TWO-AND-A-HALF years ago, the arrival of Andrew Dixon to head Creative Scotland promised a fresh start for arts funding in Scotland.
After months of sustained criticism and a series of calamitous misjudgments, his resignation yesterday marks a low ebb, paradoxically in this year of national cultural creativity.
The distrust between the country's artists and Creative Scotland deepened as a litany of complaints was mishandled, from issues about the impact of funding cuts to writer Janice Galloway being asked to change the wording of a speech that was felt to be too critical. The controversies could have been defused but were allowed to degenerate into a very public drama in October. When 100 leading practitioners, many far too successful to rely on public funding, sent a letter to the chairman of the board, Sir Sandy Crombie, outlining deep concerns about Creative Scotland, it was clear that a radical solution was required. It has yet to appear.
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Mr Dixon has acknowledged communication problems between the funding body and the companies and individuals it supports. But it was more than just a failure to communicate. Artists and companies did not merely have problems with what Creative Scotland was communicating but also with what the body was doing. It took too long for senior management to acknowledge Creative Scotland's failings.
Creative Scotland was not only a merger of the former Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen but it also had additional funding responsibilities for the creative industries. Even at a time of more generous public funding, it was inevitable that such a quango would prove unwieldy. When arts companies that had relied on long-term flexible funding had to adjust budgets on a project basis, while television cookery shows were given new money, outrage was inevitable.
It might be that Creative Scotland under Mr Dixon's leadership suffered as a result of attempting to fulfil an extraordinarily wide brief. Projects such as the Creative Place awards can play a vital role in stimulating creativity and encouraging participation in the arts beyond the professional artists, writers, musicians and theatre companies. Such an approach, however, entails difficult choices. When support for industries such as television and film is also part of the remit, the relative claims of art and the commercial sector add to the potential confusion.
The board members of Creative Scotland must now examine whether the structure is fatally flawed or can fulfil its function through reorganisation and better management. They have set aside one and a half days next week to consider how to move forward from the current crisis. They must use that time well. This crisis will not be resolved by the resignation of Andrew Dixon. The organisation needs a change of direction. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has defined the primary role of Creative Scotland as investing in artists, talent and quality production of the arts and film. That must be the starting point for an unequivocal programme of support for the creative arts if Scotland's remarkable pool of talent is to be nurtured.