Question Time — Scottish Executive — General Questions – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:40 am on 7th June 2007.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 11:40 am, 7th June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive what its priorities are for culture in Scotland. (S3O-123)

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Our priority is to do whatever we can to help Scotland's varied and vibrant culture continue to flourish. I plan to meet a wide range of interested people soon to gather ideas about exactly how we make progress on that.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I wish the minister all the very best in what I know is an enjoyable but challenging portfolio.

Investment in culture in Scotland has doubled since devolution and the previous Administration agreed a £20 million increase in funding. Will the minister assure me that her Administration will continue that record funding of the arts in Scotland? If she cannot assure me of that, will she tell the Parliament what she intends to cut?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I have inherited many good things from the previous Executive, for which I thank Patricia Ferguson. However, a new and fresh Administration obviously wants to look anew at how it progresses. I intend to do that in the next few weeks, after which I will happily come back to the Parliament with ideas and plans. I hope that, on many issues, we can make progress together for the benefit of the arts and culture in Scotland.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

In the Government's cultural policy, what place will be given to the future of Gaelic? Given the worrying situation in which tiny numbers of children in Scotland use Gaelic in everyday life, will an element of urgency on the issue now enter Government policy?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I understand Mr Allan's concerns. At present, we provide local authorities with Gaelic-specific grant funding toward the cost of providing Gaelic education in their areas. Gaelic may be studied by learners in primary school through the Gaelic language in the primary school programme. Bòrd na Gàidhlig recently published its education strategy as part of the national plan for Gaelic. Among other things, the strategy seeks to expand the availability of Gaelic language in primary schools and the availability of suitably qualified teachers throughout Scotland. I look forward to further discussions with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, as soon as I can have them, about how the Government can best support the implementation of the national plan. I intend to consider a range of options for improving access to Gaelic for learners and to Gaelic-medium education, including the creation of a right to Gaelic-medium education where reasonable demand exists. I also intend to consider how we might increase support for Gaelic in the home and in communities.

Photo of Ted Brocklebank Ted Brocklebank Conservative

I welcome Linda Fabiani to her first question time and look forward to hearing her develop her views on the arts in Scotland.

Will the minister get involved personally in helping to further Scotland's cultural heritage, in line with the Scottish National Party's manifesto? I ask the question in the light of a letter, which I have here, dated 19 October 2005, from one Alex Salmond, a distinguished graduate of the University of St Andrews, in which he offers his personal support for the campaign to achieve world heritage site status for the ancient city of St Andrews. Will the minister meet me to discuss how she and, I hope, the First Minister might help to advance the St Andrews bid?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I admire the perseverance with which Ted Brocklebank has for some time pursued that admirable aim of his. I am always happy to meet my opposite numbers to advance Scotland's culture and heritage. I look forward to meeting him to discuss the issue further.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I congratulate the minister on her appointment.

Will the minister acknowledge the success of the previous Government's youth music initiative, which allows local authorities such as mine—North Lanarkshire—to invest in free specialist music tuition for children? Will she confirm that the initiative will continue? Does she agree that the initiative is important, not only in nurturing our young people's talents, but in building their confidence and self-esteem, as can be seen vividly each year at North Lanarkshire's schools concert, when approximately 1,000 young people play the Glasgow royal concert hall?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

I agree with Karen Whitefield, with whom I have attended those concerts many times. North Lanarkshire Council has an extremely vibrant and forward-looking way of dealing with music tuition in schools, which is summed up every year in the concert.

I am considering the youth music initiative, which was supported by the SNP when it was introduced. I would be happy for access to be widened even further in schools so that all children can have the opportunity to learn to play musical instruments. Cathy Peattie, who is sitting beside Karen Whitefield, had a bugbear about the importance of the voice as a musical instrument. I am looking forward to learning much more about the initiative and how we can use it to best advantage.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

I, too, welcome Linda Fabiani to her new role. It was not that many years ago that we sat together on the Holyrood progress group, which I thought took considerable bravery on her part. I am pleased to see her in her new job.

Is Linda Fabiani aware of the importance of commercial film and television production in Scotland, which has the potential to be a great economic activity? Does she acknowledge the particularly important part played by the Scottish Highlands and Islands Film Commission in attracting new films and television productions to Scotland? Will she undertake to ensure that Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the other agencies involved with the commission work together constructively to achieve more in this important area of work for the country?

Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

Tavish Scott is absolutely right. Scotland has a potentially great film industry, which is why the Executive will examine how well the United Kingdom tax incentive works in attracting films to Scotland. Depending on the outcome, and after examining similar schemes in other countries, we will proceed with our plans to develop a new scheme, to ensure that Scotland can compete on equal terms to attract and produce high-quality items.