Robert Wilson re-appointed as Creative Scotland Chair for the next four years

Published: 14 Mar 2022

With the news of his re-appointment as Chair, Robert reflects on the past four years and looks ahead at what’s to come.

Robert Wilson stands in front of a colourful background with geometric stripes behind him, he's wearing a suit and smiling

Robert Wilson, Chair of the Board of Creative Scotland

It is with great pleasure that I accept re-appointment as Chair of Creative Scotland for the coming four years.

Since I was first appointed as Chair in February 2018, I have been privileged to work with dedicated Board members and expert Staff at Creative Scotland, as well as exceptional people and organisations across Scotland’s culture and creative sector, during a time in which we have collectively faced some of the biggest challenges in living memory.

The Covid-19 pandemic impacted Scotland’s culture and creative sector early and in significant ways. Culture was one of the first parts of society to close-down in the interests of public health and has been one of the last to be able to fully re-open. The pandemic affected many thousands of jobs and forced cultural organisations to quickly adapt to face the crisis.

I have been both humbled and inspired in equal measure by the response to the pandemic – and the sheer hard work – demonstrated by Creative Scotland Staff and by everyone across Scotland’s culture and creative sector in addressing its impacts. This has been helped greatly by significant and much needed emergency funding from the Scottish Government and the National Lottery, without which many jobs would have been lost and, I fear, many organisations closed permanently.

Over the past two years, since the onset of the pandemic, Creative Scotland has distributed in excess of £100m in emergency funds. More than 14,000 grants have been awarded, to both individuals and organisations, which is 3 times the volume of awards we would make in a ‘normal’ year. This has been an epic effort and, as Chair, I want to acknowledge that and the enormous difference it has made.

As I start my next four years as Chair, things look a lot brighter with the vaccination programme taking effect, public health restrictions being lifted, and our culture and creative sector re-opening and looking ahead to a time when art in Scotland can again fulfil its potential without boundaries.

Unfortunately, different global challenges have emerged which may yet have a significant impact on our lives in ways we cannot yet fully assess. All our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine at this time, and, like everyone, we hope for a swift end to hostilities and a return to peace.

In amongst the breadth and volume of work that Creative Scotland delivers, there are two other things that I’d specifically like to mention from my first four years as Chair.

Firstly, a key moment for Creative Scotland was the appointment of Iain Munro as Chief Executive in October 2019, on a permanent basis. Iain has been with Creative Scotland since its creation in 2010 and previously with the Scottish Arts Council. His extensive knowledge and experience have been invaluable through the extreme challenges we have all faced and his ongoing leadership will hold us in good stead as we look to the future.

Secondly, one of the first major developments that happened for me in my role as Chair, was the launch in August 2018 of Screen Scotland. This created a new focus on support for Scotland’s Screen sector, and I was delighted to welcome Isabel Davis to lead Screen Scotland, and we have been equally delighted to see the acceleration and expansion in the growth of Scotland’s film and TV sector over the past four years.

Looking forward there is much to be done across the arts, screen and creative industries.

As I write, we are in the process of delivering the latest round of emergency funding from the Scottish Government for freelancers, cultural organisations, and the Edinburgh Festivals. This is our top priority until the end of the financial year, beyond which, the recovery and renewal of Scotland’s culture and creative sector becomes paramount, including the introduction of new approaches to funding that better meet the needs of cultural organisations.

We will also have a renewed focus on proactive advocacy to promote the role that culture and creativity plays in all our lives across all parts of society in a wellbeing economy, and on the world stage, to ensure that Scotland’s undoubted reputation for our cultural strengths continue to be recognised and celebrated.

In understanding the changing world around us, Creative Scotland has also been considering how we use our work and resources to help address the most significant challenge facing humanity, that of the climate emergency.

Building on the what’s been delivered since 2011, during which time we have worked with the sector in Scotland to develop carbon reporting and share good sustainable practice, we are in the final stages of developing a ground-breaking Climate Emergency and Sustainability Plan. This Plan will deliver a step change in terms of how we, as an organisation, and the culture and creative sector, can work collectively to address the climate challenge that faces us. We aim to publish more on this early in the new financial year and it will shape how we operate and how we work with others for years to come.

We will also be focussed on addressing the challenge of fair working practices in the culture and creative sector and using our funding and influence to raise standards, promote skills and develop talent in a sustainable and fair way. Alongside this, we will maintain a focus on equalities, diversity, and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. I continue to be committed to increasing the diversity of those who receive our support and benefit from it. We all want to see more people from all parts of society accessing culture and creativity as part of their lives.

In closing, I’d like to extend thanks to our Culture Secretary, Angus Robertson and also the previous Cabinet Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, for all their support and counsel in my role as Chair over past four years and in the years to come.

As we emerge from the challenging times of the past two years, I have big ambitions for Creative Scotland, for the work that we do, and for the ways in which we can most effectively support Scotland’s culture and creative sector to not just recover, but to flourish and thrive in the coming years.

Culture and creativity play a central role in all our lives in Scotland, bringing pleasure and wellbeing, contributing to our education, our jobs and economy, our communities and environment. Culture and creativity will play an even more important role as we emerge from the pandemic and face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. I assure you that the Board, the Staff of Creative Scotland and I will continue to do everything we can to ensure this happens.

Robert Wilson

Chair of Creative Scotland

March 2022