Scottish Culture

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Young People, Tourism, Culture and Sport – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 23rd February 2006.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 23rd February 2006

To ask the Scottish Executive whether it considers Scottish culture to be a distinct market from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. (S2O-9093)

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Scottish culture is distinctive in national as well as international terms. We believe that culture is a vital ingredient in Scotland's success, both here and overseas.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Is the minister aware of the report from the Office of Fair Trading into the proposed merger of Waterstone's and Ottakar's book stores, in which it was stated there was

"no evidence to suggest that Scotland should be looked at as a distinct geographic market"?

Is it not entirely unacceptable that Scotland's unique culture should be treated as part of the UK market? What action does the minister propose to take to ensure that the position that was taken by the OFT does not threaten us with regard to booksellers and the publishing sector in future and with regard to other aspects of Scotland's distinct culture?

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

If Mr MacAskill had been listening when I made my cultural policy statement in the chamber last month, he would have heard about the added emphasis that the Executive gives to both literature and publishing. I am very disappointed that he should decide to frame his question in that way.

However, Mr MacAskill will know that the OFT's report is, strictly speaking, a matter for my colleagues at Westminster. The comments that he quotes must be seen in the context of the particular enterprise that the OFT was looking into at the time. That does not mean to say that there is any contradiction with the policy of the Scottish Executive. Our policy is clear: we see our culture as a vital ingredient in our success, as I have already said.

The direct answer to Mr MacAskill's question, which was whether the Scottish Executive considers Scottish culture to be a distinct market from the rest of the United Kingdom, is yes, we do and we take every opportunity to ensure that our distinctive culture is given its place and is used to promote our country. We will see many examples of that in the coming year, such as on tartan day in New York next month, in which organisations as diverse as the National Galleries of Scotland, the Scottish Youth Theatre and Scottish Screen will be taking part. Our commitment to our culture should not be in question.