Creative Scotland 'crisis' slammed by leading artists

The organisation has been criticised over its management and ethos

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A hundred leading artists have launched a fierce attack on the management and running of arts body Creative Scotland.

In an open letter, they condemn decision making, disregard for Scottish culture and say the organisation is in an "ongoing crisis".

Among those signing the letter are John Byrne, Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, AL Kennedy, Liz Lochhead and Ian Rankin.

Creative Scotland's chairman, Sir Sandy Crombie, has said their complaints will be fully investigated.

In a letter responding to the criticisms, he admitted the organisation was new, and could still do better, but insisted it has a broader remit and more funding than its predecessor, the Scottish Arts Council.

Creative Scotland was established through a merger of the Scottish Arts Council with Scottish Screen and has an annual budget of more that £75m from Scottish government and Lottery funding.

In the letter to Sir Sandy Crombie, the group of artists and cultural leaders talk of a "deepening malaise within the organisation".

It continues: "Routinely, we see ill-conceived decision-making; unclear language, lack of empathy and regard for Scottish culture.

"We observe an organisation with a confused and intrusive management style married to a corporate ethos that seems designed to set artist against artist and company against company in the search for resources.

"This letter is not about money. This letter is about management."

They call for swift action to stabilise and simplify funding "before any further damage is done to Scotland's cultural landscape".

Analysis

Today's letter is an important wake-up call for Creative Scotland, whose chief executive Andrew Dixon may have assumed it was back to business as usual after his appearance before the culture committee three weeks ago.

We're not bureacrats, he told MSPs. We're listening to what arts organisations are saying, but we'd prefer if they said it to us, rather than on Twitter.

But according to many of the 100 signatories to today's letter, individuals and organisations have been speaking directly to Creative Scotland but their letters and complaints have gone unheard and unanswered. That, they say, is further eroding trust.

At the heart of all this, is a change to funding, driven by a need to make better use of Lottery money. But over several months, it's become an issue of trust and communication - in the words of the artists "about management rather than money".

Can it be resolved? Two artist-led meetings have now been called - one of them in a borrowed space inside Creative Scotland's headquarters. There will doubtless be much more talking but the important part is whether Creative Scotland is now listening.

Scotland's Machar Liz Lochhead told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme that there was a "universal feeling of absolute dismay" at what was going on.

She added: "There is a feeling that something has to be said and something has to be done because a potentially catastrophic set of initiatives are being put in place all the time that really threaten how people in Scotland work."

Positive action

In June, the organisation delayed a funding application process and apologised to 49 groups - including the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and the Edinburgh Mela - after an angry reaction to the handling of a funding shake-up.

Sir Sandy Crombie's response letter is addressed to "David Greig and others".

He says: "I think it is fair to say, and unsurprising, that in some cases our working methods are still developing. Are we perfect? No. Can we do better in a number of areas? Yes.

"But equally there is no shortage of evidence that we can and do perform well across a broad range of our activities."

The Creative Scotland chairman goes on: "I assure you and all those who joined you in signing your letter that we do take seriously every issue, complaint or concern made to us, whether by individuals or groups.

"We will examine thoroughly every point raised with us."

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