THE Scottish Government’s draft Culture Strategy is big on aspirations but lacking in actual strategy. "Putting culture at the heart of ..." is not a strategic measure unless it includes concrete actions and resources. The only actual change proposed here is the creation of a new Culture Department, headed by a Culture Tsar.

The Government has created an independent poverty commission with the role of scrutinising and commenting freely on the implementation of the Government’s social aspirations. Why not establish a similar culture commission, rather than an in-house team that is most likely to tell ministers only what they want to hear?

There is no discussion about ministerial responsibility for culture. Currently culture is allied with tourism and international relations as an element of soft power and the promotion of Scotland abroad. If culture is as important to Scotland as the strategy claims, surely there is a case for a dedicated Culture Minister.

If culture is to be embedded in the life of Scotland, some difficult nettles need be grasped. Firstly, culture is the Cinderella of council provisions and is likely to remain so unless it is made a statutory requirement. Developers could also contribute as well as public sector commissioners. We need radical measures such as these instead of an anodyne list of alternative funding possibilities and a hope that a Scottish Investment Bank might have a contribution to make.

Another nettle is the role and function of Creative Scotland. The current minister set the framework for Creative Scotland, has given it its annual brief and has presided over a series of crises. Is the current model of an arm’s length government agency the best way to achieve the aspirations set out in this draft?

Wider participation and the empowerment of people to express their culture are desirable but there are no practical examples given of how this might be achieved. Scotland already has a Community Empowerment Act that gives some force to the rights of communities and interest groups such as football clubs and allotment holders. Could this act not be extended to support cultural activists in decisions that might affect their community’s cultural life?

Finally, the draft strategy fails to distinguish sufficiently between "indigenous" culture and imported cultural activities. The Edinburgh Festivals and the Fringe are events of international significance but they are not a major expression of Scottish culture. They attract significant investment but there is little to see in the cultural life of Scotland that derives from these events and the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund is not sufficiently dynamic to ensure that the festivals provide an adequate showcase for the cultural life of Scotland. How can these become an important element in the country’s cultural development and not just an annual flash in the pan?

This document is not a strategy but a needs analysis. When will someone in government get a grip of this issue, exercise some leadership and propose real changes that will bring about a shift in how society and government view and value culture?

Damian Killeen,

21 Bedford Terrace, Edinburgh.