Kaukab Stewart takes over as Scotland's culture minister - Museums Association

Kaukab Stewart takes over as Scotland’s culture minister

MSP is the first woman of colour appointed to a ministerial role in the Scottish Government
Kaukab Stewart was elected MSP for Glasgow Kelvin in 2021
Kaukab Stewart was elected MSP for Glasgow Kelvin in 2021

Kaukab Stewart has taken over as the minister for culture, Europe and international development in a Scottish Government reshuffle.

Stewart replaces Christina McKelvie, who had been in the role for 10 months and has now been made minister for drugs and alcohol policy.

Stewart is the first woman of colour to become a minister in the Scottish Government, after becoming the first woman of colour to join the Scottish Parliament in 2021 when she was elected MSP for Glasgow Kelvin.

She is currently a convenor on the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee and previously held roles on the Education, Children and Young People Committee.

Stewart's ministerial brief covers culture, museums and heritage, including Creative Scotland, Museums Galleries Scotland, cultural collections, Historic Environment Scotland, Unesco world heritage and intangible cultural heritage.

Announcing the appointment on X, first minister Humza Yousaf said: "I'm proud to bring the first ever woman of colour into government in Scotland, another sign of the progress we're making as a nation, with @kaukabstewart as minister for culture, Europe and international development."

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Stewart said: "It’s an honour and a privilege to serve in government, especially alongside such a strong team delivering for Scotland. Looking forward to getting stuck into such a varied and important brief."

Stewart joins the front bench at a time when museums and cultural organisations are warning that they are under enormous financial pressure following years of underfunding.

The government has pledged to invest £100m more a year in arts and culture by 2028-29, including a £15.8m increase for culture in its 2024-25 budget, which restored some funding after a round of cuts in 2023-24.

However the government is also planning to cut capital funding for non-national museums by 15.1% this year (see box).

Stewart's department will be tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Empire, Slavery and Scotland's Museums steering group, which the Scottish Government formally accepted last month.

Among its recommendations, the steering group has called for the creation of a new museum dedicated to addressing Scotland's role in empire, colonialism and historic slavery. The government has so far committed £200,000 towards putting the recommendations into practice.

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The Museums Association's policy officer, India Divers, said: “We welcome the appointment of Kaukab Stewart as minister for culture, Europe and international development and are pleased that the new minister is already in engaged with the sector through the Empire, Slavery and Scotland’s Museums recommendations.

“We look forward to working with her to raise the profile of museums and the vital role they play in bringing our communities together, helping us to understand our past, and helping to shape a fairer and greener future.”

Funding for Scotland’s museums and heritage in 2024-25

There are some small increases in funding for museums and heritage in the Scottish Government’s budget for 2024-25; however, due to ongoing high inflation, many organisations will experience the budget as a funding cut in real terms.

The cultural collections budget – which covers national and non-national museums and libraries – will receive £91.9m, up 4.5% from £87.9m last year, although this only brings it just above the £90.1m allocated to cultural collections in 2022-23.

This includes a 3.4% rise for National Museums Scotland, from £26.1m to £27m, and a 7.6% rise for the National Galleries of Scotland, from £18.1m to £19.5m.

Funding for non-nationals, including Museums Galleries Scotland and the Scottish Maritime, Mining and Fisheries Museums, will drop 15.1% from £4.65m to £3.95m in 2024-25. This is due to a decrease in capital funding reflecting the “changing profiles of capital projects”.

Historic Environment Scotland will see its budget rise 2.1%, from £72.7m in 2023-24 to £74.2m this year.

The government says: “Our continued and increased investment in Scotland’s culture and heritage will improve the resilience and sustainability of our culture sector and, in tandem with our cross-government public service reform activity, will support our publicly funded culture bodies to deliver high-quality services, sustainably and equitably, that are fit for the future.”

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