On Friday night, I made a trip to the Theatre Royal in Glasgow to see Scottish Opera's Don Giovanni. It was a great production, made so by an incredible cast and orchestra (conducted by a brilliant woman, Speranza Scappucci), not to mention a huge number of technical experts behind the scenes who made the whole thing come together.
In Scotland we can be proud of not just having a great cultural heritage, and to lay claim to the likes of Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson, but we can also be proud of the many modern companies that we can call our own. Not just Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, but the National Theatre of Scotland and venues like the Arches and the Tramway which host some of the most cutting edge and innovative arts anywhere in the UK.
Without a doubt, devolution has helped to strengthen Scotland's artistic voice. Culture was poorly funded during the 1980s and early 1990s but found a new ally in the early days of the Scottish Parliament, with record investment into Scotland's theatres, museums and artistic companies. Not to mention the decisions that were taken to create the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland and that paved the way for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.
Like every other part of the independence debate, however, the Nationalists are trying to make this an argument about pitching one side against the other, saying that our treatment of the arts is unique and different in Scotland, compared to the rest of the UK. This is an insult to the many writers, actors and artists in all parts of the UK who know that art, theatre and song speaks to something bigger - it isn't about making narrow political points, it's about helping us to look up and out and to build a better understanding of our society. And in the independence debate, the voices of people from Scotland's creative communities should be heard on both sides of the argument.
I believe that our artistic communities in Scotland today benefit from being part of the UK. With devolution, arts and culture in Scotland has been strengthened. The Scottish Parliament has allowed us to more clearly express our voice and being part of the UK has allowed it to be amplified even further. This benefit hasn't just come in the form of the funding Scotland receives from the National Lottery and other UK-wide funding bodies, but also through powerful partnerships and collaborations that extend across the UK.
We benefit, for example, from our museums being able to access not just their own collections, but collections in museums across England and Wales. Just two weeks ago, the Scottish Fashion Awards, held in London for the first time, demonstrated the great benefit that having easy access to a global city brings to our creative industries. And we should take pride in the fact that the full flow of ideas and talents between Scotland and the rest of the UK means that not only does England, Wales and Northern Ireland benefit from the best people we have to offer, but we also benefit from the best of theirs.
I don't believe that throwing up barriers between nations serves our culture well. Art is not narrow and self interested, and in next year's referendum I'm hoping that Scotland's artists, writers and musicians choose a future of working together.
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