Meeting date: Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 20 June 2018
Agenda: Agricultural Support (Post-Brexit Transitional Arrangements), Portfolio Question Time, Freedom of Information (Scottish Government Request Handling and Record Keeping), Access to Medicines, Business Motions, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, Glasgow (Music Tourism)
- Agricultural Support (Post-Brexit Transitional Arrangements)
- Portfolio Question Time
- Freedom of Information (Scottish Government Request Handling and Record Keeping)
- Access to Medicines
- Business Motions
- Parliamentary Bureau Motions
- Decision Time
- Glasgow (Music Tourism)
Glasgow (Music Tourism)
The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-12516, in the name of Adam Tomkins, on welcome to Glasgow, a world city of music. The debate will be concluded without any question being put. I call Adam Tomkins to open the debate.
That the Parliament notes the recommendations of the report, Growing the Value for Music Tourism in Glasgow, which was jointly commissioned by Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow Life; understands that the total value of live music attendance to the city’s economy is estimated at almost £160 million, sustaining more than 1,000 jobs, and that there are rich opportunities for growth in this area; recognises the wealth of Glasgow’s musical culture, what it sees as its huge number of internationally successful home-grown bands and its music festivals, including Celtic Connections and the Merchant City Festival; believes that it has an unrivalled range of music venues, from large arenas such as the SSE Hydro and the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to grassroots venues, including King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Òran Mór, Stereo and Mono; notes the view that, in order to safeguard the future of music venues across the city, serious consideration should be given to putting the so-called agent of change principle on a statutory footing; acknowledges the report’s conclusion that, while music tourism already makes a significant contribution to the city’s economy, much more could be done to promote its music scene both at home and abroad to boost overall tourism, and notes the view that all stakeholders should capitalise on Glasgow’s UNESCO World City of Music status and work collaboratively to maximise the enormous potential of the city’s existing assets to attract more music tourists.17:07
I thank all members who have supported my motion and who will speak in this evening’s debate. The debate was secured some weeks ago, long before the fire last weekend that consumed not only the Glasgow School of Art but one of my favourite live music venues in Glasgow, the O2 ABC on Sauchiehall Street. I have enjoyed that venue for years, not because of its enormous mirror ball—it is the biggest in Europe, apparently—but because of its size and its sound quality. With a capacity of about 1,300, the ABC is smaller than the Barrowland but bigger than Òran Mór and King Tut’s. People could always get close to the stage and, because of the acoustics in the room, bands could turn it up and up without compromising the sound quality. I have seen countless great gigs in that venue, including by some of my favourite bands, the Felice Brothers, Jason Isbell and Drive-By Truckers among them. The smaller ABC 2, which is in the same building, is also a great venue but is much more intimate than the main stage. I was last there to see Courtney Marie Andrews earlier this year, when she played as part of the Celtic Connections festival.
I go to a lot of gigs, and I know that I am not alone among members of this Parliament in enjoying what Glasgow’s live music scene has to offer. That is what my motion and this debate are all about. Glasgow has some world-class venues, from the SSE Hydro to King Tut’s, many of which are famous throughout not just Scotland but the world. Bands love playing in Glasgow because the venues are great and the people who flock to them are the best crowds in the world. Nothing beats a Friday night gig in Glasgow. Bands come to Glasgow to be discovered and they keep coming back once they have broken through. Of course, Glasgow grows its own bands and musicians: Belle and Sebastian, Teenage Fanclub, Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, Travis and many more. “People make Glasgow” they say. Well, music makes Glasgow and Glasgow makes music every night of the week.
All of that adds immeasurably to Glasgow’s rich and diverse cultural life, but it also makes a vital contribution to Glasgow’s economy and, indeed, to Scotland’s economy more generally. Music is a driver of economic growth for Glasgow. The value to Glasgow’s economy of live music attendance is in the region of £160 million a year. To put that in context: more than £3 million is spent every week in Glasgow as a direct result of the live music events that the city hosts. Those events sustain more than 1,100 jobs across the city and attract nearly half a million music tourists to Glasgow every year.
Yet a recently commissioned report for Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow Life explains that much more could and should be done to build on, develop and capitalise on the strength of Glasgow’s live music scene. The report, “Growing the Value for Music Tourism in Glasgow”, is a terrific piece of work and I commend it to members. Today, Danny Cusick, the tourism director at Scottish Enterprise said—and I agree with him—that
“Glasgow has huge potential to develop its music through its rich cultural heritage, as well as its range of atmospheric venues and world-class performers.”
We can do that not only by increasing audience numbers, audience spend both on and off site and the number of music tourists who stay overnight or for longer when they visit Glasgow for a gig but by being much more creative and imaginative about how we celebrate Glasgow as one of the world’s leading cities of music.
Ten years ago, in 2008, Glasgow became the first city in the United Kingdom to be recognised as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation world city of music. Liverpool was awarded the same designation in 2015, but Glasgow remains the only city in Scotland to have been recognised in that way. However, we do painfully little to broadcast the fact. I have lived in Glasgow for 15 years and, in that time, I have been to dozens if not hundreds of gigs, yet I confess that, until recently, I did not know that Glasgow is a UNESCO world city of music.
Glasgow could be twinned with other world cities of music and, indeed, with other cities that have global reputations for the contributions that they have made to live music—Nashville, Memphis or New Orleans, for example. We could learn from each of those great American cities and create music districts within Glasgow. We could signpost and map routes that tell the story of Glasgow’s immense and diverse contribution to music, linking the SSE Hydro in Finnieston with city-centre venues such as the ABC and King Tut’s and going on to east-end landmarks such as the Barrowlands. Relatively modest investment ideas such as those could reap significant rewards in enhancing Glasgow’s visitor attractiveness.
With that in mind, I note that music is, rightly, a key pillar of Glasgow’s tourism and visitor plan, which has set the ambitious target of attracting 1 million more overnight visitors to Glasgow by 2023. Meeting that target will require cross-party support and collaboration, so I was delighted to see the Scottish National Party’s Councillor David McDonald, who is the depute leader of Glasgow City Council, welcome this evening’s debate. I agree with him that, for Glasgow,
“music and tourism go hand-in-hand”.
A quick change that we could make, which would help the live music business not only in Glasgow but across Scotland, is to incorporate the so-called agent of change principle into our planning laws. A large number of Glasgow venues expressly called for that in evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee at stage 1 of the Planning (Scotland) Bill, and it is also supported by UK Music and the Music Venue Trust. In short, the agent of change principle shifts responsibility for mitigating the impact of noise from an existing music venue to a developer that moves into the area. Of course, if a new venue wants to open up, the burden is rightly on it to mitigate, minimise and manage the effects of noise; however, if a venue already exists and developers produce proposals to develop nearby, the venue should not be hit with additional costs, as is happening at the moment. It is unfair and it puts live music venues at a real disadvantage. That is why, yesterday, I lodged an amendment to the Planning (Scotland) Bill to put the agent of change principle on a statutory footing, as the Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee recommended unanimously last month. I hope that that amendment will attract all-party support, as this evening’s motion and debate have done.
Given the devastation of the fire at the Glasgow School of Art and the O2 ABC last weekend, this is quite a week to be talking about the unrivalled contribution that music—especially live music—makes both to Glasgow’s cultural life and to its economic health and wellbeing. Music pulses through Glasgow’s veins, and no fire will ever stop that. Let us capitalise on what have and build on Glasgow’s success. It is who we are and what we do, because we are a world city of music.17:14
I thank Adam Tomkins for securing the debate. He mentioned that the timing is poignant, given what has happened to the Mackintosh building and the O2 ABC. I welcome to the public gallery our visitors Rodger, Mary, Robert, Jeanette and many others who have a great love of and interest in music in Glasgow.
From the Barrowland, which I went to many years ago and still go to sometimes, to Glasgow Royal concert hall, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the Garage and Kelvingrove bandstand, where I saw Dr Hook on Saturday night, the list of the many music venues across the city goes on and on—and we cannot forget the city’s buskers, who are absolutely fantastic. My constituency of Glasgow Kelvin alone has a massive range of world-renowned music venues, which stage an eclectic mix of not only well-known artists and bands but budding new musicians and songwriters, who are offered opportunities to take part in an energetic live music scene—and energetic it certainly is.
Three venues in Glasgow—the O2 Academy, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and the O2 ABC—made the Pollstar list of the top 100 club venues worldwide in 2017, while the SSE Hydro sat at number 4 on the list of the top 100 arena venues. That is an absolutely fantastic achievement for the people of Glasgow and for the city.
It is especially poignant that we are highlighting the huge contribution that live music makes to the city and our culture during a week in which we have witnessed another iconic venue being devastated by fire. The O2 ABC is a hugely popular and fantastic live music venue, as Adam Tomkins said. Along with many others, I sincerely hope that that much-loved and historical place—we must remember that it was a circus, an ice rink and a cinema—will be saved and will continue to be an important part of the city’s music scene.
I welcome the report from Scottish Enterprise in collaboration with Glasgow Life, which Adam Tomkins mentioned, and I thank those who were involved in gathering that important information. The report outlines further opportunities for the well-established music industry that we have in Glasgow. There is huge potential to build on the successful music tourism industry, particularly if we make greater use of our UNESCO world city of music status, which I agree we should publicise more. Perhaps VisitScotland and others will take something from the debate. There is not only the cultural effect to think of but the economic effect for our city and for Scotland as a whole. Our night-time economy is also hugely important to the city.
The agent of change principle has been mentioned, and introducing it would safeguard the future of our venues and our thriving music scene. As Adam Tomkins said, the Minister for Local Government and Housing has been working on that, along with many others. I am sure that Lewis Macdonald will add more about the proposal, which I first mentioned along with him quite a while back. The agent of change principle has been mentioned many times in the past, and introducing it is essential, particularly for smaller venues such as King Tut’s, which have been under threat from developers and neighbours for a number of years. I have met Geoff Ellis and others to talk about the principle.
If the principle was realised and put in place, it would make a great difference to smaller venues. We cannot stand by and watch as the foundations of Glasgow’s successful music landscape are threatened—I am not saying that they would be destroyed—because the agent of change principle has not been looked at. It would be particularly relevant if venues were to make way for luxury developments and if small and important venues such as King Tut’s were to be lost.
Live music has been and always will be a cornerstone of life across Glasgow. It is essential to adopt the agent of change principle in Scottish planning policy to protect Glasgow’s venues, which are cultural landmarks and tourist attractions as well as being home to fantastic live music and—it goes without saying—the best audiences in the world.17:18
I, too, thank Adam Tomkins for bringing an excellent debate to the chamber. There is surely no doubt that Glasgow is the European capital of music. The passion that the people who come to and live in Glasgow have for music makes Glasgow what it is. Music matters to Glaswegians and to people across Scotland—we sell more tickets for live events than any other part of the United Kingdom.
It is the combination of all genres—traditional, classical, rock and pop music—that is important, not to exclude DJs, who are also an important creative part of the music scene. King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, which has already been mentioned, is probably the finest small music venue in the world. I will not rehearse what has already been said about the marvellous O2 venue—oh my God, I hope that that will be returned to its former glory—the Garage, Glasgow Royal concert hall, Clutha Vaults, Blackfriars, the Kelvingrove bandstand and Òran Mór. I could go on—those all happen to be venues in which I have experience of playing and I can speak to how wonderful they are, from the largest to the smallest.
The number of bands, concerts and music performances at any given time in Glasgow is quite astonishing. The city is thriving with creativity, which speaks to its character. Berkeley 2 Studios are a well-known rehearsal space for bands and, if members visit it, they will see a constant flow of young bands. It would not be unusual to bump into Susan Boyle or members of Deacon Blue there, which just shows the metropolitan nature of Glasgow’s music scene.
As we have heard, half a million people attend gigs in Glasgow and citizens enjoy their music. The TRNSMT festival, which will be held over two weekends this summer, is a new addition to the scene. That the Hydro was named as the third most popular venue in the world by Pollstar, beating Madison Square Garden, further increases our status as a city of music.
As a Glasgow citizen, I think that it is great that we can attend a concert by Beyoncé or whoever our favourite artist is and be home in half an hour for tea and toast. The report highlights that there are 43 live music venues and 35 music bars in Glasgow, and that music is one of six core themes, along with heritage and contemporary arts.
The report also draws our attention to where we have perhaps failed to capitalise on music in the city. Glasgow has UNESCO world city of music status, but the report says that that badge is poorly used and largely unrecognised. Assets, as Adam Tomkins and Sandra White said, are under threat. Four venues that are key to Glasgow’s status as a UNESCO world city of music—the Barrowland Ballroom, King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, the Sub Club and the Classic Grand—are all under threat if they do not get some protection in the forthcoming Planning (Scotland) Bill. Lewis Macdonald will talk about that at greater length.
This year alone, King Tut’s has been fighting two applications and the venue fears enforcement action being taken against it because a new development might complain about noise. The venue fears that it will face complaints and possibly legal action after the building is developed. It is clear that, if we want to protect that asset, there has to be statutory protection, which is what I thought that the Scottish Government had promised.
The Barrowland Ballroom faces the same issues. There are now severe restrictions for bands loading and unloading and there are constant complaints from the new-build houses across the road from the venue, which was never meant to be the case. If we want to protect music venues in Glasgow, we really need to give them statutory protection. It will not be enough to introduce the agent of change principle as guidance—it must be law. I will support Adam Tomkins’s amendment on that, subject to its detail, and I hope that other Glasgow MSPs will do so, too.
What to do with the report? Dougal Perman, who is the chair of the Scottish Music Industry Association and compiled the Inner Ear report, clearly said that we would have to do many things to bring some of the recommendations together. I helped to set up the Scottish Music Industry Association, along with Ken Macintosh MSP, Frank McAveety, Ian Smith of the former Scottish Arts Council and Tam Coyle, and I am pleased to be associated with it.
Glasgow’s music history is not evident on the ground and we have to bring that together. Twinning Glasgow with cities such as Detroit, Rio, Paris or New York is an important recommendation in the report. It was the manager of Radiohead who first made the case for a Scottish base in New York, as he said that it would be much easier to make contact with record companies if such a base existed.
Glasgow is certainly a world city of music and it should be known as such. It is a deserved title and it fits with Glasgow’s commitment to music. I commit to working with Adam Tomkins and other MSPs to ensure that the world knows that that is the case.17:24
It is a real pleasure to have the opportunity to speak in the debate and I thank Adam Tomkins for bringing the subject to the chamber. As well as reminding the chamber that I am the parliamentary liaison officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, I also declare that I am a member of the Musicians’ Union and that I have played in many of the venues that have been spoken about this evening—alas, not the Hydro—not yet.
I want to capture two aspects. One is the value of having a city such as Glasgow with a fantastic array of live music. I also want to touch on what it is for a musician to have somewhere like Glasgow—it is very important.
Glasgow is hard-wired into my whole musical development and experience. I remember going to my first gig to see Def Leppard at the SECC—that was 19 years ago now. I went on to see Megadeth at the Barrowlands, Sigur Rós at the Carling academy and Queen and Adam Lambert at the Hydro. That is just an array of the many fantastic huge venues that we have.
Many members have touched on a particular venue that also means a lot to me—the ABC. There is a poignant element to the debate, given events. I remember with particular pleasure, of all things, a political party event at the ABC. The Scottish National Party had a concert there just ahead of the 2011 election and it was a fantastic evening. Great live music by experienced musicians—and lots of promising talent, too—was performed on stage that evening.
One of the great things about Glasgow is that music is not always in the big headline venues that we know about. It is in places like the State Bar, the Howlin’ Wolf—which has one of the best blues jams in Glasgow—Box, and Nice N Sleazy. So much of the talent that is in and that emanates from Glasgow relies upon those grassroots venues and the opportunities that they provide. I took a long time trying to make my way in music, through function bands and so on, and for me and many of my colleagues such opportunities were invaluable. It was tough. It was difficult. Sometimes, the question of which sound engineer we would have that night and whether we would be able to hear ourselves on stage was like Russian roulette. Nonetheless, we had an opportunity to connect with punters and to build an audience.
I know folk who went on to build successful careers. A colleague of mine from years back when I was playing—a guy called Gary Johnstone—might not be a household name, but he is one of the most successful guitarists and singer-songwriters that Glasgow has produced in a long time. When he gets a chance and has time off from playing functions and events, he goes to places such as Chicago, New York and Nashville and gets on stage to jam with the best. When I get the opportunity to speak to Gary and hear his comments about how much he values Glasgow—as someone who has the experience of playing in all those venues—it is clear that Glasgow is a world music city. It is not just for audiences and spectators and the people who consume music; it is for the people who produce music.
The United States has been so effective in advertising Chicago, Nashville and, in particular, New York, that we know of venues there with iconic status, such as Madison Square Garden and the Village Vanguard. We have to work more to ensure that the venues in Scotland have that same international status, because in terms of facilities, capacity and the artistic talent that they can attract, they are world-class venues. We must celebrate that.
I welcome Adam Tomkins’ comments on looking at how we can link things up. Finnieston has, in many regards, been transformed since the advent of the Hydro—a fantastic venue. We are seeing the benefits that it has. We have to make sure that, when people come to the Hydro to enjoy events, they are not just jumping on the late train and going home or popping in for a pint in Finnieston, but are heading in and exploring all the other venues in Glasgow and taking the opportunity to engage in that rich musical culture and heritage.
I again thank Adam Tomkins for bringing the debate to the chamber. I look forward to seeing Glasgow continue as a thriving and diverse world music city.17:28
I congratulate my colleague and fellow rocker Adam Tomkins on securing time in the chamber to debate music, which, as you know, is my first love.
I also associate myself with the comments by Mr Tomkins and others on the fire at Glasgow School of Art and the O2 ABC music venue next door. I know that the keenest loss will be felt in that community, and we all recognise the cultural loss in the loss of both venues, which will be felt much further afield. I hope that a way will be found to restore those iconic buildings.
As I mentioned, music is my first love. Indeed, my promising career as a rock guitarist was tragically cut short only when I discovered that I had a severe lack of talent, and I have had to make do with attending gigs, which I do quite regularly.
Glasgow has long been a preferred music destination. Surely everyone in the chamber has a copy of that iconic album “If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It”, by that little-known band from Glasgow, AC/DC. That album was recorded at the old Glasgow Apollo, when the band appeared on stage wearing the 1978 Scotland world cup kit. Similarly, who does not own Status Quo’s “Live!”? It was also recorded in the Glasgow Apollo. I know that that is Mr Tomkins’s music of choice as he bounces along on his runs—he must be careful what he divulges in casual conversation.
Bands used to say that if they could make it in Glasgow, they could make it anywhere because, if audiences in Glasgow love a band, they really love that band. However, if they do not, the band had better keep the motor running, because they are a passionate crew. Since those days, Glasgow has grown into one of the world’s premier music destination—in fact, by attendance, it is the fourth biggest in the world.
I have attended a couple of concerts this year at the SSE Hydro, and I have a couple more to go—one at the Hydro and one at the Barrowlands. One of the bands that I will see is Def Leppard. That concert is in the autumn so Mr Arthur has time to grow his hair if he wants to join me. At the Barrowlands, I will see the first band that I ever saw live, in 1980: Saxon—that is, if they are still able to make it on to the stage.
To balance that coolness out, I am the father of three daughters, which has necessitated me going along to see Steps twice—I can only say, “Tragedy”.
The Pavilion is another gig venue that I am attached to, because I organised a gig there for three bands. One was called Fat Betty, a fantastic Thin Lizzy tribute band. They were backed up by Garry Mullen, who won “Stars in Their Eyes” as Freddie Mercury, and the headliner was Peat Loaf. Some 1,500 people enjoyed that night.
Will the member acknowledge that Garry Mullen is from Barrhead, in my Renfrewshire South constituency, which shows, yet again, the level of musical talent that emerges from the town?
So, despite the fact that he comes from Barrhead—[Laughter.]
I do not know whether Mr Arthur has ever met Garry Mullen, but a man more unlike Freddie Mercury you will never meet in your life, until he puts his kit on—it is unbelievable.
Glasgow has an incredible global reputation for music culture. It is a destination for everyone from bands setting out on their musical journey, right through to global bands and stars. I have to say that I saw Bon Jovi’s first ever gig in Glasgow, when they supported Kiss at the Glasgow Apollo in 1983.
In Glasgow, there is always a venue and there is always an audience, no matter where the band is in their musical journey. The business enriches the cultural reputation of Glasgow and Scotland, and the value of music tourism has been estimated at £116 million, sustaining more than 1,000 jobs. Long may it continue.
I thank Adam Tomkins for bringing the debate to the chamber. I look forward to seeing many more bands in venues in Glasgow, as long as the bands that I follow can remain in an upright position.
I call Lewis Macdonald, who might have more youthful confessions.17:39
I will resist that temptation, Presiding Officer.
I, too, congratulate Adam Tomkins on securing this debate at what is a critically important time for music venues in Glasgow and across the country.
As we have heard, the headline story is the devastation of the O2 ABC in the same conflagration last weekend that hit the Glasgow School of Art. However, the bigger picture is the loss of venue after venue across our country as a result of inadequate legal protection against the effects of inappropriate development.
Every live music venue knows that, as things stand, it is only one persistent complainer away from being forced to close or to spend prohibitive amounts of money on soundproofing technology. Studio 24 in Edinburgh and Downstairs in Aberdeen have already gone, and now King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, as Pauline McNeill said, is under threat.
I was at King Tut’s last week, not on that occasion at a gig, but at the first Scottish venues meeting organised by the Music Venue Trust. I met representatives of venues all over Scotland, including Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh and Krakatoa and the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, as well as the operators of King Tut’s. Our conversations were about the threats that they face and the opportunity that we have to change the law in their favour.
One of the most immediate threats is to King Tut’s, because Glasgow City Council has just granted planning permission for a private residence to be built next door. The terms of that approval—a public document—are disappointing, and they appear to confirm the fear that the Scottish Government’s acceptance of the principle of agent of change does not, in itself, go far enough.
According to the letter that was issued to planning authorities in February by the chief planner on behalf of the Scottish Government,
“where a new residential property is to be developed within the vicinity of an existing music venue, the responsibility for mitigating adverse effects should sit with the housing developer, as the ‘agent of change’.”
That is pretty clear, but what Glasgow City Council’s approval of that housing development application in May says, by contrast, is that
“it should be noted that the nearby licensed concert venue has a duty and obligation to control and manage noise within the premises, and any noise escape, and ensure their premises is suitably sound attenuated.”
In other words, for that planning authority, the chief planner’s letter, which introduced the principle of agent of change to planning practice in Scotland for the first time, has not been applied. That letter directed planning authorities to
“ensure issues around the potential impact of noise from live music venues are always appropriately assessed and addressed when considering proposals either by venues themselves or for development in their vicinity, and that decisions reflect the Agent of Change principle.”
Clearly, that has not happened in this case, and Glasgow City Council will not be the only authority that has yet to change its approach to such issues in line with the new ministerial guidance. The problem is that, although the new guidance is welcome, it is only guidance. Until the agent of change principle is enshrined in law, venues such as King Tut’s in Glasgow and others across the country will remain under threat. That is why the Local Government and Communities Committee recognised, in its stage 1 report on the Planning (Scotland) Bill, that a principle that is not enshrined in statute will always be open to interpretation and challenge, in circumstances in which councils have been used to giving developers the benefit of the doubt.
If we are to secure the shared objectives that are shared by ministers, by the Local Government and Communities Committee and, I suspect, by the great majority of members of the Parliament, as well as by the music industry and music venues, we need to go beyond guidance and enshrine the agent of change principle in planning law. In that way, we can protect all our live music venues in Glasgow and across Scotland.17:38
I thank Adam Tomkins for the opportunity to take part in this important debate. Perhaps it is even more important now, in the light of the terrible and devastating fire at the Glasgow School of Art, which also spread to the adjacent O2 ABC building, which is one of the city’s major live music venues, as we have heard in the debate. While investigations take place to establish what happened and what can be done, it is important that we do not lose sight of the many great things that are currently happening in Glasgow—in particular, around music.
Glasgow is recognised internationally for its vibrant and thriving music scene, which attracts music lovers from all over the world. As we have heard, and as the report clearly sets out, that translates into an important economic contribution and more than a thousand full-time jobs. However, the value of music to Glasgow is far from limited to economic benefits. Music, particularly live music, enriches people’s lives, enhances our society and makes a huge contribution to our culture and to how others see us. It demonstrates what a vibrant, lively and exciting place Glasgow is—as Scotland is.
Music is in the very fabric of the city of Glasgow, which is why it has been named as a UNESCO city of music. That is great recognition that deserves to be brought to the fore, as a number of members have said. When last year I met the then newly appointed chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor David McDonald, he shared his plans to make more of that UNESCO designation. In March this year, I met the deputy director general of UNESCO in Paris, and I expressed our strong support for UNESCO’s work and our commitment to promote and harness the value that its recognition brings. He was very pleased when I told him about Glasgow City Council’s undertaking to make more of the UNESCO city of music recognition. Glasgow has a great opportunity to put its name on the music map—which it already has—through that recognition and the networks that it brings. Working in partnership, we need to do everything that we can to ensure that that opportunity is not lost.
Tom Arthur made an important point about grass-roots venues being a pipeline of music opportunity and talent. Last year, I tasked my officials with looking at what can be done to support them. That has already been discussed with other jurisdictions—Wales and others—at the British-Irish Council. Discussions about the agent of change principle were included.
Festivals are, of course, a key part of the music experience in Glasgow. Celtic Connections, which is the world’s largest winter festival, is a great showcase for Scottish traditional music. Earlier this year, I decided to open up the festivals expo fund to include Celtic Connections for the first time. That enabled it to apply for funding of up to £100,000 in the 2018-19 budget. The festivals expo fund, which was set up in 2008, will now also support artists from Celtic Connections to make the most of their career opportunities internationally.
No member has mentioned the world pipe band championships which are happening this summer, which is a fantastic opportunity to bring people to the city for music.
Four of our five national performing companies—the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera—are based in Glasgow. Those organisations, which are now in their 12th year of direct Government support, make significant contributions to Glasgow and all Scotland.
On the major infrastructure investments that the Government has provided, capital support of £5.4 million has been provided to develop Glasgow’s Theatre Royal for Scottish Opera, and £8.5 million has been provided to support the creation of a new home for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as part of the Glasgow Royal concert hall complex. The new national orchestra centre not only provides the orchestra with a state-of-the-art operational base; it also provides Glasgow with a purpose-built music venue. In addition, the dedicated learning and engagement centre supports music making and creativity for young people and communities across Scotland.
Much of the debate has been about contemporary music—or, in Brian Whittle’s case, music that was once contemporary, but is now part of history. This week, the National Museum of Scotland will open a major exhibition for over the summer that is dedicated to Scottish pop music. “Rip It Up” will explore the musical culture of Scotland over more than half a century, and will feature artists and bands from Orange Juice to Franz Ferdinand.
Live music venues are an important part of why people come to Glasgow for music. Obviously, I was saddened to hear about the fire at the O2 ABC at the weekend. We have a number of much-loved venues that have provided stages for emerging new talent and for some of the biggest names in the music industry. Those venues include Barrowlands—I think that I saw The Alarm there once—King Tut’s and the Sub Club. They have played a pivotal role in the careers of not only Scottish acts but international acts. Pauline McNeill made a very important point about the relevance of the international aspects. The character and uniqueness of the venues are a key part of the live music experience.
I was pleased to see that, according to Pollstar, the SSE Hydro was the fourth-busiest arena in the world in 2017 in respect of ticketed sales. It was behind only the O2 Arena in London, Madison Square Garden and Manchester Arena. We should be conscious of that rapid ascent to its being a top world-class experience.
Whether we are talking about long-established or new and emerging music venues, we need to protect the culturally and socially significant spaces that they provide. I pay tribute in particular to Lewis Macdonald, who has pursued the issue for some time. I also pay tribute to the members of the Local Government and Communities Committee. The convener of that committee, Bob Doris, made sure that extended evidence was given on that particular subject as part of consideration of the Planning (Scotland) Bill. That is precisely why the Minister for Local Government and Housing announced earlier this year our intention to introduce the agent of change principle in the next national planning framework. As we have heard, the chief planner wrote to all planning authorities to highlight the Scottish Government’s support for the agent of change principle, and specifically asked them to ensure that issues relating to the potential impact of noise from live music venues are always appropriately assessed and addressed.
In its evidence on the Planning (Scotland) Bill, the Music Venue Trust noted that
“Scotland is already leading the way”—[Official Report, Local Government and Communities Committee, 28 February 2018; c 70.]
in the UK, with the strength of our message on the agent of change principle. Our view is that the appropriate approach is inclusion of the agent of change principle in the national planning framework, the status of which the Planning (Scotland) Bill seeks to strengthen. Nevertheless, I understand that the Minister for Local Government and Housing is considering the committee’s view and whether it would be appropriate to lodge an amendment to the bill. I undertake to draw the attention of the chief planner and the minister to the May case that Lewis Macdonald referred to—if he has not already done so—as part of the generality of the policy issue.
This year is particularly exciting for Glasgow. Running alongside the 2018 European championships—the biggest sporting event in Scotland since the Commonwealth games—the cultural programme of festival 2018 will deliver the best in music and other art forms. Through a groundbreaking cultural partnership between Glasgow and Berlin, a scaled-up Merchant City festival will deliver the best in Scottish and international arts and entertainment. Music will be at the heart of it with a range of concerts and activities including Mix the City—a digital online music platform that will create musical soundscapes of Glasgow and Berlin.
The debate has been important, constructive and engaging, and has rightly had the importance of music front and centre. I support many of the comments that have been made, and I will use my efforts to ensure that we continue to have a great grass-roots pipeline of music in Scotland, including the practical issues that face venues, whether they can be addressed immediately or strategically.
We have great ambitions in Scotland, and we have great talent. Something about Glasgow audiences is very special indeed, as has been referred to. I particularly liked Adam Tomkins’s comment that
“music makes Glasgow and Glasgow makes music”.
It does that particularly well.
Thank you. That concludes the debate. I have learned much more about Mr Tomkins than I perhaps ought to know.Meeting closed at 17:47.