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Rhetoric and the recognition of Opposites

Alan Morrison devoted half a page to its praises in the Sunday Herald, but Monday-to-Saturday readers of The Herald may not have been guided to Biffy Clyro's album Opposites.

While our news pages have recorded its ascent to the top of the album charts, the fact it is a contemporary rock album that should make many bigger US names look to their laurels has perhaps not been emphasised. Since Morrison's review, still accessible on heraldscotland.com, Scottish album success has become the phenomenon of the start of the year, with Pedestrian Verse by Selkirk's Frightened Rabbit in the top 10 and Emile Sande's Our Version of Events having taken up permanent residence there.

Had things gone according to plan in the placing of creativity at the centre of devolved Scotland, this would be a marvellous advert for the nation. Instead the words "Creative Scotland" have become synonymous with a misconceived notion of how the state should relate to the arts, and the local authority in Moray has followed the path of Newcastle in illustrating how vulnerable any arts spending is at a time of austerity. The new arts body won praise for its active engagement with popular music from the sector, which was drowned out by the – perfectly valid, for the most part – criticism of the way it fulfilled its role with respect to other branches of the arts. There will be no quick fix for this: it is difficult to rebrand something brought into being by legislation.

But this week the words of Harriet Harman, Labour's shadow culture secretary as well as deputy leader, suggested there is a consciousness in some quarters that the rhetoric needs to change. "We are talking about subsidy, not investment, because investment implies some kind of immediate calculable return – whereas it's really a much longer, deeper process," she said.

Unlike some others in senior cultural posts in politics, Harman, whose daughter is a successful professional musician, knows of what she speaks. Her choice of words should be heeded not just in Newcastle and Moray, but also in Waverley Gate.

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