Sir Sandy Crombie Replies

Oct 9 2012 | By More

Response from Creative Scotland chair to artists’ letter

By Thom Dibdin

Yesterday, as reported in The Stage, 100 Scottish artists wrote an open letter to Sir Sandy Crombie, chairman of the board of Creative Scotland. The complete text the letter and its signatories is on the BBC website here.

This evening, Sir Sandy has responded to the artists.

David Greig and others
9 October 2012
Dear David
I hope you will not mind if I address this letter to you as a means of reaching all those who put their names to the letter you distributed yesterday and kindly sent to me via a colleague. A copy of this letter will be sent to media contacts after a delay that will allow you to forward it to all of those you can reach by e-mail.

Before I turn to the points in your letter, let me put my response in the context of Creative Scotland’s development and its aspiration to create strong relationships with creative communities in Scotland.

Creative Scotland is two years old. It has a broader remit and in total distributes more funds than its predecessors. We make one third more awards with one third fewer staff. I think it is fair to say, and unsurprising, that in some cases our working methods are still developing. Are we perfect? No. Can we do better in a number of areas? Yes. But equally there is no shortage of evidence that we can and do perform well across a broad range of our activities.

Ironically, I saw your letter just after meeting a group representing a constituency of artists and organisations working across a range of sectors. The conversation with that group started after they wrote a letter in June expressing concerns similar to yours. For my part, I found that conversation positive and productive. I think it showed that Creative Scotland’s desire to create relationships based on trust and mutual respect is no less strong than that of those with whom we engage. Meeting one representative group like this is not enough, though. We are determined to engage with as many people as are willing to engage with us, through conversations in a range of places and formats in the coming months.

Let me turn to your letter. It is admirably concise, and, as one would expect from those named, eloquently expressed. Your points are well made. In choosing to be concise, you have of course sacrificed the provision of detail at a level that my board colleagues and I can investigate. Nevertheless, I assure you and all those who joined you in signing your letter that we do take seriously every issue, complaint or concern made to us, whether by individuals or groups. We will examine thoroughly every point raised with us. Two sub groups of our board members are currently working with staff to probe further into a range of topics that can influence both how we distribute funds and what artists and organisations experience when dealing with us.

Your letter coincided with the announcement of decisions on awards for the previously flexibly funded organisations that had applied into the first round of the new funding programme. Now that the decisions are public you will know that funds were generally awarded for two years, the only exception being the result of a request for a shorter award period from one applicant. These valuable organisations will be able to apply again in the future.

You have commented on the use of language and complications in our forms and processes. Every professional community – even the arts world – has its own jargon, but we have no desire to be anything other than clear and understood by all. I expect that the comments we have received directly from you and others and the planned conversations I have already described will help us be better informed of issues and able to test ways of expressing ourselves.

On processes, we share a desire to simplify. If applicants find things over-complicated then it is almost certainly the same for our people. We intend to simplify paperwork further and reduce processes to the minimum necessary to comply with audit requirements. We welcome your offer to join in helping to achieve this.

You have commented, as have others, on who is involved in funding decisions. As a first move, we are making more information available on how such decisions are taken. We believe that those taking decisions have both the knowledge and expertise to do so, but acknowledge that this can be questioned. One of the board sub-groups is considering this challenge. This same group will be looking at our handling of complaints.

In closing, I hope you will trust and accept that we have a strong desire to perform as an organisation for the people of Scotland. At current rates of expenditure one thousand million pounds will pass through Creative Scotland in the course of a twelve-year period to be used in support of arts and cultural activity. They who provide the money have a right to ask what will result from that investment. The return does not rest solely in economic or commercial benefits, important though those are. It can come through social, cultural and reputational gains and of course through artistic excellence. We at Creative Scotland are absolutely committed to playing our part in producing those gains, but realise we can achieve nothing without the active participation of artists and companies working across the whole spectrum of arts and cultural activity. We have every desire to engage with you, your co-signatories, either individually or collectively, and indeed any party who shares our aim of doing our very best for everyone.

I would therefore like to offer to meet yourself and as many of your co-signatories as you think useful to listen to your concerns in more detail and to create the foundations for a constructive dialogue that will help address the issues raised.

With best wishes,
Sir Sandy Crombie


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