Draft Culture (Scotland) Bill: Consultation Document

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Section Four
The National Collections

4.1 Part 3 of the draft Bill is about updating the governance of the National Collections.

The situation now

4.2 In relation to culture, the 'National Collections' are the National Library of Scotland ( NLS), the National Museums of Scotland ( NMS), the National Galleries of Scotland ( NGS), the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland ( RCAHMS) and the National Archives of Scotland ( NAS). Together, these bodies are responsible for collecting, preserving and exhibiting cultural objects of national importance and for holding and managing public records and archive collections for public access. They celebrate and showcase the talent of Scottish and international artists, artisans and writers. They do this by enabling people to visit and view the collections, by exhibiting and touring, and by publicising and educating people about the objects and materials which they hold.

Proposals for change

4.3 We want the National Collections to continue to do what they do now. But we want to help them to do so even more efficiently and effectively, and more closely together. In particular, we want to ensure that:

  • where their functions are defined in legislation, they are up to date and reflect their modern objectives;
  • they have the powers they need; and
  • they can continue to be led by trustees with the skills and experience necessary to give strategic direction to each of the Collections and to make the best use of the objects in their collections.

4.4 We want to ensure there are no barriers to joint-working between the bodies and to encourage increasing co-ordination of strategy and exhibitions. We also want the Collections to continue and enhance their leadership and support of local collections. To achieve these aims the draft Bill proposes to refresh and update the governance regimes of the National Collections.

4.5 We propose to keep the five Collections as independent bodies, with distinctive roles and functions. Four will continue as executive Non-Departmental Public Bodies ( NDPBs). The fifth, the National Archives of Scotland, will remain an Associated Department and Executive Agency of the Scottish Executive and consequently does not feature in the Bill.

4.6 The legislative foundations of the four NDPBs are harmonised in the draft Bill. It defines their functions and sets out their powers. It also establishes a new body, called the 'National Record of Scotland', which will take over the role and functions of RCAHMS. At the moment RCAHMS operates under a Royal Commission. Replacing it with a body established in legislation will put its governance on a modern footing and will allow the Parliament to consider its purposes and powers.

Appointments

4.7 The draft Bill also updates procedures for appointing Trustees for the Collections, reflecting the Scottish Executive policy on public appointments and the guidance produced by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments in Scotland ( OCPAS).

4.8 As a general principle, Executive policy does not reserve places on public bodies for particular organisations or people. This approach differs from some of the historic legislation that covers the National Library of Scotland, where organisations like the Faculty of Advocates have statutorily reserved places on its Board. Ministers do not propose to continue these statutorily reserved places, but do recognise the very important role played by the Faculty of Advocates. The Faculty gifted its collection of non-legal books to the nationl in 1925 to provide the foundation of the National Library of Scotland. It continues to maintain and preserve its collections of legal materials and to provide public assess to them, working in close partnership with the National Library of Scotland. Ministers therefore propose that one place be reserved for it on the Board of the National Library. It is proposed to achieve this administratively by including membership of the Faculty in the essential criteria for one ordinary member of the National Library Board.

4.9 The draft Bill also proposes a new statutory role for the National Collections to offer advice and assistance to local museums, galleries and libraries. This will encourage the sharing of national expertise and the exhibition of nationally significant objects in different parts of the country. The National Archives already has a statutory role to provide assistance and guidance to local authorities about the maintenance and exhibition of their archives. The National Collections and other national museums and libraries organisations will also contribute to work on a quality assurance framework for local provision. The Collections, in their core activities and in making their collections available in different parts of the country, will also contribute directly to entitlements.

Co-operation and co-ordination

4.10 The National Collections, although constitutionally independent and with their own fields of expertise, have a lot in common in terms of how they carry out their business. They should therefore work together to see how they can work more efficiently and, where appropriate, rationalise common support functions like human resources, information and communications technology, estates, marketing and information services. They should also continue to explore opportunities for joint exhibitions, as was seen to good effect in the 2004 'Titian' exhibition, when the Collections combined their Venetian artefacts. To help do this the National Collections have established a 'Forum of the National Collections of Scotland'. Ministers welcome the increasing co-operation between the Collections and look to it to continue under the guidance of the forum.

4.11 The draft Bill includes a power for the Scottish Ministers to give directions to the National Collections which they must follow. This is a standard power which, while seldom used, is an integral part of the framework of governance and accountability between Ministers and public bodies. It is not designed to compromise the operational independence of the National Collections and Ministers will not use such powers to intervene in the decisions that are, for example, essentially about artistic or professional judgement, like which objects should be included in exhibitions. Ministers remain strongly committed to the principle that decisions of this kind should not be taken by them.

Consultation Questions

4.12 We would be particularly interested in your views on:

  • Do you agree that the National Collections should remain as constitutionally separate centres of excellence?
  • Do you think the powers and functions proposed for the Collections in the draft Bill are right? If not, how would you improve them?
  • Do you agree that the Faculty of Advocates should be able to contribute to the board of the National Library by having at least one representative?
  • Do you agree that the Collections have the appropriate powers to obtain, loan and dispose of objects for or from their collections? If not, what would you change?
  • What do you think of the name 'National Record of Scotland'?