simon macfarlaneSimon Macfarlane is a candidate for Labour’s Glasgow & Rutherglen List. He says accessible cultural opportunities are vital for our wellbeing, and we should push for a greater role for arts in schools, social care and beyond.


Glasgow is home to many of our national arts institutions – including the National Theatre, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and RSNO. Our city’s strength in the visual and modern arts is epitomised by the Tramway currently hosting the Turner Prize exhibition. January in Glasgow means Celtic Connections which is just one strand of a vibrant and dynamic music scene. A list of our cultural resources includes our museums, galleries, art school and conservatoire.

For anyone who thinks that art isn’t a political issue, all of these bodies are facing three per cent cuts courtesy of the Scottish Government. The situation in local government, which across Scotland is the biggest supporter of the arts, is even worse. The SNP’s tartan Tory budget will mean massive council cuts across all areas in the year ahead, and non-statutory services like culture are likely to be the place where the axe cuts deepest.

We have an abundance of culture opportunities and expression in Glasgow and Rutherglen, yet we know access and take up are influenced by background and wealth. We are members of the Labour Party as we want to see the transformation of our society through the fairer distribution of wealth and power. Our vision is of everyone having the opportunity to fulfil their human potential not just economically but socially and culturally too.

As an MSP I would campaign to support our creative industries and challenge them to ensure they are more accessible. When arts and creativity are taken out of the city centre into local communities, and aligned to support for working class people to create their own work, there is almost always a hungry audience and many positive spin-offs. But too often this type of work is only funded on a one-off or ad hoc basis. We need to see an increase and shift in resources to support community based arts in the widest sense.

We need to take the broadest approach to recognising and supporting creativity, including building esteem for online forms of art. We also need to support artists in making a decent living. As an MSP I would push for a greater role for art of all sorts in schools, social care and the public realm as a whole. As well as improving the quality of public life it would also provide opportunities for artists. We’ve seen good examples of art and music projects helping dementia sufferers – we need to move from these approaches being newsworthy to being mainstream.

I don’t know whether raves will have replaced tea dances by the time I retire, but one thing I know for sure: having enjoyed a wide range of culture experiences throughout my life I don’t want sat in a circle round a telly for large parts of my day in my final years.

I worked at the RSAMD, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, for a couple of years. It was impossible not to be impressed by the dedication and talent of students and staff, but then as now I wonder why there are not a broader range of routes in to the arts. We know the SNP have slashed college places and this has impacted on creative courses. The Labour Party is rightly committed to restoring college places. But we should go further and look at how apprenticeships and other vocational routes can help more young people in to careers in the arts.

As Bertolt Brecht put it “Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” If we are serious about political change then we should be serious about supporting art and culture.

Art for all!