National Galleries of Scotland Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:13 pm on 26th March 2003.

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Photo of Mike Watson Mike Watson Labour 3:13 pm, 26th March 2003

We have now reached the final stage of the private bill that is needed to disapply legislation restricting building in Princes Street gardens. The bill is an important integral part of the Playfair project and the Scottish Executive strongly supports the bill as amended. We are pleased that the bill has made good progress and will be passed today.

The stabilisation works have been completed, and the internal refurbishments are nearing completion. Those works have transformed the venue into a gallery that will be able to compete with galleries in other European capital cities, such as the Louvre or the Musée D'Orsay in Paris.

The National Galleries of Scotland can now go ahead with the preparations for what will surely be a wonderful Monet exhibition, which will be the major attraction at this year's Edinburgh international festival. Not all of the work will have been completed by then, but when it is completed we will have a magnificent building of which Scotland can be genuinely proud.

Given the subject of that exhibition and in the spirit of the auld alliance, I have invited the French culture minister, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, to come to Edinburgh to see the Monet exhibition in its magnificent new setting at the National Gallery.

As with the Louvre and many other international galleries, the link building will provide a range of new facilities dedicated to education and information technology. The National Galleries of Scotland are moving with the times to enhance their international reputation and their long tradition of preserving and presenting what is best.

The National Galleries of Scotland have had the foresight to provide a wonderful resource for people to enjoy. The new facilities will benefit a range of people, particularly schoolchildren. The increased number of tourists attracted to Edinburgh by the Playfair project will bring increased revenue to the galleries, to Edinburgh and to Scotland.

I want to ensure that the number of people from Scotland who attend the National Galleries of Scotland increases. After the Executive abolished admission charges, it was anticipated that the number of people who make use of our museums and galleries would more accurately reflect the population of Scotland. It is a disappointment to have to say that that has not proved to be the case to any significant extent. I intend to ask the management of our national institutions to investigate what more can be done to make their establishments more attractive to under-represented groups in Scotland, whether they are under-represented in terms of social group, age range or geographical area. I want the magnificent treasures that those institutions contain to be seen by as many people in Scotland as possible. We hope that the Playfair project will attract and increase the number of sponsors who wish to invest money to provide more excellent exhibitions and to promote art in Scotland.

The national cultural strategy, which was launched in 2000, aims to create a climate in which arts and culture can thrive and be accessible to all. What better way to achieve that than through the Playfair project? The Executive is promoting a strong cultural identity. In Scotland, we want to be seen to be promoting excellence in culture at home as well as overseas. The Playfair project is working towards promoting that strong cultural identity and excellence.

The Executive strongly supports the ambitious Playfair project, and I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we all look forward to enjoying the new facilities.