Issue 114/11, p15, 01.11.2014
What's next for culture following the Scottish referendum?
Hazel Edwards, senior engagement manager (arts and humanities), Durham University

“If debate in the run-up to the referendum prompted questions about the status of British institutions such as Tate Britain and the British Museum, then it is tempting to view the no vote as a mandate for ‘business as usual’.

However, with regionalism featuring strongly in political debate, there is a fresh chance to look at how culture is supported in the English regions, as well as the nations.

Local autonomy in the delivery of public services is gaining traction, and cultural organisations need to engage with this new agenda.”

Paddy Gilmore, director of learning and partnership, National Museums Northern Ireland

“Informed debate and the enfranchisement of young people were, for me, the dominant features of the referendum.

Museums play a vital role in society, and issues of cultural diversity and distinctiveness, identity, history and traditions are central to our work.

The informed debate that we can facilitate has only a positive impact on efforts to create an understanding of our shared past and, hence, an appreciation of a potential shared future. Young people are central to such conversations and key to how culture is shaped in this changing society.”

Nat Edwards, assistant director south, National Trust for Scotland

“We have been thrown three challenges. First, how do museums engage with a major constitutional issue? Most museums interpreted neutrality as remaining silent – but was silence abrogation?

Second, we need to understand the changes resulting from devolution that impact on our operations, from changes in the Barnett formula to VAT.

Most importantly, in Scotland ordinary people have felt a part of history in an unprecedented way. If museums cannot be places where people can hold on to that sense of being part of history, where else can?”

Owain Rhys, community engagement and participation manager, Amgueddfa Cymru

“The main positive was the enthusiasm and widespread engagement with the political process. This proves that museums should not be afraid of dealing with difficult political issues, whether it is independence, immigration, poverty or cultural isolation.

It also challenged traditional British, English and London-centric views, which could have repercussions on representations of heritage and culture, not only in the devolved countries, but also in English regions aspiring for more control over their funding and representation.”