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State of the Arts: Creative Scotland needs more than a new chief executive

Well, as I am sure you know by now, Andrew Dixon, chief executive of Creative Scotland, is to stand down in January.

Two months after that devastating letter now signed by more than 400 artists and practitioners, Mr Dixon is the first person at Creative Scotland to take responsibility for the calamitous year that the national arts funding body has had.

For many months, Mr Dixon seemed to suggest the problems were ones of communication or language, that once people could see his overall plan for what Creative Scotland was doing, they would understand and relent. He pleaded for trust. And so when I saw him the day the artist letter was released, he looked genuinely shocked and taken aback. There was a feeling that day that the letter was a body blow that perhaps he and Creative Scotland would not withstand for long. And so it has proved.

I wonder if Mr Dixon now wishes he had gripped some of the issues involved - both inside and outside his body - more firmly earlier in the year, and then the momentum towards his departure may not have been so overpowering. Certainly, not all of the issues that artists, companies and others have with Creative Scotland revolve around Mr Dixon.

He was a convincing advocate for the arts with Government, he spoke well at the Scottish Parliament and in other public settings, and his enthuisiasm for Scotland, learning about the nation and its arts and cultural life were, I think, genuine. But the year became a rolling series of calamitous decisions and avoidable controversies. There was a view, an inaccurate one, in some quarters of the body (but of course not most of it) that the reservations being expressed about Creative Scotland were coming only from a small group of inter-related artists and writers with an axe to grind.

But that fatally underestimated both the amount of people who were concerned, and also the depth of informed knowledge and feeling involved. And the various well-expressed concerns - from Don Paterson, from David Greig, from Vanishing Point, from dance organisations, from Janice Galloway, from many others over this entire year - about how Creative Scotland worked and thought were just not seriously addressed, and indeed will not be addressed until this week, a full year after the first concerns about the axing of Flexible Funding were first raised.

So: what next? As I tweeted, I think the process of reform at Creative Scotland cannot begin and end with Mr Dixon's downfall. The problems with the body are bigger than that.

The very nature of what Creative Scotland is - an unwieldy chimera of arts funding body, creative industries investor, international ambassador and commissioner - is being questioned. The axing of individual art form funds is going to be re-thought. There will be a greater emphasis on specialist knowledge. And I cannot see the structure and personnel of the top tier of the body being unaffected, because clearly the current structure is not working. That might be expensive. It might also take a bit of time. But real change, as I mentioned on BBC Newsnight, must come or this controversy will not go away. And who wants continual acrimony between a funding body and artists? No one.

Starting tomorrow is the one and a half day board meeting in Pitlochry led by Sir Sandy Crombie, and out of that must come resolutions for real change - structural, as well as in principle - which will begin the fresh start so many people want. I imagine that there will be some more personnel changes, too.

And if the board doesn't deliver this week, then questions will start being asked about the future of the board and its leadership too (if they haven't already).

On Twitter, I asked people what they would like to see emerge from the board meeting this week, and Roanne Dods, who helped organise the Tramway meeting of artists, wisely pointed me to the conclusions of the Tramway World Cafe, and it is definitely worth looking at the synopsis of informed, articulate and sophisticated artistic opinions there at www.tramwayworldcafe.com.

Here are a selection of other responses:

@janienicoll: Artists want clarity, support, understanding, direct lines of communication, feedback, not a lot to ask really....

@CeliaCeliart: The CS Board must take time to assess the damage to their credibility that has occurred before making another appointment.

@JenBitesPeople:CS must understand that reform is truly necessary. AD's resignation doesn't get them off the hook. No token gestures please!

@nickbarleyedin: The important thing now is that cultural policy comes back to the top of the agenda. A good framework for supporting arts.

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