McAlpine welcomes First Minister’s comments on youth arts

MSP Joan McAlpine today welcomed the First Minister’s commitment to look at how the success of Scots athletes at the Commonwealth Games could help inspire a new way to fund the most artistically talented young people as well.

The MSP, who convenes the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, was questioning the First Minister in a session with committee chairs yesterday at the Scottish Parliament.

Using the example of the Scottish Youth Theatre, which was funded by the Scottish Government after it threatened to close when Creative Scotland rejected its grant application, Ms McAlpine suggested national youth performing companies could be treated in the same way as Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, which are directly funded by government.

Ms McAlpine pointed out there was a consensus that all children and young people can benefit from participation in both culture and sport. However the two were treated quite differently when it came to nurturing the most talented.  There was agreement that the athletes with potential needed specialised coaching – which paid off with Commonwealth medals – but we treat the arts quite differently.

In her answer, the First Minister said she was sympathetic to the idea:

“Like sport, participation in arts and culture for everyone is a really important part of the health and well-being of the country, as well as individuals.

“But we also need to make sure in terms of participants, those who are really are producing, performing – the really talented people – are being given the support they merit.

“There is work under way just now in terms of a refreshed youth arts strategy, which will be published in the not too distant future. 

“Creative Scotland have established traineeships for talented young people, which is a step in the direction you are talking about.

“I think the traineeship programme from Creative Scotland is a good foundation to look at what more we can do there.”

During the meeting, the First Minister agreed that a directly funded national youth theatre is also something that the Scottish Government should take into consideration. 

The First Minister suggested that the process the Scottish Government are going through with Scottish Youth Theatre over the next year will give the chance to look at this.

Ms McAlpine said:

“I was really encouraged by the First Minister’s comments today in response to my questions.

“The government’s ‘Time to Shine’ youth strategy is great in that it is very inclusive and reaches out to all young people who absolutely have a right to access culture, both as participants and as audience members.

“But we need to also think about how we then progress those who show the most talent if that’s what they want. I was struck by a comment made by someone concerned about Creative Scotland’s rejection of the Scottish Youth Theatre when they said “it would never happen in youth football”. We need to have a debate about that. Why is it fine to invest in sporting excellence but it you do the same in arts its considered elitist? 

“We should be able to do both.”