The UK Government is wrong to measure the value of culture simply in economic terms, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said today as she set out the two futures facing Scotland and its cultural community.
Outlining her strong vision for the future of culture and heritage in Scotland, Ms Hyslop said there is “clear blue water” between Scotland’s approach – which focuses on the intrinsic value of culture and heritage, and that set out by the UK Government’s culture secretary Maria Miller last month – which is now focussed on economic gains.
Delivering the annual David Talbot Rice Memorial Lecture at the University of Edinburgh, Ms Hyslop stressed that Scotland would continue to be distinctly different and would see a flourishing of cultural confidence with independence.
“The contrast between our attitude to artists and culture and that demonstrated by the UK Government is fundamental and profound. It reflects a choice of two futures.
“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.
“This government does not look at our cultural life and our heritage as if they are merely products that can be bought and sold. 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.”
Ms Hyslop went on to set out her strong vision for culture and heritage in an independent Scotland. She said:
“I want Scotland to be a country where everybody cares about, shares and champions our culture and our heritage – where everyone has a responsibility and can make a contribution.
“I want Scotland to be a country that is proud and confident, rooted in culture and heritage; a country where we not only cherish our diverse heritage and traditions, but also continually seek to create opportunities to share and to celebrate.”
“This government’s record speaks for itself. We have worked hard to build confidence in the sector. We have protected budgets and we have promoted and supported the arts, culture and heritage wherever we can, the length and breadth of Scotland and across the world.
“As we move towards the referendum in 2014, I believe that culture and heritage must continue to be at the heart of Scotland’s continued development and must shape our engagement with the world.
“In an independent Scotland our arts, our creativity and our heritage would be collectively valued, nurtured and supported across the public, private and third sector – not just because of the economic impact that would deliver, but because culture and heritage are an intrinsic and instrumental good for us all.
“This is the most culturally ambitious government that Scotland has ever seen. With independence we would take our strong ambitions to the next level and see Scottish culture and heritage achieve even more than it does already.”