On 19 June, Creative Lives organised an online event that brought together the Scottish Government and representatives from community and volunteer-led creative groups across Scotland.

The objective was to contribute to the government's refresh of the action plan supporting Scotland's national Culture Strategy. Participants seized the opportunity to express their concerns, share their insights, and discuss ways to empower communities through culture.

The Culture Strategy, which sets the future direction for supporting culture in Scotland, is built upon three key ambitions:

1. Strengthening culture: This ambition focuses on sustaining and nurturing culture to flourish and to evolve as a diverse, positive force in society, across all of Scotland.

2. Transforming through culture: This ambition seeks to demonstrate that culture is central to Scotland's wellbeing and cultural, social, economic, and environmental prosperity.

3. Empowering through culture: This ambition celebrates culture as part of every community; essential to our lives and wellbeing.

The third ambition, to empower individuals and communities through cultural engagement, sparked the most conversation as it was felt that this ambition could help properly recognise the value and impact of everyday and emerging creative activities in local areas.

During our event, participants shared their concerns and identified various obstacles faced by volunteer and community-led groups. For example, we heard about:

  • Access to suitable venues - Participants expressed challenges in accessing venues suitable for creative activities due to issues such as high costs, lack of availability, and restrictions on charging for attendance. A need for more sustainable spaces and an empty property strategy for creative use was highlighted.
  • Funding challenges - There was a common consensus that volunteer-led activities are often assumed to be free, neglecting the financial costs involved. Participants called for greater recognition of the value of creative activity at the local level and expressed a desire for simpler and more accessible funding streams. It was also noted that existing Creative Scotland funding often favours larger organisations, leaving smaller groups with limited capacity to navigate complex funding processes.
  • Prioritisation of arts funding - Participants expressed concerns about the impact of the cost of living crisis, as arts funding often takes a backseat in budgetary priorities. They stressed the importance of a joint approach to funding arts and cultural activities within the broader framework of wellbeing and wellness services, ensuring that culture is not seen as an isolated pursuit but as a vital component of community well-being.
  • Simplifying community asset ownership - Participants called for a reduction in red tape and a simplified process for community ownership and management of assets, enabling communities to take control of cultural spaces and resources.

Creative Lives will continue to engage with the Scottish Government in an open dialogue and provide further evidence of the systemic challenges faced by volunteer and community-led creative groups. 

We believe that by addressing these concerns in the action plan we can create a more supportive and inclusive environment for cultural activities across Scotland.

If you would like to express your views on the refreshed Culture Strategy for Scotland, you can contact the Scottish Government’s Culture Strategy Engagement team on email: [email protected]