Our museums and galleries are vital in telling the story of Scotland's past and they inspire creativity and innovation for the future.
I am, therefore, delighted to receive a copy of the Museums Think Tank report which recognises the great contribution our collections make to Scottish life and considers how our museums and galleries can develop further. I welcome the opportunity to offer my comments on the Think Tank's recommendations.
The Museums Think Tank was set up in September 2009 by the previous Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Mike Russell, MSP. The Think Tank built on the success of the Museums Summit which drew together members from across the sector to consider the issues facing museums and galleries. The membership and different perspectives of the Think Tank reflected the diverse nature of our museums sector. For that reason it is reasonable to assume that it would be difficult for members to reach consensus on everything however I am pleased to see agreement and compromise in the final report.
Members of the Think Tank were chosen on the basis of their experience and skills rather than being representative of particular parts of the sector. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the members of the Think Tank for all their hard work and for remaining focused on the process throughout.
The remit of the Think Tank was to articulate the contribution of the sector to Scottish society; to ensure the correct balance between national, local and independent provision; consider the best use of scarce resources, through collaboration and priority setting to enable the sector to take forward appropriate solutions and to consider how to find a sustainable future for Scotland's industrial collections.
I am pleased to read that all of these elements have been covered by the Think Tank. These recommendations are put forward at a time when the sector faces challenges from the current economic downtown and it is appropriate that the Think Tank have considered how the sector can be helped, and help itself, through sharing skills and knowledge and making best use of resources.
Just as important is the recognition that our museums and galleries are part of the solution in these times of financial constraint. Museums and galleries contribute not just to the economy but deliver rewards in terms of health, education and social inclusion. The worth of the sector should not be ignored by key decision makers at all levels who will be determining spending priorities over the coming months.
The way forward
I have spent time meeting with key players to hear their views and consider the implications of the report's proposals both for them but also for the sector.
I wanted to give careful consideration to the recommendations made by the Think Tank to ensure that we find solutions for the museums and galleries sector not just as a quick fix but which takes account of the diversity of the sector and provides long term direction. I want to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to encourage greater cohesion between our museums and galleries and other key related agencies. The diversity of the sector gives great potential for innovative work amidst the challenges of co-ordination and prioritisation of resources and funding. The Think Tank's recommendations are designed to provide key strategic direction which will better equip our museums and galleries to cope not only with the current economic downturn but to provide opportunities for them to support and develop themselves in the longer term.
National Development Body
The intention of the Think Tank process was not to advocate wholesale change but rather to provide a greater sense of direction for our museums and galleries community. Let me make it clear there will be no new public bodies created as a result of this report. I want to ensure that there is a strategically positioned body that is dedicated to supporting our museums and galleries and I fully support the Think Tank's recommendations in relation to the establishment of a National Development Body. I value the expertise and support that Museums Galleries Scotland ( MGS) bring to the sector and for that reason I have asked MGS to work with the Scottish Government and key partners to develop and implement a model of strategic service delivery that focuses on Scotland's museums and galleries. There will clearly be much work to be done to ensure this model works for the sector and I have asked MGS to fully consider the necessary steps and timescale to ensure this transition. An announcement will be made by early February about the key themes that will be included in the National Strategy and Museums Galleries Scotland may be in a position to commit to becoming the development body in principle. I expect to be able to make a further announcement in early March to confirm the transitional arrangements required to set up the development body which will confirm whether MGS will take on this role.
Key strategic partners
I am keen that the delivery body works with a number of key strategic partners who have the expertise and capacity to assist in the development of these new arrangements and the formulation of the National Strategy. A number of bodies will need to be involved and this should include representatives from the National Museums of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland. I would like to invite Glasgow Life to be involved as a key part of these developments. The National Collections and Glasgow Life have a successful track record, both at home and on the international stage, of collaborative practices and partnership working which will be of great value to the whole sector. It is essential that all of our museums and galleries consider how they can rise to the challenge of the current economic downturn and work more efficiently and effectively both within their own organisations but more importantly with others in the sector and beyond. Collaboration and partnership working are key mechanisms to achieve this and I encourage all museums and galleries large and small, whether at national or local level to embrace the benefits of mutual assistance.
Museums and Galleries Forum
I support the recommendation to establish a Forum which will provide advice and support on the development of a National Strategy. I believe it is vital to bring together key representatives to support the delivery body on this key task. The National Strategy will allow for an examination of our funding structures and provide an opportunity to fully consider the importance of all parts of the sector and how their needs are balanced against provision. I agree with the Think Tank that there should be a review of the Recognition Scheme and the work that MGS has recently done to assess the Scheme will provide a basis for further development.
I welcome the formation of a Federation for our industrial museums which supports the general movement towards collaborative approaches. There is a wealth of skills and expertise amongst our industrial museums and it makes sense that this capacity is shared. I have met with key representatives from Scotland's industrial collections to discuss the Think Tank proposals and I am delighted that they consider the Federation to be a viable model to meet their needs. I have asked the industrials to consider how the Federation will look and I look forward to receiving this piece of work.
The Think Tank acknowledge that the most difficult area for them to reach consensus over was how best to ensure a sustainable future for our industrial collections. There was debate around whether the major industrials should continue to receive direct financial assistance from the Scottish Government. There was agreement though that our industrial collections are important and I endorse the recommendation that the Scottish Government should give its commitment to the de-facto funding arrangement for the Scottish Mining Museum, Scottish Maritime Museum and Scottish Fisheries Museum. Our industrial museums are an important reminder of our industrial past and their valuable contribution in telling the story of Scotland's social and economic history is recognised by the Scottish Government. Funding for the three major industrials will be made directly from the Scottish Government.
These new arrangements will not happen overnight and will need to be carefully considered. I will make a further announcement in early March 2011 on the transitional arrangements required to achieve the National Development Body, National Strategy and Forum and Federation models.
I am committed to designing a workable solution which acknowledges the tremendous contribution of our museums and galleries. I urge the museum sector to support these developments which I believe will help provide a sense of direction and long term cohesion.