In summer 2018, the Scottish Government launched a full public consultation on its plans to, “develop Scotland’s first ever culture strategy based on the principles of access, equity and excellence.”

SURF’s response to this consultation highlighted the value of promoting more mutually beneficial links between the culture, heritage and place-based regeneration policy agendas. SURF has explored those productive connections through a ‘Bridging Culture and Regeneration’ seminar programme, a dedicated ‘Creative Regeneration’ category within the SURF Awards, and through collaborations with Creative Scotland, one of our long-term key delivery partners.

SURF’s response to the consultation was one of 216 the Scottish Government received. This month, the Scottish Government published an analysis report on these responses. The report stated that consultees demonstrated broad support for the visions and ambitions set out in the draft strategy. In particular, it highlighted a positive response to a proposal for a new national outcome for culture, which the analysis said indicates a recognition that, “culture is not about additional benefit, but is essential to our lives and wellbeing”.

The report also featured a number of criticisms from consultees on the draft strategy, including:

  • The draft strategy did not have an action plan for delivery, and lacked clarity on what national and local government would be doing differently;
  • There was not enough emphasis on cultural heritage, particularly traditional crafts, Gaelic, and the role of museums & libraries;
  • The proposals are too top down, and don’t always fit with the ambition of empowering communities;
  • The strategy does not address the need for longer-term funding arrangements, more capital funding, or the decline in volunteers in recent years;
  • There is not enough focus on incorporating marginalised groups, including ethnic minorities and people living in deprived areas;
  • There was a concern about ‘excellence’, and an unclear balance of focus on grassroots inclusion vs high quality arts provision;
  • Skills development, digital technologies and the delivery of culture via schools were felt to be missing or underplayed.

The analysis also acknowledged demands from SURF and others to further improve the role of culture in place-based regeneration, as evidenced by the following statements:

“Some respondents noted the importance of taking a collaborative approach, including suggesting that a more structured and sustained approach to collaboration across disciplines

Creative Regeneration Winner – Findhorn Bay Arts

would be welcome. In terms of how any approach should be taken forward, suggestions included that… the draft strategy should consider how cultural life in all its forms can be successfully integrated within other policy areas, including planning, place-making and community regeneration.”

 “Others were looking for changes or additions to the aim [of placing culture as a central consideration across all policy areas], including suggesting that… the aim would be strengthened by clear reference to tourism and visitor attractions and their links to economic regeneration and wellbeing.”

 “In terms of specific organisations and projects identified, many of these reflected themes highlighted in the consultation document relating to widening access and working across policy areas. These included, for example, links to… disadvantaged and lower income communities and individuals [and] culture as a catalyst in successful regeneration.”

 “There was also specific reference to promoting the draft strategy in other sectors – especially in education and health, but also in policy areas such as regeneration.”

The Scottish Government will use the analysis to develop a final Culture Strategy for Scotland, which is due for publication later in 2019. Please click here to read SURF’s consultation response in full.