Our Evidence to the External Affairs Inquiry


On 14 June 2019 Culture Counts submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe & External Affairs Committee ‘External Affairs Inquiry’. You can read the submission in this article or download a PDF at the link below.

Photo by  Chris Barbalis  on  Unsplash

Are there examples of best practice for ways in which nations/regions from non-EU Member States engage with and influence the EU?

In February 2019 the Culture Counts Core Members meeting hosted Morten Gjelsen (Director of Norwegian Theatres and Orchestras). Morten discussed how Norway continues to influence EU policy as a non-EU member state. Norway provides advocacy on specific issues, particularly when Norway may have an interest due to geographical location.

The Norwegian government invest in partnership projects between Norway and EU member states.  Partnership projects allow countries to work together and provide opportunities for a better cultural understanding between nations across Europe. 

The table below shows that Norway paid for participation in European Projects from 2014 to 2018 (in million NOK), for 2016-17 and also for 2018 they paid 50.2 million NOK (about 4.5 million GBP). This includes participation in the cross-cultural strand.

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The Scottish Government should continue to provide investment support to the cultural sector to continue to participate in European cooperation projects; enabling the industry to continue to develop contacts in Europe, develop audiences for work, learn and improve practice and to showcase Scotland.

Scotland’s Cultural Sector has benefited from participation in:

  • European Regional Development Fund

  • European Social Fund

  • European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development

  • European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

  • Interreg

  • Creative Europe

  • Education / Training / Youth (Lifelong Learning, Youth in Action and Erasmus +)

  • Europe for Citizens (Remembrance projects, Town Twinning)

  • Research and Development (FP7 – 7th Framework)

  • Horizon 2020 (incl ERC)

From 2007 to 2016 Scotland received a minimum of £23million in EU Funding which was distributed across over 380 projects(1).


What should be the focus of the business plans for the Scottish Government Innovation and Investment Hub offices in Berlin, Brussels, Dublin, London and Paris be?

It's challenging to know what the focus should be for the business plans as we don't have the background information as to why the cities were chosen to be innovation and investment hub offices.

45% of the UK Creative Industries service exports go to the EU. Being able to move freely to work in the EU is very important to the cultural sector.

It is early days for the hubs and in consideration of how the hubs may develop, it could be useful for the Scottish Government to consult on growth sector needs, in terms of exports; so that these can be strategically supported within the innovation and investment hub business plans. For example, Creative Industries is a growth sector; could the Scottish Government consult and draft a strategic plan to support the industry to export to key countries? Could the Scottish Government host a meeting of cultural exporters to find out what their needs are?


How can the Scottish Government’s Innovation and Investment Hub offices be evaluated effectively?

As the hubs are at an early stage, it may be a mistake to try to evaluate the offices too early; before they've had a chance to consider how best to generate excellent outcomes. Each office would also have to be evaluated differently as the opportunities will be different in each area. At this stage, evaluating experimental work could be difficult and time-consuming and may not be cost effective.


How should the Innovation and Investment Hub offices most effectively engage with other Scottish organisations such as Scottish Development International and Visit Scotland?

The Scottish Government should consult with Scottish economic growth sectors and collaborate to build a strategy for each hub in line with sector support needs in each area; and should link to external organisations to facilitate plans as appropriate.


What principles should inform the Scottish Government’s international engagement? For example, should economic priorities be the key priority or cultural / ‘soft power’ priorities?

Cultural and economic priorities and soft power priorities are intertwined. The UK is currently number one on the soft power index. UK Soft Power Strengths and Weaknesses source https://softpower30.com/country/united-kingdom/


“The UK’s objective soft power assets are the foundation of its continued success. Once again across the Engagement, Culture, Education and Digital sub-indices, Britain ranks highly. State institutions such as the British Council and BBC World Service, combined with internationally recognized brands like the Premier League provide the global reach and influence to reach and engage global audiences. The UK’s creative, cultural, financial and technology sectors keep the world interested in what is happening in Britain. Moreover, the UK is home to some of the world’s most successful higher education institutions that attract students and academics from across the globe.”


“The major weakness for the UK is the uncertainty around what will happen with respect to the Brexit process next year. That uncertainty has thrown much of the strengths listed above into jeopardy. Will international students still want to come to the UK? Will London hold its dominant position as a leading financial and professional services hub? The UK did see a significant improvement in its rank on the Enterprise sub-index, which is good news. But it would have to do a lot to compete with Singapore or Switzerland for business friendliness. The Government sub-index is the UK’s lowest ranking category. But with Brexit eating Whitehall’s bandwidth, it is hard to see that improving next year.”

Soft power comes from the knowledge and understanding of the culture; if the EU and International countries are not buying Scotland’s films, music, tv shows, books, then we lose the audience and with it a large part of the soft-power.  If there is no audience for the cultural exports, there is less subsequent soft power impact. Therefore, supporting exports as well as imports (including international students and a diverse range of creative and cultural entrepreneurs) is particularly important to Scotland.


Currently, the Scottish Government has international engagement strategies with Canada, China, India, Pakistan and the USA. Do these strategies and their geographic focus remain appropriate post-Brexit?

Culture Counts has not had the capacity to consult members on this issue, though there is some awareness of Scotland's international work and concerns on the radar within the cultural sector tend to focus on how Scotland works or does not work with countries who have been involved in breaches of human rights. Particularly as regards to violations of the right to freedom of expression; imprisonment of cultural workers, including artists, writers etc.