Scotland's arts and creative industries were too often overlooked when it came to assessing their contribution to the nation's economy. Real jobs were in building ships, manufacturing products or even the financial services, not playing the violin, curating an exhibition or sitting behind a sound desk in a recording studio.
When it came to Scotland's economy, the heavy lifting stuff had nothing to do with how to handle a prima donna ballerina.
Now the importance of enterprises flying the flag of arts and creative industries is being properly recognised and quantified. Creative Scotland and Scottish Enterprise commissioned an economic study, conducted by DC Research, Cogentsi and Pirnie Limited, to gain a comprehensive picture of the contribution of the arts and creative industries in Scotland, and it has just been released.
And last week, Scotland's arts, culture and heritage organisations were invited to apply for more than £400,000 made available in investment to capitalise on opportunities presented by digital technologies.
The Make:IT:Happen fund is part of national digital development programme AmbITion Scotland and was created to help organisations to grasp the opportunities presented by digital technologies in order to grow business capability, capacity, creativity and confidence.
"Obviously we expect Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen to have made a significant economic contribution, because they have the major arts and creative venues and organisations, but one of the surprises of the report has been just how widespread the creative industries are across the whole of Scotland," says Andrew Dixon, chief executive of Creative Scotland.
Turnover of the businesses and organisations operating in the arts in 2010 is estimated at £6.3 billion, while adding heritage and broadcasting, including the cross-Border work for the BBC, increased this to £7.2 billion.
It concluded that 84,400 people in Scotland, in 12,000 businesses, worked directly in the arts and creative sector, with software and electronic publishing the largest in terms of jobs, followed by writing, publishing and then the heritage sector. The commercial end of the spectrum showed that software and electronic publishing had a 'Gross Valued Added' of £940 million, publishing and writing £820 million, while fashion and textiles (£350m), architecture (£250m) advertising (£230m) and design (£160m), all contribute to a total of £3.2 billion. An additional £3.06 billion also comes from the indirect impact which includes local business services and transport, giving a further GVA of £1.34b, and employing indirectly another 19,200.
In all, it is estimated that 129,700 people are directly or indirectly involved in arts and creative activities, but this figure does not include the aspiring actors and musicians working in coffee shops hoping for their big break.
Geographically, the dominance of Glasgow and Edinburgh accounts for 40% of employment; however, what has emerged is that across rural Scotland the creative industries are flourishing.
"One of the key messages is that the creative industries in different ways are making a contribution across the whole of the geography of Scotland. Places like the Scottish Borders, the Western Isles and Orkney and Shetland have a significant percentage of their populations employed in the creative industries," says Mr Dixon.
"Scotland has a nationwide story to tell. There are 350 cultural festivals across the country and many are making significant contributions in quite small communities, such as Wigtown Book Festival or the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway. They have a disproportionately high economic impact in their local places," said Dixon.
He also cites textile design in the Borders, traditional and digital publishing in Dundee with DC Thomson, and Moray College, a part of University of Highland and Islands, in Elgin, which is training artists.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport defines the creative industries as 'those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of economic prosperity."
DCMS selects 13 categories including advertising; architecture; arts and antiques; designer fashion; design; music and visual and performing arts; film, video and photography; digital and entertainment media; radio and television; publishing; software and electronic publishing, while the Scottish study also adjusts the methodology to include cultural education, heritage and crafts.
The DCMS's definition records that 34,200 people are employed in the creative industries in Scotland, less than 2% of all jobs in the economy, with publishing the largest sector employing 9,500, followed by 6,200 in the music, visual and performing arts and 4,700 in architecture. This meant Scotland accounted for 5.8% of the UK's creative industries in 2010.
The new study, commissioned so that resources can be targeted on areas of potential growth, suggests that the DCMS analysis has seriously under-estimated the number of people and the economic contribution in Scotland.
"We are all about investing in talent. There are comparators in the report that are like-for-like with the rest of the UK, but we thought for Scotland it was important to have our own definition," says Dixon.
"Heritage – which included museums, galleries and historic sites – is a big strength of Scotland which is not fully covered by DCMS along with Creative Education, which includes the economic value of the art schools and specialist places of creative learning," he says.
"Although Creative Education, as a category, only accounted for 0.3% of the economic contribution, it is very much a driver. The strength of places such as Glasgow School of Art, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland or Dundee Abertay University, is that they are pumping out new creative businesses. This is where we have artists and entrepreneurs getting into the creative sector."
"We are fortunate to have such strong national companies, such as the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the RSNO and our other orchestras, but it is important that we create pathways through to the artistic professions," he said.
David Francis, a musician in The Cast, whose music featured in the Hollywood film, Sex in the City, and director of the Scottish Traditional Music Trust, welcomes the study, which pinpoints the increasing importance of Scotland's rural arts and creative enterprises.
"The rural economies in Scotland have long been aware of the importance of their local heritage, which includes arts, crafts and music. It's been the glue that binds distinct communities, now more people are seeing this as a sustainable and vital economic driver for Scotland," he said.
Mr Dixon said this has determined a new arts strategy in Scotland which aims to boast youth employment. "It can be a hard life for artists and creative practitioners getting started, so we want to dig out the statistics to see the value to the Scottish economy. Partners such as Creative Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and Highland & Islands Enterprise, and the Skills Council, are keen to find ways to create more opportunities for people to set up businesses and develop their artistic projects," said Dixon.
"The over-riding point is that Scotland is punching above its weight. Apart from London, and Yorkshire – which has a very high concentration of television production – the employment level in the creative industries in Scotland is higher than in most English regions."
Companies such as Glasgow-based Distrify, set up by Peter Gerard and Andy Green, and innovators in downloading films for sale in 126 countries, and Blipfoto.com, the daily photo journal website, exemplify the new types of creative business emerging in Scotland. Even the launch of the Disney-Pixar cartoon film Brave is a 'fantastic promotional activity for Scotland' and there have already been spin-offs including collaborations with Edinburgh-based Ko Lik Films, set up by Cameron Fraser and Neil Jack in 2004, and which specialises in animated films. "It's great that Disney and Pixar are developing a relationship in Scotland with small innovative companies such as Ko Lik," says Dixon.
The Scottish Government recently announced a further £3 million to Creative Scotland for capital projects that deliver more employment and regeneration.
"We are actually in a pretty good financial position. The recent concerns that have been expressed are really about uncertainty and probably we have been delivering changes at too fast a pace.
"So we are slowing that down a bit. Scotland has some fantastic cultural organisations and we just need to ensure we use our limited resources as effectively as possible to deliver across the whole of Scotland."
He says Creative Scotland is also working with Scottish Enterprise to look at attracting new investors into Scotland. "We need to develop core investment programmes to find ways backing risk in the creative industries. The industry is made up of lots of small businesses but some, if they are successful, can very quickly become significant employers."