ARTISTS should be given special tax exemptions to help boost cultural life in Scotland, a leading museums boss has claimed.

Douglas Connell, a leading tax lawyer as well as the chairman of Museums Galleries Scotland, believes "players in orchestras, craft makers, writers, dancers, artists, actors, composers and others involved in creative and artistic activities" should be granted Irish-style tax breaks.

He said: "These individuals typically have relatively modest incomes but contribute greatly to the artistic and cultural life of our country which, in turn, has significant economic benefits."

Mr Connell has put forward his plan to the commission headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin, which is examining new devolved powers for Scotland following the referendum.

Mr Connell, senior partner of Turcan Connell and chairman of Turcan Connell Asset Management Limited, has written to the Smith Commission in a strictly personal capacity, but has gathered private support for his proposal from other leading cultural players.

He believes the Smith Commission is a rare opportunity for artist tax breaks to be pursued and would be a "huge welcome sign to artists from Scotland, and a symbol of our confidence in our culture".

He says it would be an innovative and distinctive way to establishing Scotland's commitment to those involved in the arts.

The Republic of Ireland has operated a tax exemption for artists since 1969 and it allows the profits made from the sale of works to be exempt from income tax, subject to a maximum permitted amount of €40,000, around £31,500.

The scheme, updated in 1997, applies to books or other writing, plays, musical compositions, paintings or pictures and sculpture.

It has benefited Irish artists and others who have moved to Ireland, a list that included, at one time, leading Scottish writers Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner, as well as figures such as John Simpson, DBC Pierre, Michel Houellebecq, Elvis Costello, Frederick Forysth and rock and pop acts such as Def Leppard and Lisa Stansfield.

Mr Connell's paper suggests widening the Irish definition of those who would be exempt to include those involved in the performing arts.

If implemented, the scheme would greatly benefit artists across many genres working in Scotland, attract artists to Scotland, and make the artistic life more financially feasible for what largely remains a low-paid profession, he believes.

In the paper, Mr Connell writes: "If a tax exemption on the same terms were to be applied in Scotland, the obvious effect would be a reduction in the tax burden for artists, freeing up more of their income for the production of further works of artistic and cultural merit.

"If the exemption were extended to attract artists to become resident in Scotland, there is the possibility of broadening the scope of the definition of an artist.

"Rather than exempting from income tax the earnings from the sale of the works in question, the exemption could introduce an additional deduction for performers and musicians - those involved in the performing arts rather than simply the creative arts.

"This would provide a boost to young and emerging artists who, largely, do not have a particularly substantial income during the initial stages of their career."

Mr Connell acknowledged that the tax exemption - he calls it the Scottish Artists Incentive - would create a very different tax system north of the Border than the rest of the UK but this is the "opportunity" for it to be implemented.

It would be structured, he suggests, as either an additional deduction from the calculation of income tax, as is the case in Ireland, or it could take the form of a new rate of income tax to be applied to specific types of income.