Scotland’s culture minister Fiona Hyslop has criticised her UK counterpart Maria Miller, claiming that Miller’s focus on the economic benefits of the arts sector “reduce it to nothing more than a commodity”.
Instead, Hyslop emphasised that the Holyrood government’s role is to create the conditions for cultural and creative excellence to flourish.
She used the annual David Talbot Rice Memorial Lecture at the University of Edinburgh on Wednesday evening to distance the Scottish government from the Westminster government’s approach to culture and heritage.
Stating that there is a fundamental and profound difference between the two governments’ attitudes to culture, Hyslop attacked recent remarks by the UK government’s culture secretary Maria Miller which focussed on economic benefits of the arts.
Hyslop said: “For me, culture’s economic value is not its primary purpose but a secondary benefit.
“Our culture and heritage sectors make an invaluable contribution to our economic life, but in Scotland we will not measure the worth of our culture and heritage solely in pounds and pence. I don’t agree with the UK government’s approach. That is not the future I choose.”
Culture is one of the administrative areas devolved to Scotland. The keynote speech comes as the Scottish arts agency Creative Scotland is expected to name its new chief executive following the resignation of under-fire chief Andrew Dixon six months ago.
Although CS is an arms-length agency, Hyslop’s comments will provide guidance and ammunition for the new incumbent, whose name was initially expected in early May, following a CS board meeting.
Hyslop added that the Scottish government does not look at the country’s cultural life and heritage as if products that can be bought and sold.
Alluding to Miller’s speech at the British Museum in April, Hyslop said: “If there was ever a way to suck the vitality out of a sector of society that should energise, invigorate, inspire and move – it is to make a perfunctory nod to generic social benefits and then, in the next breath, reduce it to nothing more than a commodity.
“I cannot – and Scotland will not – subject the cultural sector to this kind of reductive thinking. It is our role to create the conditions for cultural and creative excellence to flourish. This is a prerequisite for all the other benefits that culture can deliver for our quality of life, our well-being and then for our economy.”