I WAS perhaps not the only person slightly baffled by one aspect of the first programme to be unveiled by the new artistic director and chief executive of the National Theatre of Scotland (NTS), Jackie Wylie. Alongside a mouth-watering list of new shows and projects, there was the unveiling of a line-up of associate directors and artists-in-residence for 2018. The former are Cora Bissett and Stewart Laing and the latter Nic Green and Adura Onashile, a quartet whose work defines what successful theatre operating at the cutting edge of current practice looks and sounds like.

The fifth name on the list is that of futurologist-in-residence Mark Stevenson writer of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future and We Do Things Differently, whose first play is due to be produced – not by the NTS – in 2018. Unlike many of you wondering what a futurologist-in-residence will bring to our national theatre company, I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Glasgow HQ of the NTS last week and met him briefly afterwards. He seems a very pleasant chap, but his speech to the assembled gathering did not venture very far into the field of bold prediction. Rather he responded to the considerable challenge of having to follow Jackie Wylie on to the stage (Ms Wylie is a popular appointment with much of the Scottish theatre community gathered in the rehearsal room) by telling his audience exactly what it wanted to hear. He talked about the great artistic achievements of Scots of the past and of how Scotland was leading the way in the arts at present. There was much whooping and a-hollering and possibly even cries of “Aye, wha’s like us?” of a kind not seen since, ooh, at least Murrayfield stadium at the end of the Scotland vs Australia match four days previously.

I hope that Stevenson’s optimism turns out to be more constructive and interesting than that, and I pray that he will be eloquently outspoken in his mapping of a bright future, because the message being heard elsewhere by the arts community of late has been far from cheery.

Specifically, it has been all doom and gloom from the portals of Creative Scotland (CS). Not since the Scottish Arts Council publicly espoused the notion of “equal misery for all” by insisting that cuts in funding would be applied on a pro-rata basis to grant recipients rather than through the more difficult method of quality assessment has the message coming out of the arms-length funding body been so relentlessly downbeat.

The NTS 2018 slate of work deserved to be well-received, but it had the benefit of coming after weeks of CS warnings, to client organisations as well as in the media, that they should prepare for the worst. Many of those have pointed out that they are having difficulty planning for anything, as any information on funding is now not expected until well into the New Year. The fervent hope is that Creative Scotland is engaged in an exercise in managing expectations so that the bad news is not as bad as everyone feared.

Frankly I’d like to see a little less of that – leave that doublethink with the politicians where it belongs – and a little more vociferous advocacy for the arts from Creative Scotland. I am sure its staff and board members are saying all the right things about the importance of the arts to the well-being of the nation to the Government when they have the opportunity, but consistently proclaiming their value out loud to the whole of the world, to make cutting the small amount of money from taxation that finds its way to the arts more difficult, seems to come less easily.

Speaking to the Herald’s Phil Miller, the NTS’s new futurologist said: “I believe artists are the world’s first and most under-rated ‘systems thinkers’ – they think across boundaries to find new truths and communicate then in a way that makes us think differently.”

It Mark Stevenson is correct – and I believe he is – perhaps those who should know the artists best should be paying closer attention and making more strenuous efforts not to repeat the practice that bedevilled its predecessor.