The National Gallery and National Galleries of Scotland jointly purchased Diana and Callisto from the Duke of Sutherland

Nationals say collections will be unaffected if Scotland votes yes

Geraldine Kendall, 17.09.2014
But UK-wide bodies lack contingency plans for independence
A number of national museums have told Museums Journal that they do not anticipate problems with shared collections or loan agreements between institutions north and south of the border in the event of Scottish independence.

Some commentators have warned that issues could arise over joint ownership and loans of collections, with devolution analyst Alan Trench, honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh, warning that the continuation of such arrangements post-independence would be "hugely problematic".

But a spokesman from the National Galleries of Scotland said its current sharing arrangements, including the two Titian paintings it purchased jointly with the National Gallery in London in 2009 and 2012, would be unaffected.

He said: “The two Titian paintings (Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto) are jointly owned by the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery in London, and this will continue to be the case, should Scotland become independent. The two institutions will continue to share the paintings for the benefit of their respective publics.

“Regardless of the outcome of the vote, we are confident that we will continue to enjoy very positive support from the Scottish Government for our ongoing collaborations with private collectors.”

A spokeswoman from the British Museum (BM) said: “We will await the outcome of the referendum but we don’t jointly own any objects with Scotland and the collection of the BM is held by the trustees for the benefit of all, it is not the property of the UK Government.”

The spokeswoman added that the museum does not anticipate that any “current or future loan agreement discussions” would be disrupted by independence.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman from National Museums Scotland said: “We will have to wait for the outcome of the referendum before we are able to consider its possible impact.”

However, Museums Journal has learned that UK-wide funders and sector bodies do not yet have contingency plans for their remit in Scotland in the event of a ‘yes’ vote in tomorrow’s referendum.

Although responsibility for culture is already largely devolved, no discussions have taken place at senior level as yet over what would happen to UK-wide programmes such as Accreditation and Acceptance in Lieu (AIL), or funders such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had no contingency plans for its UK-wide funding and activities if Scotland votes for independence.

Other organisations said they would be obliged to await government negotiations before they could consider how the break-up of the union may affect their activities.

A HLF spokesman said: “As a UK non-departmental body we are waiting for the outcome of the referendum and any resulting negotiations that may take place between the UK and Scottish governments to see if that has any implications for HLF – otherwise we anticipate it being business as usual.”

A spokeswoman from Arts Council England, which manages the Accreditation and AIL schemes, said: “Any implications for our statutory responsibilities would need to be considered by the relevant government department and we can’t speculate on what the outcome of any of those decisions might be.”

There is also no indication as yet how a yes vote might affect the planned V&A Museum of Design in Dundee, which has been developed in a joint partnership between the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and a number of Scottish institutions, including the University of Dundee and Scottish Enterprise. The museum did not respond to a request for comment.

A news analysis on the independence referendum and its implications for culture will appear in the October edition of Museums Journal


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17.09.2014, 21:21
A perfectly sound legal case could be advanced by the government of an independent Scotland in respect of two specifically British institutions based in London, the BM and the Tate Gallery of British Art. Both their contents and property holdings are vested in the people of the UK as a whole, thus the Scots would be entitled to around 8.5% pro rata by value of all equity. The institutions should have been preparing contingency plans months ago with a view to reaching an amicable arrangement, but heads were well and truly buried in sand.
18.09.2014, 12:53
Given that there's no idea what would happen to, say, Scotland's share of the national debt, it seems a tad unreasonable to expect national museums to have carefully prepared contingency plans. Not so much head-in-the-sand as perfectly reasonable wait-and-see.