in major international and cultural programmes for Scotland within her first 12 months of business.’
56) In the interest of transparency, it is necessary to note that the author undertook a detailed history of Transmission Gallery (1983-1995) as an MA dissertation for the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, in 1995. In 2001, an illustrated history of the gallery was edited by the committee – published as Transmission, Black Dog Publishing, London. No reference is made to either of these documents in Blanche’s paper and the gallery committee does not appear to have been consulted at any stage.
57) Such errors are manifest in statements like ‘The Transmission Gallery provides business support to participating artists…’ (the idea of business is anathema to the non-profit gallery), ‘The Gallery promotes itself using its archive or image bank of slides which are made available to visiting curators and artists’ (when the explicit purpose of this facility is to introduce the work of artists not the gallery, and ‘[Embassy] Gallery is involved in teaching business skills and mentoring students at the Edinburgh College of Art, through its presentation of a Professional Practice Course.’ Rachel Blanche, Best Practice: Artist Run Galleries: Transmission Gallery, Glasgow and The Embassy, Edinburgh, briefing paper 009, March 2005. This information is not in the public domain but was received from a source who asked to remain anonymous.
58) Email from Rachel Blanche to Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, 6 March 2008.
59) Transmission Gallery committee response to the Cultural Commission, 22 September 2004.
60) Final Report of the Cultural Commission, page 101.
61) Ibid., pages 275-284.
62) Response to the Final Report of the Cultural Commission.
63) Scottish Arts Council Statement.

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