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12 Dec 2018

Putting culture in its rightful place

Looking out across the bay from the beach on Hirta, St Kilda. Smooth boulders are in the foreground, before golden sand and then a turquoise sea. A yacht is anchored in the bay.
A public poll has found that place is an important part of Scottish culture.
We’re asking the Scottish Government to take a wider view of culture as they develop their new culture strategy.

At the National Trust for Scotland, we know places are important. Glencoe, St Kilda and Culzean Castle are all part of what makes Scotland so special, and contribute to our nation’s rich culture.

That’s why we think it’s vital that places are part of any Scottish culture strategy. And the public agrees too.

We commissioned a survey of 1,115 people across Scotland to find out what they felt should be included in the nation’s next culture strategy, which is to be agreed in early 2019.

It discovered that Scots have a broad view of culture – regardless of gender, age and income group – with an emphasis on places and participation.

  • 53% of those surveyed said they felt that parks, gardens and designed landscapes should be part of the proposed cultural strategy.
  • 48% felt that landscapes, natural beauty and historic buildings and sites should also be included.

By contrast, performing arts scored 44%; creative industries, such as film, media, games and animation, was selected by 40% of people; and visual arts was included by 39%. Meanwhile, intangible heritage – such as traditions, customs and stories – scored 38%; languages 36%; and architecture and design received 33%.

“Historic buildings, landscapes and other kinds of ‘places’ seem to be exactly what Scots consider culture.”
Diarmid Hearns, Head of Public Policy

Expressions of culture that involved participation, like festivals and events (48%), as well as sports (49%), scored similarly highly – particularly among younger participants.

Parks, gardens and designed landscapes were shared priorities, regardless of gender. They also featured among the top two priorities of every age cohort, with the exception of 16–24-year-olds.

Sports and recreation was the highest priority for males, scoring 58%. Female respondents tended to favour the performing arts and appeared to be slightly more culturally engaged than men, with 589 preferences expressed compared to 530.

Younger people, men and lower income groups tended to have fewer culture interests, on average, compared to older, female or higher income respondents. Only 1% of respondents said that public funding for cultural pursuits should be used elsewhere.

Diarmid Hearns, Head of Public Policy at the National Trust for Scotland continued: ‘These findings suggest that “culture” has a lot more to it than current national approach allows. While it’s predominantly focused on what might be considered more conventional areas – performing arts and creative industries parts of the economy – it really lacks an appreciation for the role that places play in our shared concept of culture.

‘Yet “places” seem to be exactly what Scots consider culture. They are made by the actions of current and past generations, and the physical and emotional experience of our special places are at the heart of our culture.

‘Our research indicates there’s a clear disconnect between what the existing approach suggests should be considered culture and what the public believes it encompasses. The launch of the new Culture Strategy at the beginning of 2019 is an opportunity for us to bridge that cultural schism.’

The Trust is calling on the Scottish Government to redefine its definition of culture. This is just one example of the charity’s advocacy work, which aims to ensure that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now and for future generations.

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

Our Strategy

Our new strategy – Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone – provides a framework for the future of the National Trust for Scotland as we look towards our centenary in 2031.