The Scottish Arts Council 1967-2007: arts governance and national identity. A historical analysis of cultural policymaking


Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the study investigated the history of the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) over the period 1967 – 2007. Its particular focus was the relationship between culture and national identity and how this has been understood, expressed and reflected in policy towards the arts in Scotland. The study, which began in April 2008, was undertaken during a transitional period in arts governance with the new cultural development agency, Creative Scotland, finally replacing the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen in July 2010.

The period of the study included the establishment of SAC under Royal Charter, its devolution from the Arts Council of Great Britain to the Scottish Office in 1994, and after 1999 to the devolved Scottish government. These constitutional disjunctures provided a structured timeframe for the study of policy change. The main methods were archival and documentary review and interviews with key actors. The study made extensive use of the records of the SAC and the Scottish Education Department and a range of other civic and cultural organisations. The project archive is held at CCPR.

The research was interested in how the SAC conceived of the ‘national’ in its policymaking and funding; the question of the ‘arms length’ principle and the degree of political autonomy that existed in Scottish arts governance; the SAC’s own role in relation to national identity in a Scottish context and how this was perceived both inside and outside the institution; and the extent to which culture and national identity have been a contested area in SAC policy and funding decisions.

The Principal Investigator was Susan Galloway and the Research Assistant, Huw David Jones.



An end of project seminar, ‘Arts policy and national identity in Scotland: past and future’, was held on 19 March 2010, where the research findings were discussed with invited experts.



Susan Galloway and Huw David Jones, (2010) The Scottish dimension of British arts government: a historical perspective, Cultural Trends, 19, Issue 1&2.

Huw David Jones and Susan Galloway, Arts governance in Scotland: the saga of Scottish Opera, 1962-2007, Journal of Scottish Historical Studies (forthcoming, due for publication October 2011).

Susan Galloway, The Arts Council and the Gaelic arts, Northern Scotland (forthcoming, due for publication May 2012).

Conference Papers

'Arts policy and national identity: the history of the Arts Council in Scotland', presented at the 6th International Conference on Cultural Policy Research, 24–27 August 2010, Jyväskylä University, Finland.

'National culture, identity and arts policy: the case of Scotland', presented as part of an international workshop on “Identity, Nationalism and Cultural Policy in Europe”, Nordic Cultural Institute, 19 - 20 November 2009, University of Copenhagen.

‘The Scottish dimension of British arts government: a historical perspective’, presented at the Cultural Trends Conference, Centre/Periphery: Devolution/Federalism, New Trends in Cultural Policy at City University, London on Friday 16th October 2009.