|8 December 2015|

by Creative Scotland’s chief executive, Janet Archer 

Creativity is more important now than ever before in the context of the challenging times we live in. It is important because it contributes, and has always contributed, deeply to life in Scotland. In my view the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland reach powerfully into our aspirations for education, civil society, health and wellbeing, community engagement, cultural identity, rural and city development, digital and social innovation, and of course, our economy.

The arts are the imaginative force that help us connect the present with both past and future, inspiring friendship and cohesion in many different ways. The arts give us all the opportunity to look beyond ourselves, to see what the world looks like through other people’s eyes, to help us understand ourselves and each other even if we can’t always agree.

Creative and artistic practices are intrinsic to educational attainment fuelling curious minds, focus, intellectual inquiry, and problem solving through creativity, craft and practice. It’s good to see that Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence recognises this through the inclusion of the expressive arts as a core component of the curriculum. Highly significant too, is the inclusion of a distinct quality indicator on creativity and employability skills in the new ‘How Good is Our School’ self-evaluation and continuous improvement framework, produced by Education Scotland.

Artists and creative people are a vital part of civil society, shaping how we express and tell the stories of our time. Dance, theatre, music, literature, visual arts, craft and traditional arts all play their role in this, individually and through increasingly imaginative interdisciplinary ways as well. A strong home grown screen sector is also pivotal to Scotland’s success, allowing us to reach out across the world and tell Scotland’s story in many places at the same time, through different platforms.

Artists and creative people create extraordinary experiences, provide meaning in our lives, provoke questions, stimulate debate and bring our communities together through their work.  In short they play a central role – acting as a magnet for people, pathfinders for ideas, and generating confidence and success in cities and communities.

I think it’s no accident that our most successful cities all have a strong commitment to culture.

Other places in Scotland like Perth, Paisley, Dumfries, Falkirk, Shetland and Stornoway (I could name so many more) are also energised through proactive approaches to arts funding and support.

Increasingly the strength of Scotland’s culture plays a pivotal role in contributing to Scotland’s sense of itself internationally and the values and skills we can offer to others around the world. Events like the Edinburgh Festivals, Celtic Connections in Glasgow and the St Magnus International Festival on Orkney are all world renowned.

The Creative Industries are one of seven growth areas for Scotland’s economy. This commitment is based on the strong successes we’ve seen in film and screen, games and digital technology, publishing as well as craft and textiles. The power of arts and culture to catalyse economic growth across the creative industries is widely recognised as being fundamental to success. In other words, you can’t generate growth within the creative industries without a strong arts sector in place. The creative industries also have a knock on effect on other industry achievements. For example good design, advertising and architecture all impact widely across sectors.

In delivering on Creative Scotland’s published plans and ambitions, and drawing on the input of thousands of people working across the arts, screen and creative industries, we loudly champion the rights of artists and creative practitioners and the significance they make to people’s lives in Scotland, and call on the organisations that we fund to do the same.

Last year was a landmark year for the arts, screen and creative industries in Scotland. We’re publishing an Annual Review for 2014-15 soon which accounts for the tremendous range of work that we have funded and how it has impacted on people’s lives across Scotland. It also explains the work we have been doing at Creative Scotland in resetting the organisation to strengthen the way we deliver our role as a funder, advocate and development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries.

The UK Government recently announced its budget for the spending period 2016-2020. They have demonstrated the value of creativity, arts and screen by slightly increasing Arts Council England’s budgets in cash terms of approximately £10m each year for the four years up to 2019/20. This is welcome news for colleagues in England. The Scottish Government will announce its own much anticipated budgets on 16 December.

The emphasis of the Scottish Government will be on delivering the Programme for Government which centres on a stronger and fairer Scotland, a strong sustainable economy, protecting and reforming our public services and strengthening our communities. The arts, screen and creative industries have an important part to play in that programme.

Creative Scotland is a non-departmental public body existing to distribute public funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery. We do this to provide support for people working in the arts, screen and creative industries to reach their full potential, to make great work and to provide the widest possible access to culture and creativity across Scotland. Our work is overseen and guided by an independent Board, none of whom are paid, with all Board Members including our Chair volunteering their time and expertise in the interests of the public.

Inevitably our budget doesn’t allow us to fund every application and, at present, we are able to fund about a third of the applications we receive. That compares reasonably with other similar public bodies distributing arts funding. However, because we know how hard it is to be unsuccessful in a bid for funding, we also work in partnership with others including trusts, local authorities, development agencies, and the private sector to encourage wider opportunities for artists and creative businesses to access support.

We are working hard to make the case about the value of the arts, screen and creative industries both for themselves and for the deep contribution to public life in Scotland. The pioneering quality of work in Scotland is something we are deeply proud of. We know that future public budgets, whether at a national or local level, will almost certainly bring fresh challenges. We may have to stop doing some things and do some things differently as the environment around us changes.

What we won’t ever stop doing is championing and advocating for arts and culture; for the artists and creative people whose ideas and imagination drive them and all of us to meaningful places, and the benefits they bring to the public through their work. Arts and creativity are too important to life in Scotland to ignore. Our job is to make sure everyone, everywhere, knows that.