The Unlearning Organisation: Cultural devolution and Scotland’s visual arts 1967-2015

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper sketches out the ways in which visual artists based in Scotland developed their own infrastructure in tandem with the devolution of state arts patronage from London to Edinburgh from 1967 onwards. It demonstrates how the Keynesian arms-length principal inherited by the Scottish Arts Council generated a productive tension with nascent Artist Run Initiatives in Scotland. With limited state support, artists successfully developed and ran their own platforms while the Scottish Arts Council developed and ran more generously funded (competing) national and civic arts organisations. Following political devolution in 1999, Scotland's Governments have revoked JM Keynes' arm's length Patron State model in favour of the New Labour experiment with structuration and creative economics that is Creative Scotland. A cross-party bonfire of the quangos fuelled by a populist revolt against 'expertise' and 'excessive government' in 21st century Britain has rapidly depleted the number of arms length bodies (ALBs) across the UK. This has meant that the centrist creative economy model has been continued by both SNP governments, to disastrous effect. The ALB bonfire has led to the centralisation of the arts (as well as local government and policing) in Scotland. In some respects then, post-devolution Scotland is less devolved than it was in 1994 and, also, less democratically accountable. Since the arts have been fully devolved to Scotland since at least 1994 (or 1967 as some might argue) further devolution of powers from Westminster would have no more or less impact upon this situation than full independence. Rather, remedying this quandary would involve Scotland's Government rejecting duplication of the centralising tendency of UK Government (unlearning the habit of forming miniature versions of the existing Union State apparatus) and listening more carefully to artists in order to best support the democratic forms of governance that artists have developed themselves over the past 50 years.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2015
EventNarrating Scottish Devolution: Literature, Politics and the Culturalist Paradigm - University of Stirling, Stirling, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 201531 Aug 2015


ConferenceNarrating Scottish Devolution: Literature, Politics and the Culturalist Paradigm
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Artist Run Initiatives
  • Scotland
  • Arts Policy
  • Scottish Arts Council
  • Creative Scotland
  • Arts Council of Great Britain
  • Quangos
  • ARB
  • Devolution
  • Scottish Independence
  • Structuration


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