Guest blog: Anne Bonnar welcomes a new corporate plan but asks what will happen after May's election?
Amid all the gloom and doom about arts funding, Creative Scotland, the new public body for the arts, culture and creative industries north of the border has a positive story to tell. Setting out its stall in its first corporate plan, Creative Scotland presents an ambitious vision for Scotland's arts, culture and creative industries - supported by additional funding. It wants Scotland to be seen as one of the world's most creative nations by 2020.
The core Treasury financing of some �35.5m is maintained this year as well as �14.5m of Scottish Government funds for specific initiatives like the Expo fund which supports Scottish work at the Edinburgh Festivals. These funds are topped up with some unspent reserves accumulated during an investment hiatus as the new body took shape. The coffers are further swollen by the reinstatement of lottery funding after the diversion to the Olympics and a significant saving on overheads achieved by the creation of the new agency and the abolishment of its antecedents, The Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, achieving annual savings of �2.4m through streamlining systems and a reduction of 30% in staff. That is topped off with the attraction of funds from the Paul Hamlyn and Baring Foundations signalling the intent of the new organisation to attract additional funds to achieve its ambitions.
Creative Scotland has a much wider perspective than its predecessors with both a cultural and economic remit across the arts, culture and creative industries to encompass new sectors including the games industry and fashion alongside broadcasting, film, visual and performing arts and literature. That wider remit brings greater responsibility and influence but not more cash, so Creative Scotland has to lead partnerships with other investors like Scottish Enterprise to achieve its ambitious aims, among them to see a growth in Scotland's cultural economy that exceeds the UK average and to achieve the highest levels of participation in the arts in the UK.
Its plans for using the funds over which it has direct control signal a fundamental shift in how funding is applied. The Scottish Arts Council, resembling the traditional 20th century arts council model, distributed funding to arts organisations and sometimes, but in a much smaller proportion, directly to artists. Creative Scotland will use its funds to deliver strategic priorities and to commission activities designed to achieve these priorities. This fundamental shift means that more than 50% of the organisations funded by the Scottish Arts Council are in a pool which will vanish. Currently �18.2m is provided to 51 Foundation Organisations and �8m is provided to 60 Flexibly Funded Organisations and this category will disappear to be replaced by strategic commissioning. This is bound to cause alarm amongst the Flexibly Funded Organisations, whose ranks include, for example, the Print and Sculpture Studios in Edinburgh whereas the Glasgow equivalents are included in the Foundation Organisation category, supposed to represent the cultural backbone of the country.
That alarm will be compounded if Creative Scotland does not have the cash which it projects after 2011. While Creative Scotland sets out a ten year aspiration and a three year budget, it can't commit beyond this year. The current Scottish Government budget is a pre-election budget and is for one year only. With elections for the Scottish Parliament in May, which of the contesting parties will commit to funding Creative Scotland's plans?
? Anne Bonnar is an arts management consultant based in Scotland and blogs at 21st century culture.