2007 - 2021

The Art of Labour

14040027_10207158620465720_6592389842608337631_nToday Jeremy Corbyn is launching a ‘comprehensive strategy for the arts’ in Edinburgh, but it will have little or nothing to do with Edinburgh or Scotland, where art, culture and education are all devolved matters. It is another sign of how semi-detached and culturally removed Labour is that this could be happening at all. Although much of the festival feels as if it is in Edinburgh but not of Edinburgh, this is a truly shambolic set of announcements by a team desperately trying to resurrect their credibility in their former heartlands.

The headline announcements include “a pledge to introduce an arts pupil premium to every primary school in England in line with the PE pupil premium, to reverse cuts to real terms arts expenditure boosting arts funding back on to a secure financial footing and a commitment that the next Labour Government would introduce a cross-departmental Cabinet Com­mittee on the arts and creative industries tasked with increasing participation in the arts and culture.”

Other plans include:

“Consulting on the design and national roll-out of the arts pupil premium to look to extend this to all secondary schools” [Education is devolved].

“A commitment to launch a wide-ranging consultation on supporting British arts and commit to delivering a comprehensive national plan for the publicly funded arts, culture and heritage sector in government” [whose culture? whose heritage?]

“Working within Labour’s Fiscal Credibility rule, Labour will reverse Tory real terms cuts to arts expenditure and restore grant in aid funding of the Arts Council” [which arts council?]

“Labour in alliance with a broad coalition of organisations will be at the forefront of the campaigning to defend the licence fee as a means of funding an independent BBC and oppose cuts to grant-in-aid funding to our treasured public broadcasting institution” [this doesn’t address the massive issues about the devolution of broadcasting]

“Endorsing proposals made by the creative learning alliance to consider dance and drama as national curriculum subjects within their own right and to consult with educational experts to establish dance and drama as independent subjects within the National Curriculum” [education is devolved].

We are being treated as if we don’t exist. I have a lot of respect for Corbyn and his team but this is a travesty. If you are being charitable they are at least making ineptitude into a new art form.

Comments (23)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Graeme Purves says:


  2. Sandra says:

    Same old same old from UK Labour. Scotland is nothing but an afterthought.

  3. Valerie says:

    FFS, an announcement like this in Edinburgh, as the Festival, a globally famous event, draws to a close?

    Crass at best. Supporting British arts? That will be because Scottish arts and culture simply hasn’t been ignored or diluted enough.

    I’m trying to like Corbyn, but he’s saying nothing to me, except to insult.

  4. Leigh says:

    yup, it’s appalling – the very opposite of a clear statement about multi-level governance in a multi-nation state! It wouldn’t have been too hard to frame cultural policy in terms of the acknowledged fact that there are concerns with developing independent policy capacity in Scotland (e.g. the 2013 QMU conference ‘Imagining Scotland Through Cultural Policy’), and though it is context-dependent it does share common, now europeanised routes which raise issues for policy transfer/translation – the point about Fiona Hyslop’s reaction to Maria Miller on state instrumentalism of culture wasn’t the supposed differences between them (which were scant) but on their mutual adoption of the ‘values’ discourse.

    And something could and should have been done to situate e.g. Pete Wishart’s 2015 Commons Select Committee statement on the creative industries in Scotland: “The Scottish Government has designated the creative industries as one of the key growth sectors in Scotland, but there is also a need to consider the UK-wide context for the creative industries in Scotland. We want to examine how the policies of the UK Government affect these industries and how they could better support the creative industries in Scotland.”

    But the Corbyn group’s forwardly-British cultural policy consultation document ‘Arts for Everyone: Arts & Culture Vision for Britain 2020’ was ropey to begin with – Jeremy Corbyn: “If elected Labour leader, I pledge to work alongside the creative industries to support, develop, and collectively achieve a culturally rich, more prosperous future for our country.”

    It wasn’t clear at the time if this was an attempt at reconciliation inside the Westminster bubble – (British) ‘creative industries’ / (Britain’s) ‘national branding’ / (British identity) ‘place making’ / (Enriching Britain) ‘economic growth’ etc – or if it reflected a lack of resources to pursue anything other than reaffirming the current Creative Industries policy straightjacket (actually proposing to tighten its managerial straps) with some gestures towards celebratory/ enjoyable consumption of (British) ‘diversity’ for ‘community wellbeing’ (New Labour’s ills of ‘social inclusion’ all over again).

    For practitioners, this “…comprehensive national plan for the publicly funded arts, culture and heritage sector that complements the Creative Industries Council’s industrial strategy…” seemed to boil down to imposing a state-centred brokerage agency controlling a supply-side of ‘creative talent’ through monitoring industry standards for access to public funding: “To achieve this goal we pledge to develop a comprehensive national plan for the publicly funded arts, culture and heritage sector that complements the Creative Industries Council’s industrial strategy [CIC]. […] This plan should re-visit arts council funding criteria with a view to supplementing existing aims with reference to long-term targeted funding programmes, increased integration at appropriate local, regional and national levels and increased links with education, healthcare, the voluntary and community sector, and local government.” (p4)

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Creative Industries Council (CIC)

    “Create UK is a series of events and initiatives highlighting the role of the UK creative industries as an economic force and source of global influence. The programme includes the launch of the Creative Industries Council’s strategy report (see below) outlining a vision of industry and government working together to develop the UK’s creative industries to their full potential to 2020 and beyond, and an international action plan developed by UK Trade & Investment.”
    “We’ve based this strategy along the same principles adopted by the government’s industrial strategy programme – developed for and by industry, a shared vision, action oriented –because we truly believe that our sector is as vital to the UK’s economy as the more traditional powerhouse industries. […] The aim of this strategy is, for the first time, to unite the different parts of the creative industries behind common goals and to speak with one voice on the issues that cut across the sector.”
    “Create UK is a series of events and initiatives highlighting the role of the UK creative industries as an economic force and source of global influence. […] The creative industries generate value that spreads far wider than the sector itself: as a key part of a wider supply chain; as a driver of business for other sectors […] The UK is a world leader when it comes to the creative industries and they play an important role in shaping how the rest of the world perceives the UK. But we are trading in an increasingly competitive marketplace and cannot take our position for granted. Standing still is not an option. We need to take action now to ensure we are inspiring and equipping the next generation of talent, helping creative businesses to start-up and grow and maintaining the UK’s competitiveness against other international markets.”

    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Industrial strategy: government and industry in partnership:

    “We aim to […] make the UK more competitive so British businesses can thrive and compete with rising economies.”
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    [Commons Select] Committee to look at creative industries in Scotland (17 July 2015)
    The Scottish Affairs Committee launches an inquiry into the creative industries in Scotland.
    The Committee will look at the contribution of the creative industries in Scotland to employment and the economy, and consider how UK policy—in areas such as tax reliefs and intellectual property rights—affects these industries.

  5. Bugger le Panda says:

    I suspect that not that doesn’t get Scotland, he doesn’t really care and has written off his Northern tribute band.

    A bit like how semi detached he was with EU Ref; going through the motions

  6. Bugger le Panda says:

    “I suspect that not that”

    should read

    I suspect that is not that he


  7. John B Dick says:

    His Branch manager should have protected him from this disgrace.

    You might think this is further proof of his alleged incompetence, but you would be wrong.

    It would be no surprise if any of his opponents on the Conservatve benches or his enemies on his own side made an equivalent gaffe. There is no eveidence that Corbyn is any more ignorant of devolution, Scottish history, geography, demographics and values than are any of the other nibelung whose brains are controlled by the PR ‘professionals’.

    Before the teleprompt and before politicians ceded policy to the PR ‘experts’, focus groups and think tanks which are really propagandists, a London politician (Churchill, I suspect) speaking in St Andrews Hall, Glasgow, once said “… and the people of England would not stand for it.”

    Sensing the reaction, he added ” …. and the people of Wales …..”

    “and the people of Scotland certainly would not …”

    The generation that survived war service could think on their feet. The current lot don’t think at all.

    1. Robert Graham says:

      His branch manager , that steadfast friend who no doubt fed him his lines and information to prepare for the Andrew Marr programme shortly after his appointment as labour leader , he was asked about the state of labour in Scotland , in the space of thirty seconds thats how long it took to convince me he is either a fool or he was being set up , a child could have corrected every single thing he said it was that patently obvious everything had come out of scottish labour’s joke book , this was either basic lazy preparation by someone , or the first deliberate act to make him look stupid ,it worked a treat it couldn’t have been better if it had been prepared by Alex Salmond .
      This with the inclusion of this article makes me wonder who exactly is advising and manipulating him because they are playing a blinder for his opponents .

      1. Bugger le Panda says:

        He is out of his depth in Scotland, as was Tony Bliar, funnily enough?

  8. Alf Baird says:

    This gaff should be no surprise for we are only taught English language in school and as language is a major determinant of culture, Corbyn like most unionists thinks of British/English culture as a distinct ‘national’ phenomenon afflicting us Scots anaw (i.e. thon ‘ane naition’ syndrome). Yet as culture is essentially language, Scottish culture depends on the Scots language, which should as an indigenous language be taucht tae aw oor bairns in schuil an tae ither fowk anaw – that is, if we really want to ensure there is a ‘Scottish cultur’ in future.

  9. willie says:

    Corbyn is a unionist Brit who is hard-line anti Scottish Independence. And in that he’s at one with his Tory counterpart Theresa May.

  10. Calum MacRory says:

    Corbyn is left of centre for every policy, except one – Scotland.

    What I dislike most about Corbyn is he knows labour has lost Scotland, forever, and he knows he has no chance of winning at westminster. Therefore he is happy to see Scotland suffer under right wing tory rule – for what – no purpose that I can see.

    red tories, blue tories, left of centre birt nat red tories, know what, they are all tories!

  11. Douglas says:

    In actual practice, Bella, it doesn’t make much difference whether the Arts are devolved or not, Scotland’s arts policy is pretty much designed in England and copied by the SNP who, notoriously, did not have an arts policy when they first came to power…

    …so they copied England, to such an extent, that it would be justifiable to talk of plagiarism, if such a thing existed in policy documents…

    …so we have:

    Creative England and…Creative Scotland
    The English Book Trust and….The Scottish Book Trust

    And…well, what’s the point of going on…….there are many big well funded arts bodies with exactly the same names, functions and duties as their English counterparts…

    The SNP do not have an arts policy like they have an energy policy or an education policy. They have a bunch of platitudes…”unlocking ambition” etc etc…spouted off by, more often than not, vastly overpaid and underperforming imported CEO’s and other senior executives, and endless reports, committees and – like Chairman Mao or Stalin – a 10 YEAR PLAN for the arts in Scotland, which is beyond ridiculous…10 Years….how can you have ten year plan for anything with the rate things change in the world?

    So, what Corbyn says about the arts in England is probably more relevant than what Fiona Hyslop says about the arts in Scotland. Because if the evidence is anything to go on, the SNP will probably copy it.

    How the SNP, which was founded by artists and writers, can have such a dismal and unimaginative arts policy is a paradox worthy of a whole book…

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Well said Douglas, sad but true. In transport too I found that what passes for the Scottish Government’s ‘Ports Policy’ basically mirrors that of Marsham Street, with the same underlying right wing/Conservative philosophy – the direct consequence of which is expensive/uncompetitive seaports and higher port charges, resulting in an ever worsening UK and Scottish trade balance. A general constraint here, however, is that senior ‘Scottish’ civil servants seem all too keen to implement the Whitehall policy template whenever possible (including public sector/quango appointments in Scotland), and one assumes they are under orders from their real political masters in London to do so (it is the UK ‘Home’ Civil Service that still ‘runs’ Scotland, efter aw). Scottish Ministers need to deal with this as the entrenched unionist/institutional barriers to democratic change in Scotland clearly reside within the current so-called ‘devolved’ system. The Holyrood ‘corporate body’ is another example.

      1. John B Dick says:

        No need to get paranoid about it, the real reason is the simplest one. Copy and paste is easy, lazy and cheap. We will still get that after independence, though hopefully also from EU countries.

        Before devolution I saw a circular intimating a ‘Scottish’ regulation, probably for the genuinely Scottish (since 1919) NHS or perhaps it was a SI.

        It was signed by the junior minister, and the letterhead was Scottish Home and Health Department, but this was pre-digital copy&paste, and the UK minister’s signature had been incompetently Snopec’ed and was discernable beneath the minister’s signature.

        “A new policy for widgets?

        Yes Minister.

        Here’s a French one, but maybe the Norwegian model would suit you better? Or this one, very popular in Holland?”

        That’s how these things are done. If it doesn’t work, you can tweak it for Scottish conditions later and spin that into an exciting innovation. All for a few minutes work from a middle ranking civil servant and a clerical grade.

        Clearly, the examples given by Douglas didn’t require any thought.

      2. Willie says:

        Clerical grade snipe Alf. You are a master of it. But who do you blame?

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Willie, it is not simply a question of “who do you blame”. In your haste to smear, you ignore my main points, for which action is required to rectify the prevailing situation: i.e. a nationalist government that remains dependent upon unionist elites to run (i.e. implementing policy as they see fit, spending public money as they see fit) much of institutional Scotland. Can you imagine any other colony where a nationalist government is elected to ostensibly ‘run’ the country yet is still dependent on Whitehall appointed civil servants to actually ‘run’ the country? Scotland clearly has a democratic dilemma which three successive SNP government’s have been unable, or unwilling, to address. The policy examples given here by Douglas any myself reflect this reality. In addition, the lack of robust legislation to really sort out Scotland’s key problem areas (e.g. land reform, higher education, housing, trade, etc) also reflects these continuing colonial constraints. Sir Humphrey runs Scotland, not Nicola.

  12. Jim Monaghan says:

    Totally, disagree. Edinburgh’s international Festivals is the perfect place for an opposition leader to introduce an Arts policy and he was right not to mention Scotland as he has a clear line. of respecting devolution and leaving devolved policy in Scotland to Scottish Labour.

    1. That could have been articulated if that was the real reason Jim

      1. Chris Bartter says:

        Actually Mike, the devolved position of Scotland was indeed articulated on a couple of occasions. Jeremy pointed out that the cash increases for Creative Scotland, and Barnett consequentials for the education commitments you rightly comment on, would be delivered but that it would be up to the Scottish Government and Parliament how they were allocated. I’m surprised you didn’t mention this, or the commitments made on reserved matters (eg enforcing a living wage in arts/culture industry) which would of course impact on Scotland. Were you actually there?

        1. No I wasn’t there – but did ask for clarification from the Corbyn office as i thought this was astonishing.

          1. Chris Bartter says:

            Maybe an idea to get the whole picture? It would have been surely astonishing had he tried to articulate the imposition of a UK arts policy across devolved nations? It was a significant initiative, although it won’t address every issue. But I suggest what needs to be done now is for pressure to be put on Scottish politicians to outline as serious a commitment to arts initiatives as this one is.

  13. Mhari morrison says:

    I would suggest that instead of haggling around arty carry places Corby tour inner city Glasgow the high flats up the wyndford and see what labour really think of the poor they dont give a toss glasgow city council bend over backwards for the middle class but leave the poor in slums ,he is utterly out of touch

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.