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Lesson from Ireland for Creative Scotland

Back in the second year of my career in journalism, long before I joined The Herald and after a convivial trip to Dublin, I applied for an advertised job with the Irish Independent.

I did not get it, but the exercise remains a treasured memory because of the remarkable personal letter of rejection I received from the editorial manager, which you will, I hope, excuse me quoting in full:

"Dear Mr Bruce, I strongly advise you not to make any plans to move to Ireland. Despite the impression that our advertisement must have given, the newspaper industry is in a very depressed condition at the moment. Furthermore, the cost of living has shot up to an almost intolerable level, while the Irish pound has dropped by over 20% against the value of sterling. Yours sincerely, Conor O'Brien."

It has become respectable, if not de rigeur, for failed applicants for posts to request feedback after they have received their knockback, but I am certain this was not true 30 years ago, so anything more than a "you have not been successful on this occasion" was bound to stick in the mind, even without the wit Mr O'Brien brought to the task.

It is yet another change for good in the modern world. Most of my generation are amazed, and envious, of the confidence displayed by those coming into this profession compared with the way we recall ourselves at the same age, and I am assured that we in the media are not alone in that regard.

Of course prospective employers should be required to explain why a candidate did not make the grade, so that the applicant can take steps to make him or herself more employable next time round - and of course applicants should display the self-belief to ask for that justification.

Which is why the responses that some artists and arts organisations have been receiving from Creative Scotland (CS) will not do at all. There has been a good deal of goodwill towards the quango under its new chief executive, Janet Archer, and with a new chair yet to be appointed, after the arts community rose up against its previous hierarchy.

A feeling of "let's wait and see" was starting to become "why are we (still) waiting?" when the restructured body unveiled its ten-year plan at the start of this month and a simplified funding structure, allowing some organisations to receive guaranteed regular funds and make sensible financial plans. It has all still to play through, with applications under the new regime not open until early in May for regular funds and October for project funds, but some are already complaining that funding applications are being turned down with little or no explanation.

Although reluctant to make those complaints to the media, lest that jeopardise their case in the future, you'll find them on social media easily enough. The CS mantra has apparently become that its resources are stretched and it cannot give feedback with the reasons for a rejection "due to the high volume of applications". It should find the resources swiftly, or the second honeymoon the body is current enjoying with its clients will swiftly be at an end.

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