Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Tradition Arts first and foremost at the SNP Conference

I was grateful for the opportunity to be the principal speaker backing the first motion at the SNP's Conference in Perth on Thursday (16 October) which called for the consideration of a national company or agency for the traditional arts.

The Motion, which focuses on the traditional arts, was submitted by the Cromarty Firth Branch of which I serve as the convener.

The motion advocates that the Cultural Policy of the Scottish Government should guarantee fair treatment for Scotland's unique cultural inheritance. It regrets the decision of Scottish Arts Council to withdraw flexible funding from organistions which are key to promoting linguistic, musical and theatrical heritage. In order to address the problems that the withdrawal of funding has caused, the motion calls on Scottish Government and practitioners of Scottish traditional arts and culture to work together to support this important facet of Scotland's make up. It also welcomes the Scottish Government's audit on the Scots language.

The living and tradional arts in Scotland are part of the country's DNA. The music and language helps define us at home and to the rest of the world. It is important that those who keep them going receive the highest backing from our Government and the agencies which look after the culture in our country.

This is what the motion sets out. There needs to be an investigation into how best to support, preserve and progress the culture. The Removal by the Scottish Arts Council of flexible funding hit many traditional arts bodies hard. The previous Lib/Lab administration allowed traditional Arts to be chipped away. It is critical therefore that the Scottish Government and SAC work together with the people of Scotland to reverse this trend so that trad arts, and therefore the country, don't loose out in the long run.

One way to enshrine the living tradition is to create a new body which will deal specifically with the Traditional Arts. The trad arts needs to be seen in isolation and treated as such. In my opinion it is too important a part of Scotland not be given special attention. The Culture Minister and the rest of the Government are committed to trad arts with me. The audit of Scots will tell you that. But there needs to be more time and attention devoted to it to make sure that it lives on.

This motion can be that catalyst for that I was honoured to present it and speak in favour of it and that it was chosen as the motion to open the 2008 conference.

A copy of the motion follows:


Conference considers that the Scottish Government cultural policy, funding and support arrangements should guarantee fair treatment for Scotland’s unique cultural inheritance.

Conference regrets Scottish Arts Council decisions in 2008 to withdraw flexible funding from key organisations that have successfully promoted Scotland’s linguistic, musical and theatrical heritage.

To address problems that have resulted from these decisions, Conference encourages supporters and practitioners of Scotland’s traditional arts and culture and the Scottish Government to work together to investigate options for future support for this important facet of national life.

Conference considers that such investigations should include, but not be limited to: investigations into the benefits of direct funding of key organisations; the use of challenge funds; introducing statutory responsibilities for, or issuing guidance to local government; and the endowment of a national company or agency.

In particular, Conference welcomes the initiative taken by the Scottish Government to undertake an audit of Scots language provision, a key area very badly affected by SAC decisions and looks forward to the emergence of proposals that will secure the future of the language.

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