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12 Feb 2020

Overcoming barriers to experiencing Scotland’s culture

Two walkers head off into the hills along a path in Glencoe. Purple heather grows beside the path.
Ahead of the Scottish Government’s first Culture Strategy for 20 years, the National Trust for Scotland has published new public opinion research on current cultural activity in Scotland, and the barriers to its development.

The research – Scotland’s Culture Strategy: overcoming barriers and unlocking benefits – sets out how different cultural activities are currently enjoyed in Scotland, as well as examining the barriers people may experience.

The research finds that:

  • Scots take a very broad view of what constitutes ‘culture’, with favourite forms of culture including music, food & cuisine, history and sports. Substantial interest is also shown in natural heritage, gardening, theatre and drama. This confirms previous National Trust for Scotland research from 2018 which found the public takes a broad view of what constitutes ‘culture’.
  • Men are much more likely than women to take an interest in sports, games and history, while women had greater interest in arts, making & crafting, food & cuisine, theatre & drama and growing/gardening.
  • A future culture strategy will need to recognise this breadth of cultural activity.
  • Only 25% of respondents considered there were no barriers to enjoying culture. Compared to the population as a whole, barriers to participation were more commonly experienced by young people (29% higher incidence than average), those on lower incomes (17% higher), ethnic minorities (23.5% higher), those identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender (38.6% higher), and people with disabilities (40% higher).
  • The greatest barrier to participation is cost (43%), followed by lack of time, confidence, transport and lack of information (the latter was particularly an issue for women, at 50%).
  • Local cultural provision was rated as ‘good’ by 48% of the population (48% good, 15% average, 30% poor), but was lower for women (43%), for members of the ethnic minorities (40%) and for those in the lowest income bracket (41%).
  • Respondents with lower incomes (<£19,999) were less likely to rate the provision of cultural activity in their area as good (41%), compared to middle- (49%) and high-income groups (60%).
  • Reported benefits of cultural participation include socialising and making friends, making localities better places to live and visit, increased health and wellbeing, education and learning, and building stronger local communities.
Three people stand in a grand drawing room, holding small vacuum cleaners in the air.
The Trust provides many opportunities for people to engage with Scotland’s cultural heritage.

The National Trust for Scotland champions Scotland’s heritage, including our tangible and intangible cultures. The forthcoming Culture Strategy is a way for Scotland as a whole – whether in the public, private or third sectors – to increase opportunities to enjoy Scotland’s culture. The Trust’s Head of Public Policy, Diarmid Hearns, said:

‘In its new strategy, the Scottish Government has a real opportunity to show leadership on this, tackling the barriers we have identified and enabling participation from all in the community, across the country.

‘Our research found Scots see many additional benefits from their cultural activities, including learning, making friends, or creating a better place to live. But they also experienced barriers – and these were worse for those on lower incomes, and for those from ethnic minority groups.’

“We need to better understand what the opportunities are at a local level, and what the role of national and local government is in supporting culture. We also need to work together to tackle the inequalities in access to culture our research has identified.”
Diarmid Hearns
Head of Public Policy, National Trust for Scotland

Diarmid added: ‘This means looking at national and local cultural budgets, and whether these are adequate for our ambitions. We also need to see the value of Scotland’s culture recognised in other public policies, for example in planning, economic development or regenerating our towns and villages.’

A briefing paper is available, giving more detail on the survey results.