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Chamber and committees

Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee

Meeting date: Thursday, March 3, 2022


Scottish Government Resource Spending Review

The Deputy Convener

Item 2 is consideration of the Scottish Government’s resource spending review. I welcome to the meeting Sarah Cameron, who is development manager at Social Enterprise Network Scotland. We will move straight to questions, and I will take the liberty of asking the first one.

In your written submission, you quote a statistic that 66 per cent of general practitioners agree that engagement with the arts is good for the preventative health agenda. Many cultural organisations do not have an internal budget to develop solutions for health and social care. Do you have any observations on how we can begin to square that circle?

Sarah Cameron (Social Enterprise Network Scotland)

I thank you all for inviting me along to speak today. That is a really interesting question, and, for many years, social enterprises have been playing with exactly how they can deliver on that.

There are a variety of ways that the Government could support the development of resources so that social enterprises can meet the needs of our population. We all agree on the importance of culture, but there are various approaches out there. Social prescribing, which has been spoken about in previous committee meetings, is definitely a way to move forward but, if it is a real consideration of Government, it has to be addressed properly and resourced in the appropriate way.

There is an issue around the development of work. Lots of social enterprises are doing pieces of work around culture and health, but they are not necessarily being paid for it. They are developing and delivering their own systems because that is the need of their community, not because they are being paid to do so.

There is something about developing a voice for the sector so that cultural and creative organisations start to communicate better with the health sector and explore those issues in a different way, without putting more strain on the organisations. That is a difficult approach, but there might be links with academia. I am not quite getting that right, but there are systems in place. Our social enterprises and cultural and creative organisations are going about that work in a different way. Can we explore exactly what they are doing and the benefits of their doing that? How can we resource those different ways of working and start to develop models that actually work and provide opportunities?

I am no expert on health and social care, but the private sector is successfully working in that area, so why can we not resource the third sector and our cultural and creative organisations in the same way? I am not sure that I am really answering your question, so much as throwing up more questions, if that makes sense. There is an awful lot of work to be done. Work is going on out there, but it is under the radar.

I am sorry—I do not think that I have answered your question.

The Deputy Convener

You have been very helpful and, if anything, you have highlighted that there is an issue.

In your submission, you refer to the SPRING Social Prescribing project. Can you tell us a bit more about that? It sounds fascinating.

Sarah Cameron

Absolutely. I am not at the heart of that project, but what is important is the collaborative approach it has taken, which has equality at its heart. Developing those relationships on the ground and empowering community-led organisations to take a lead has been a really important aspect of the work of those involved.

I would note that the project has been doing that for quite a long time—it has been going on for a few years now. If you are interested in social prescribing, it would definitely be worth having a conversation with the folk involved with the SPRING project. It is already linked to some aspects of Government, and I think that it would be interested in linking beyond the health and social care directorate and into the culture directorate and other areas, which goes back to my point about the importance of collaboration.

Thank you. We will move to questions from colleagues.

Jenni Minto (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)

Thank you, Sarah, for coming along. It must be quite daunting to be the only person on the panel, so congratulations for being here.

To follow on from Donald Cameron’s questions, I am also interested in the SPRING project. Healthy Options Oban, which is in my constituency, is involved in the project and does fantastic work.

You talked a bit about collaboration. Can you give us any more information about the fact that the project is a collaboration between Scottish and Northern Irish groups and how that has worked? Perhaps there is something that we can learn from the fact that the funding is coming from different sources.

Sarah Cameron

Again, I am not an expert in the finer details of the work. However, to go back to the point about collaboration, the people who came together originally had a vision for their organisations in relation to meeting the needs of their communities, so it has been a grass-roots approach rather than a top-down approach. That has probably been key to the project’s success.

Although I referred to the SPRING Social Prescribing project in my submission, social prescribing is not working terribly well elsewhere in the country, because it is not resourced. There is an attitude that social prescribing is happening and that it is the answer, but it is not being resourced. There are not the links with GPs in the way that there could be—again, I think that that is down to capacity on both sides—and there is not an understanding.

What is lovely about the SPRING Social Prescribing project is that it has started to develop some of that understanding and is able to share that. However, that is not normal—it is not happening elsewhere in the same way. The project has attracted resource investment and attracted interest, and that is part of its success. That is probably to do with some of the voices involved, as well—that is what happens when you have the right people at the table.

Jenni Minto

That is fair. Last week, I asked Robbie McGhee from Arts Culture Health & Wellbeing Scotland about the perception of social prescribing. Members of the public might expect to go to their doctor and simply get antibiotics, so social prescribing could come as a bit of a shock. The issue is about how we get over that barrier, which is something that Healthy Options Oban has done incredibly well.

In the preparation that you did before coming to see us, you put out a survey to your members. Are there any real learning points that we can get from what the members of SENScot have said to you?

Sarah Cameron

Our membership is interesting, and we get a variety of answers in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it is about drilling down and picking up the phone to organisations and having those broader conversations. The message at the moment is that life is hard out there for organisations. It is tough, and they need support. They need resource and financial support in some cases but, beyond that, they need support to create stronger relationships at all levels. That means relationships within their communities and with organisations that already exist. They also need support to develop stronger relationships with national and local government.

At the beginning of this session, I commented on funding. In the past, Government has promised longer-term three-year funding deals, which would then filter down to a variety of practitioners and creatives. Probably the strongest message that came out of the survey was that that has never been delivered, for various reasons—most recently, Covid has got in the way somewhat. There is a push from the sector to ask for longer and more supportive relationships so that organisations can start to develop and do not have to constantly chase their tail just trying to survive for the next year but can instead put in place longer-term plans to develop their work. That came out incredibly strongly from everybody whom I spoke to.

Thank you.

Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

Welcome, Sarah. You just talked about multiyear funding settlements. A number of cultural and creative organisations have seen a freeze in funding levels over the past few years, with a real-terms reduction in funding as a result of inflationary pressures and the adoption of fair work practices. What are members telling you about those inflationary pressures? How would you like them to be mitigated through funding agreements?

Sarah Cameron

That is key to moving forwards. You are absolutely right that organisations are working on less and less each year, which is making things tighter and tighter and making it difficult to deliver on fair work. Fair work is at the heart of those organisations, so they want to deliver it, and many of them have been doing so for many years but, as the purse strings are tightened, it becomes more and more difficult to make that happen.

Obviously, it is up to the Government to set budgets but, to go back to the previous issue, there is an ask for inflation to be taken into consideration when organisations are funded in those longer-term settlements. We also need to look at how contracts work and consider how to create more opportunities. Organisations out there do not want handouts; they are happy to work for what they get, but they want a fair shout. They want to be able to tap into funds and do so fairly and they do not want to constantly have to scrabble around to try to make things work.


You will be aware that, when funding comes through, there are lots of caveats attached—for example, core funding or capital funding might not be available. That means that there is a constant process of going to different people and trying to fit together lots of different things. We need to take a more flexible approach in relation to what an organisation needs to succeed and what we need to do to support them to become sustainable. That way, we can then move on and continue to support other organisations.

Doing that will also allow those organisations to continue to support start-ups. Every day, we see organisations and social enterprises in the cultural and creative sectors supporting one another and start-ups.

The way forward is to have a mature relationship that focuses on supporting organisations to move to the next step, as opposed to keeping them constantly struggling in one place. That is really what people are asking for.

Maurice Golden

One recommendation that you highlight in your submission—you alluded to this earlier—is around commissioning and procurement as a potential market for cultural and creative organisations. I imagine that the cultural and creative sectors are not necessarily as aligned as other sectors in providing goods and services.

In your submission, you give the Glasgow Connected Arts Network as an example of where such procurement support can work well. What more can the Scottish Government and other public bodies do to create potential markets for cultural and creative organisations?

Sarah Cameron

We have been working on that issue for a little while. Procurement cropped up as an issue in the social enterprise world many years ago and the Government put in a lot of support to allow the sector to start to develop opportunities. At the time, there was a project called ready for business, which was mostly public sector facing. That was very much about educating and supporting the public sector to understand how to procure from the third sector. Training and support was also provided to the third sector so that it could upskill and be in position to bid for and take on contracts.

That was followed by the work of the Partnership for Procurement—P4P—team, which is very much about collaboration. The team brings together groups. It is recognised that one person running an organisation does not have the ability to deliver massive contracts, so the issue is whether organisations can come together to deliver them. There is a lot that the cultural and creative sectors can learn from that.

There is an opportunity to go out to the public sector and help it to understand what commissioning it could be involved in. Sometimes, there is perhaps a lack of imagination in how commissioners are working. The cultural and creative sectors are perfectly suited to supporting that imaginative way of working.

There is real interest in the sectors. If you are sitting in a room full of creatives and you start talking about procurement, you will find that they are interested. However, there are a lack of opportunities in that regard. There is work to be done to build the market, and there is work to be done to upskill the sectors, so that those opportunities can be provided for organisations to come together.

The Glasgow arts partnership consortium is an example of such collaborative work. GAP is not just about procurement but about funding, and it allows organisations to come together. To return to the previous question on collaborative working around health, the consortium allows organisations to go for projects on which organisations can work together, allowing them to bring in practitioners with different expertise to deliver projects that they believe that a particular community needs.

We can definitely learn from other sectors. With the right resource and investment, and by bringing the right groups of people to the table, we can certainly do that. We can create a system by changing the way in which procurement opportunities arise and open up a market for that.

That was very interesting. The situation is similar with sustainable procurement, too. Thank you for your contribution.

Sarah Boyack has a supplementary question on that subject.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I want to follow on from the first two sets of questions from Jenni Minto and Maurice Golden. On the one hand, it is clear that there is quite a lot of support for the principle of social prescribing, with very good experience on the ground showing that that works. On the other hand, as Maurice Golden has mentioned, there is a lack of multiyear funding, which means that organisations cannot develop the connections with the health sector to enable people to be recommended. Equally, the organisations cannot plan ahead and guarantee that there will be fair work. At previous meetings, we have heard evidence that Covid has knocked the creative sector for six because it has become a hand-to-mouth existence for freelancers and people have had to move out of the sector.

What do you recommend as a way to kick-start that, given that we do not have the networks and the funding? Is it to get money and a commitment to multiyear funding in place? What do you advise us to ask the Scottish Government to do now to start to get the mechanisms in place?

Sarah Cameron

There is a variety of things. Multiyear funding definitely needs addressing. Obviously, that would reach only a certain number of organisations, because the Government does not fund everybody.

Sitting alongside that is the need to ask Government to pay up on time. That is simple. If something is agreed for April but it is not paid till September, it is a difficult situation to put people in. As we go into the new financial year, we should address that to ensure that, when funding is agreed, it is paid promptly to allow people to move on.

If you are asking people to recover just now but they have to survive for six months on their reserves, they cannot deliver on fair work. You have promised them money but they do not know that it will definitely come in, so there is always the fear that it will not. The important point is that they cannot start to work with freelancers and bring in the creatives who have been struggling through Covid and have not had opportunities to work. If you start to put in place the longer-term funding and ensure that there is a commitment to pay straight away, it will have a ripple effect and start to support the rest of the sector. The Government works closely with Creative Scotland so, while that work is going on, there is work to be done on the latter’s funding streams, particularly on the language that it uses and reaching out beyond the usual suspects.

An issue that I have come across repeatedly when working with cultural and creative social enterprises is the lack of connection between third sector support and cultural and creative sector support. There is a lack of joined-up thinking. Again, education is needed. There is a need to bring those two areas together to get people to understand what is available so that we do not duplicate efforts. I doubt whether Creative Scotland actually needs to build a business support wing because business support exists elsewhere but the business support that exists elsewhere currently does not have the expertise for creatives. We hear all the time that, when creatives go for business support, there is a lack of understanding about what they do, so there is an awful lot to be done on that.

However, there are opportunities to talk directly to the sector and explore projects and ideas that people who work in it have by working through the networks that already exist. Although there does not seem to be one voice for the cultural sector—that would be pretty difficult because there are so many industries in it—there are lots of really strong, incredibly supportive voices. Although people have dropped out of the sector in many cases, they are still connected to those networks and to the grass roots. At SENScot, we talk all the time about the importance of giving people at the grass roots a voice and the opportunity to explore their own solutions.

The key measures that I would ask for are a longer-term funding settlement with a commitment to pay quickly and efficiently and to get rid of some of the bureaucracy around that, and a commitment to start to explore the grass-roots voice, make the broader connections and support the networks that already exist so that they can tell you exactly what their members need and you can put those provisions in place. If the support goes straight to the grass roots, they need to have a voice about what it looks like; it cannot be a top-down approach.

I hope that that answers the question. I think that I maybe went around the houses.

Sarah Boyack

Yes, it does answer the question and the point that you made about business support for the creative sector in particular, given the circumstances, is something that comes across quite loudly. In response to Jenni Minto and Maurice Golden, you referred to the disconnect between the ambitions and the reality. That is definitely something that is worth us reflecting on.

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

I have a question on mainstreaming the funding of arts and culture in bigger projects, whether those are infrastructure projects for town centres or, as we have talked about in the past in this committee, big projects for the health service. If we look at other countries, Ireland has been cited as an example of where a percentage of the project itself is ring fenced or earmarked for culture and arts. Do you think that we have anything to learn from that model?

Sarah Cameron

Absolutely. That is certainly something that I hear repeatedly. There is a general feeling that culture is not respected and that it is left to last. It is seen, quite often, as the most effective method when projects are not being delivered on time. As the panic sets in, people say, “Let us bring in the creatives, they will be able to fix it for us.” However, the feeling is that creatives are not valued or put right at the heart of projects. I do not know whether that is true across the board, but it is certainly something that is felt quite strongly in the sector.

I know that Culture Counts has been doing lots of work around the national planning framework and the importance of making sure that culture is right at the heart of that. There is still a need to drive home the importance of culture, in particular its importance in planning and projects. Ring fencing amounts to ensure that that is delivered would be fantastically useful.

However, something that has also been fed back to me—and I may cause some division here—is that, in the social enterprises that I work with, there is quite often anger about public art and the way in which it is created. Organisations are saying, “Why have they spent all that money on something that is going to sit in the middle of a roundabout when they could have spent it on something that involves a collaborative approach, which we could have worked directly with the community on in a completely different way?”

Again, there are probably diverse opinions. You might get some very different opinions if you are speaking to different artists. However, with the social enterprises that I am working with, there is a strong opinion that they would really like to have a seat at the table. They would like to be resourced and to be allowed to have that impact and they would like to bring their local community with them as well. It is a two-fold thing. It is not just about the creatives; it is about that broader connection to the community and to the residents as well.

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

How do we map out the good work that is happening around Scotland? We heard in evidence last week that Creative Scotland is doing some of the mapping but that it perhaps excludes those organisations that are working with the NHS. How do we get to grips with the extent of the work that is happening around Scotland? Do we approach that from a Creative Scotland point of view or from a SENScot point of view, or are there other organisations that should be taking the lead on making sure that we understand everything that is going on and the value of that?

Sarah Cameron

That is a massive undertaking because of the sheer amount of work that is going on across Scotland. I certainly think that Creative Scotland has a role in that because of the relationships that it already has. However, an organisation does not have a relationship with Creative Scotland if it is not funded by Creative Scotland, and there are an awful lot of organisations that are not funded by it.

Every couple of years, there is a social enterprise census, which is funded by the Scottish Government and which contains information about cultural and creative organisations that are social enterprises. However, the information is very limited. The committee will have more access to the data than me, so that might be something that you want to explore. Potentially something could be done to insert more questions in the census and develop the information that is gathered. It looks only at social enterprises; it does not look at the broader third sector or independent and sole traders.


I suspect that a few different organisations could come to the table to have a conversation about the work that is happening. Certainly the likes of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisation would be useful in making connections, and it would be useful to bring Voluntary Arts Scotland and a whole raft of organisations to the table for a conversation.

If you are looking just at health, NHS Scotland itself is the organisation to go with. We have some fantastic examples of organisations that are delivering on contracts, are a partner or are picking up the scraps, so to speak, and do not have an official relationship. It would be nice to gather information and get a picture of what that looks like.

There are organisations such as Artlink Central in Stirling that have a strong presence in their local hospital—in that case, in Forth Valley Royal hospital. Artlink Central is probably the type of organisation that would be worth having a conversation with. At one point, it had a network—I have forgotten its name—around prisons and health, and prisons are a useful connection to make if you are looking at data around this stuff and the work that is happening in prisons across Scotland.

An issue around counting some of this stuff might be the question of what culture is. I hate to bring that up, because I am sure that you have had that conversation many times. However, helping organisations to understand their own activity is part of the process of counting. What is culture and what is creative? You might have to put in some parameters for those questions.

It is a big piece of work, but we would be very interested in being linked in with it.

Mark Ruskell

There is obviously a big and intricate national picture; there is also the local picture. That leads me to the question about who leads on strategy and development. Are councils able and willing to do that? Is there inconsistency across Scotland? We heard last week about Renfrewshire Council, I think, doing good work on social prescribing. Is it a bit of a postcode lottery as to how social or cultural enterprise organisations—however we wish to define them—are supported? Is there good practice to point to from community planning partnerships or elsewhere on how to do this work effectively?

Sarah Cameron

I completely agree that there is a postcode lottery. It entirely depends on not just the local authority but the people who are involved—the individuals who are in the relevant role. As soon as somebody leaves a post, it can create huge issues and projects get dropped. We saw that with Centrestage Communities in Kilmarnock and the fantastic work that it was doing. It was working closely with a school, but a member of staff left and it now no longer works with that school. It all comes down to one individual. There is probably work to be done around policy to ensure that there is some sort of impetus to make things happen and drive them forward.

There are lots of little cases of great examples and relationships. However, I cannot say that even one local authority is doing this brilliantly across its area; the good examples are just in particular areas. Nowhere has it right, but there are lots of opportunities out there. The only way is forward and up—that is the way I feel at the moment.

Mark Ruskell

What needs to change, then? Should there be a duty on local authorities, a commitment through community planning partnerships or something else to state that this has to be addressed, rather than it being dependent on, as you say, a good relationship between one officer in a council and an organisation?

Sarah Cameron

It has to fall on somebody’s shoulders, and some sort of responsibility should be taken within the local authority and the local health board. I would be concerned about the capacity of the CPPs, but they definitely have a voice and it would be useful to have that conversation with them. I do not know enough about how they operate to comment on that, but it would definitely be worth having them at the table to have that conversation.

However, as soon as you do that, the issue is that it takes that voice away from the grass roots. I am not sure how you work that dynamic to ensure that grass-roots voices are valued and heard and are at the table and part of the planning process as opposed to the top-down approach in which a local authority comes in and says, “We are going to do this,” which happens in some areas, although not in every area. We want to get to a position where it is not like that and it is grass roots led. Perhaps working with the CPPs is a perfect opportunity for that, but I agree that the responsibility has to lie somewhere, possibly with local authorities and health boards. Maybe the issue is about the wording of that and the model that has developed around that.

Mark Ruskell

There seems to be a difficult balance between ensuring that you have the conditions for creativity without overformalising it to the point that it is stifled. My final question relates to that issue and is about monitoring and evaluation. Is there capacity in the wider social enterprise and creative sector to articulate what the sector does in language that NHS and other bodies, which have harder targets, can understand, so that they say, “Oh yes, I can see that that is saving X thousand pounds”? I know that that is a bit dry, but the chief financial officers of those organisations need to see that stuff.

Sarah Cameron

I am glad that you brought that up, because it is a bugbear of mine. For many years it has been put on to social enterprises to evaluate the work that they do and provide evidence that it delivers what they say that it will. That goes beyond delivering projects to delivering social and environmental value.

Why should an organisation that is already working at full capacity and is already struggling and overdelivering be the one to provide that evidence? Is that something that Government, academia and other partners could do to ensure that that story is told? In that way, reliance would not be put on to the social enterprises but put on to others somewhere else, who would work with the grass-roots organisations to do it.

It is unfair to ask people to respond to their community needs, which they are doing—we saw through Covid how quickly they did that and we see today with the war in Ukraine how many communities are leaping in to drive things forward—and then to start to evaluate everything that they do. That is a big ask. Often, one person runs such an organisation and is helped by a few volunteers, and those volunteers might have issues of their own and require support.

My ask from Government in relation to creating that evidence approach would be for support to do that. Do not put it on the shoulders of the social enterprises or the cultural and creative organisations, but work with them and bring the resource and support that they need to make sure that that evidence is collated. Does that make sense?

That makes a lot of sense.

Sarah Boyack

It has been good to hear about where we could get different funding streams from. One of the things that you mentioned in your earlier evidence is the principle of local infrastructure projects. Could you say a bit more about the concept of the per cent for art scheme and local investment, and could you say how you would make sure that that reaches local communities so that they influence what money is spent on, rather than that being, as you described it, something in the middle of a roundabout?

Sarah Cameron

Actually, that point came from Culture Counts, which we are part of—I am sure that members will be aware of its work—rather than from our relationships with social enterprises, although some social enterprises are linked into Culture Counts, too. I just wanted to clarify where that came from.

It might be worth having a conversation on the issue with Culture Counts and asking it for more information and for its thoughts on the matter. I know that it has done some work on the issue, and I am sure that it would be happy to share what it has. Some of the conversation originally came from the conversations on participatory budgeting and the impact that it has in particular areas. There are also the conversations that are happening on the national planning framework and the opportunities in that regard.

The conversation goes back to the point that I made about the value of culture and local arts. To go back to the language that I used with Mark Ruskell, it is about trying to tell that story and helping people to understand the value of culture. That goes beyond just procurers and local authorities; it goes to the general public. It is about helping people to understand the value of their culture so that, when major infrastructure projects are being planned, it is understood that part of the money should go towards cultural and arts projects. I have an issue with the lack of imagination. It is about working with creatives, who can come up with interesting pieces of work that deal with issues at a very local level, and who can work with local communities to ensure that there is a cohesive relationship. They bring an awful lot to the table.

It comes back to that point about value and making sure that everybody understands how important culture is so that, when we talk about local infrastructure projects and ring fencing funding for arts and culture, we are talking about something that is greater than public art projects and involves more people. I guess that it is about something that brings in relationships and the building of community. As we go forward, it is important that we support communities to come together as communities.

I am not sure that I have answered that right.

You have given us some points to go on. Thank you.

The Deputy Convener

As other members have no more questions, I will finish with one final question. The Scottish Government’s resource spending review document, which is the subject of this inquiry by the committee, states that it is heavily influenced by the Christie principles on the future of public services. As I am sure you are aware, the Christie commission report was published in 2011, and it made several points. One was about mainstreaming, which we have talked about, but the report also placed an emphasis on preventing negative outcomes from arising. What progress has been made on delivering a preventative approach since Christie was published back in 2011?

Sarah Cameron

Gosh—that is a big question. Probably, very limited progress has been made. Excellent pieces of work have been done and are continuing, but I wonder whether some of the work on that has been lost in recent years. I wonder whether, although the promise is there, other things have taken hold and have been given more importance, and some of that work has been put on hold.

When you talk to social enterprises on the ground that are not engaged with Government, the local authority or health boards but are just doing the work, you find that their actions are all about preventative actions—they are all about supporting people.

I would probably have to go away and ask more people that question, because it is quite a big one. I am not sure that the same importance is given to the issue when funding and opportunities come through. Maybe the issue has been lost a little. To be honest, however, before I was willing to commit 100 per cent to that view, I would like to ask our members that question.

The Deputy Convener

The committee would be interested in that and would be more than happy if you did so. We often talk about preventative health measures but, in the wider cultural context, it would be kind of you if you could canvass opinion in that regard and report back to us, if that is okay.

Sarah Cameron

Absolutely—I can do that. I will be sure to speak to members and get their opinion, and I can submit something to the committee.

The Deputy Convener

Excellent—thank you very much. I also thank you for attending the meeting on your own and for giving us your time. It has been a really useful session.

We now move into private session.

10:16 Meeting continued in private until 10:35.