Hyslop: independence would protect culture budgets

Rebecca Atkinson, 08.11.2012
Scottish culture secretary opens MA conference
Scottish independence would help protect museum and gallery budgets from UK spending cuts, Fiona Hyslop, cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs, told delegates at the Museums Association conference.

In her welcome speech at the 2012 event in Edinburgh, Hyslop praised the impact of the Scottish cultural sector on the economy and employment, as well as local communities and wider society.

“I value the tremendous impact of museums and galleries, and I strive to protect them,” she said. “Our budgets have been savagely cut by the UK government but we have maintained our funding to the cultural sector and I have fought hard to protect grant funding. There have been small decreases in budgets to national collections but these have not been as extensive as their UK counterparts.”

Discussing what a yes vote in the 2014 referendum might mean for museums and galleries in Scotland, Hyslop said independence would allow her government to choose its own priorities.

“Independence gives me the chance of further protecting museum budgets. I will protect our strong cultural spend.”

She also emphasised the importance of international collaboration: “I always say we want to be independent in order to be more international, and nowhere is that more important than in the cultural sector.”

Questions from delegates focused on what a museum service might look like in an independent Scotland.

Nat Edwards, director of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, asked what the impact of a yes vote would mean in terms of a national museum service in Scotland.

Hyslop said that cross-border work already happening in museums across the country would continue post 2014, but there would be more work on an international basis and with Europe. The UK government, she added, was too inward-looking and anti-Europe.

Elsewhere in her speech, Hyslop praised museum professionals’ continuing passion for their work despite the current climate, and termed them “guardians of people’s memories”.