Creative Scotland (Severance Package for Chief Executive)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 11th December 2012.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

3. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide details of the severance package agreed with the chief executive of Creative Scotland, Andrew Dixon, in light of his announcement that he is to leave the organisation in January 2013. (S4T-00158)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

No, as that is a matter for the board of Creative Scotland, which employs the chief executive.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

I am very disappointed to hear that. I am not quite sure why the Scottish Government should be complicit in a cover-up of the expenditure of considerable sums of public money.

In considering her answer to my previous question, the cabinet secretary should acknowledge that we have got into a situation in which the year of creative Scotland has turned into the year of destructive—or self-destructive—Scotland. Given that she wrote to the board of Creative Scotland prior to Mr Dixon’s announcement to outline her concerns in clear terms, given the broad criticism from the artistic community over recent months of Creative Scotland’s conduct and policies, and given the acknowledgement by the board of Creative Scotland of serious failings in its organisation and management, does the cabinet secretary think that the departure of one man is a sufficient response?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Creative Scotland’s accounts will be published next year, and there will clearly be disclosure of the package as part of those accounts. Such accounts are regularly published after the financial year ends on 31 March.

The agreement with Mr Dixon is a confidential matter, and the board has been decisive in its actions. It has issued a statement, which was published on Friday. I am not sure whether the member has seen it, but it has been well received by the cultural community and by artists, who have commented that they think that the board has recognised the issues and that it needs to move on.

The board will change Creative Scotland’s operational structure to use staff knowledge and expertise more effectively, and it will establish internal and external forums to allow artists, creative practitioners and staff to contribute to policy development. Long-term funding will be offered, and there will be changes to the perceived hierarchy in its funding operations.

There is an opportunity for Creative Scotland to move on. We have a very strong artistic sector and a vibrant cultural scene in Scotland, and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that the organisation can move on. Andrew Dixon has resigned, but more has to be done with the organisation. The board’s statement and the actions that it announced on Friday are a good step forward in that direction, and the sector has recognised that.

Photo of David McLetchie David McLetchie Conservative

Can the cabinet secretary confirm that she retains full confidence in the board of Creative Scotland and that following the publication of the internal reviews, which is due to take place on Friday, she will take all necessary steps to restore the confidence of members of the artistic community in Scotland in the organisation?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

As the member mentioned in his previous question, I have written to the board on a number of occasions, setting out my concerns in letters of guidance to it. I made it clear in October that I wanted it to address the concerns about its operations. After my discussions with the board in June, it had already taken steps to establish the interim report process and, as the member said, those reports will be published on Friday.

The member might not be aware of the statement by the board last Friday, in which it indicated what actions it is going to take in some areas. The interim reports that will be published on Friday will also set out specific actions, which is what people expect and require. I think that we can take confidence from the statement by the board last Friday, which has been well received by the sector.

There is a job of work to be done, and I expect that work to happen. We need strong relationships between Creative Scotland and our artists. Over many years—since before my time as culture secretary and, indeed, since before our term in government—there has been a real issue with the relationships between artists and the funding organisation and the wider remit. However, the steps that the board is taking and the tone of the statement are the appropriate way forward. I think that the board deserves the support not just of the Parliament but of others in taking those actions forward.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I very much agree with the cabinet secretary that the response of the board of Creative Scotland on Friday was helpful in setting a good course for the body to take. However, given the interventions that she made in June and October, I wonder why Creative Scotland could not have come to a similar conclusion sooner and why it took the resignation of the chief executive to bring about the changes. I would be grateful for her assurance that, over the period that we are about to face, when the organisation will be without a chief executive to lead it, there will be stability and continuity for those artists and arts organisations that depend on Creative Scotland.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I agree with Patricia Ferguson that stability and continuity are essential. Strong relationships help to develop the cultural sector and are necessary for the work of the artists themselves and others within the sector who are dependent on Creative Scotland.

Patricia Ferguson talks about change, but the board had been examining the issues for some time. I gave evidence to the Education and Culture Committee a few months ago in which I said that we should allow the board time to carry out its piece of work. Two reports were produced by two of the board members, which were considered at length by the board last week. I do not think that it took the resignation for those actions to be taken; indeed, the work of the board has been on-going for several months.

The statement that the board made on Friday was definitive and was also a result of listening. If it was to listen to the sector—to the artists and, importantly, to the staff of the organisation—it was important that the board had the time to pursue its deliberations. I recommend that everyone read Friday’s statement. I will ensure that it is in the Scottish Parliament information centre, so that all members will have access to it.