SNP Conference speech by Culture Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop

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    Conference, it’s a real pleasure to speak with you today in the SNP heartlands of Inverness.

    I’ve seen many of you over the last few months in the SNP heartlands of Glasgow, Fife, Perthshire, Lanarkshire, Dundee, Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh.  And that’s not to overlook my personal favourite – the SNP heartlands of Linlithgow.

    Something big happened in May, something with implications far beyond this conference hall. At the ballot box people chose a future of possibility and ambition, one where anything is possible.

    Ours is a creative nation, rich in heritage, contributing to the world on the road to becoming a modern independent state.  Ours is a country embarked on a process of re-imaging the potential of its own future.  And ours is a cause that is not about the some misplaced sense of injustice because of where we are, instead it is a profound sense of hope and excitement about where we can be.

    We can say with pride that we are a nation, and we seek independence.

    We believe that we can contribute internationally and play a part in not just creating a better Scotland, but working with others to build a better world.  We believe that our people have the capacity for innovation and creativity that is boundless and if supported and tapped will bring huge dividends for our nation. 

    Independent, International and Innovative – Scotland is the i-nation.

    I don’t pretend these are easy times.  The massive budget cuts imposed by the Tory / Lib Dem coalition Government mean that Scotland faces a real terms cut of £3.7 billion.  But as has been made clear by my colleague John Swinney, against this stark backdrop, we will steer a distinct course and will make the very best use of the constrained resources available to us.

    I said that Scotland is a creative nation, and how true that is.

    We need only look to the success of our writers, directors and actors both at home and abroad to see that.  One of those actors, Alan Cumming, said that he backed the SNP and Alex Salmond for First Minister because we “believe that the arts is very important and core component of what make Scotland great”.

    He is absolutely right and that’s why our leader, Scotland’s First Minister, made sure that culture and our creative industries were fully represented in his cabinet.  And I am honoured to have the opportunity to serve our nation in that post, supported ably by my Parliamentary Liaison Officer Clare Adamson MSP. 

    With responsibility for culture and external affairs I promote Scotland – who we are where we are and where we want to be.

    As a Government we’re doing all that we can to support our creative sectors.  I believe that support must start with giving opportunities to our young people. Nurturing and encouraging our young talent

    Only yesterday I was fortunate to visit Feis Ros in Ullapool and to see what fantastic work is being done with a new generation of traditional musicians steeped in the culture of our land and I was delighted to confirm that we have safeguarded the £10 million for the Youth Music Initiative for another year.

    The Youth Music Initiative, delivered through Creative Scotland, supports more than 300 projects each year around the country and is a wonderful outlet for our musicians of the future.  We want our young people to be the best they can be.  And those who have special talents need a Scotland that recognises what they can do, and their value as ambassadors for our country.

    That’s just one of the reasons we are establishing the Young Scots Fund, which over the next 5 years will provide £50 million to give support focused on sport, enterprise and creativity.

    Conference, we have national youth companies which develop creative  young talent and they deserve and need our support and so today I can go further and announce that we will be providing £5m from the Young Scots Fund to invest in a National Centre for our National Youth Companies in Glasgow.

    This new £5m centre will offer safe and accessible rehearsal and production facilities, an administrative base and facilities for other national youth arts and media activity.  In years to come it is those young people who will be pushing the boundaries in performance and cultural expression.  In future they will be the creative talent shaping Scotland’s cultural life.

    And on their doorstep they will find a remarkable opportunity.

    Each year, for one month, Edinburgh becomes the cultural capital of the world.  Performers and visitors from across the globe flock to our capital, to be a part of our Festivals. 

    As well as being a cultural explosion they are an economic boon for our country.  Last year alone the Festivals generated £261 million for the Scottish economy and supported over 5,000 new jobs.  In 2007 we created the Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund to provide a showcase for the best contemporary work in Scotland.

    Conference, from next year we will be expanding the Festivals Expo fund to £2.25 million to support yet more existing and emerging talent in Scotland.

    But the festival isn’t the only time in the coming years that all eyes will be on Scotland.

    2012 is our Year of Creative Scotland which will celebrate and promote Scotland’s vibrant culture and creativity, shine a spotlight on our creative assets, and provide a launch platform for activity to support the next Year of Homecoming in 2014.

    This second year of homecoming will take place in the year that Scotland hosts the Ryder Cup, marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn and welcomes the Commonwealth Games to Glasgow.

    In 2014 we will deliver a Commonwealth Games that will not only be a spectacular sporting extravaganza, but which also showcases Scotland’s world-renowned culture and creativity.

    We are providing £4 million towards the cost of upgrading the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, including improving front-of-house areas, along with its disabled access.  We have also allocated £7 million funding to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra towards an extension to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall that includes a new 600-seat performance venue that will double as a rehearsal space.

    These projects form part of the major regeneration work going on in Glasgow in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which includes more than £1 billion of infrastructure projects which are already helping generate significant economic benefits for Glasgow and the whole of Scotland.

    Elsewhere in the country we are working to bring new and enhanced cultural opportunities.

    We are providing £15 million of capital funding over the next three years to help make the dream of the V&A at Dundee, a reality.  The V&A at Dundee, with its iconic waterfront building, will be great for the city as well as benefitting the whole of Scotland, acting as a magnet for visitors from all over the world, presenting an opportunity to grow further Dundee’s reputation as a centre for the creative industries sector.

    The V&A at Dundee will join the ranks of Scotland’s many magnificent museums – palaces of culture – which state our confidence in ourselves, our commitment to the arts and provide a link with our rich past. 

    I would encourage all of you to visit the 5 new heritage centres opened this year Burns Museum in Ayr , the refurbished Stirling Palace, the National Museum in Edinburgh, the Riverside in Glasgow and the National Portrait Gallery reopening later this year.  Take a walk through any of them, stop, look and listen and you will see a confident nation staring you in the face.

    Conference, much of our heritage can be seen in the built environment around us.

    And there is a fear that if we don’t ensure that we have the necessary skills to maintain our historic environment that it may start to be lost.

    That’s why I’m pleased to announce that we will support the creation of a new £3 million National Conservation Centre based in Stirling, taken forward in partnership with Stirling Council and Forth Valley College. 

    This initiative will help considerably in sustaining and developing the skills we need to secure the future of Scotland’s historic environment, which contributes more than £2.3 billion to the Scottish economy and already supports around 41,000 jobs in the heritage sector.
     
    We are fortunate in our museums and castles that we have a wealth of artefacts of our nation’s history on display to inform us about where we have come from.

    Conference I am also pleased to tell you about another homecoming for a William Wallace artefact. As your Culture Secretary I have secured the safekeeping of the 700 year old William Wallace safe conduct letter from King Phillip of France here in Scotland – transferred from the archives in Kew. And next year, for the first time ever, it will go on display side by side with the famous Lübeck letter, sent by William Wallace shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, which informed European trading partners that Scottish ports were once again open for business.

    Then as now the message remains, Scotland is open for business.

    Culture is the medium by which nations talk unto nations – and Scotland has been talking loud and clear of late.  We do not simply look inwards to Scotland, we must also look outwards to the world.  Indeed today I am delighted to welcome the largest ever diplomatic representation to SNP conference, with over 20 countries represented. We appreciate your attendance, hope you enjoy our conference and also have time to enjoy some Highland hospitality!

    Today and every day Scotland is building relationships with other nations.

    In Europe and beyond we are working to have our voice heard.  We have built business, tourism, education and cultural links with a whole host of countries.

    We hosted a visit to Scotland by Chinese Vice Premier Li focussed on our renewable energy strengths where he also confirmed that Scotch Whisky would be given protection in China, and that in future only Whisky made in Scotland would be permitted to be called ‘Scotch’ – vital to this export market.

    We believe that Scotland should be an independent state and we recognise the responsibilities that we have to the wider world.  We are committed to helping alleviate poverty in developing countries and supporting the international community in times of disaster.

    Our international development funding has more than doubled since 2007 to £9 million per year, reflecting  the internationalist outlook of this party and I can confirm that it will be maintained at this level and will not be cut

    Our unique approach to international development is contributing to the Millennium Development Goals, making a real difference to some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.  Conference, we are an innovative people and the Scotland we seek to create is a place of innovation, of creative solutions.  We have the rare opportunity to start afresh.

    It is a chance to renew Scotland.

    This journey is about finding a better way for all of us to live together.  For all of us to find new ways of connecting and communicating and Building a society fit for the future.  I am proud that this is the Independence generation and ours is the i-nation.

    • I for independent
    • I for international
    • I for innovative

    This is about how we weave ourselves into the fabric of global humanity with a special contribution to make.  Change is the state of things at all times – deny that and you deny reality.  It is only when we stretch ourselves that we become our best.

    To innovate is essential – only by endlessly improving our services, structures and standards will we keep up.  And we must keep up – our benchmark isn’t last year, or our near neighbours.

    It is the world today – if we are to keep up with the massive changes and threats, then we must innovate.  I believe we, collectively, know that Scotland has something special to offer the world.

    Not an arrogance, but a genuine, positive contribution built on our values.  In May we decided to step up and step out as part of a better land and people have recognised that this is a time for progress

    They want us to renew Scotland, to lead with new ambition and hope, to set a positive path.  To champion the i-nation;  Innovative, International and Independent. 

    That is the future I imagine for Scotland.  The independence to choose the future it wants.{jcomments on}