The St Magnus International Festival 2014 celebrated the 70-th anniversary of the building of the Italian Chapel in Orkney. As part of the celebrations, LiveOil presented at the municipal library in Kirkwall the historical photographic exhibition "The Italian Chapel and the Prisoners of Camp 60". The inauguration was held on June 21 and was attended, among others, by Ms Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs of the Scottish Government. On this occasion, Ms Hyslop, has released to LiveOil an exclusive interview.
LiveOil is very delighted to interview a distinguished member of the Scottish Government like Ms Fiona Hyslop. I would like to start with the role of culture in Scotland. How the actual government is facing the need to support culture with the wave of restrictions on public budget that is hitting all the european countries?
“Our record speaks for itself. This is the most culturally ambitious government that Scotland has ever seen. We have worked hard to build confidence in the sector. We have protected budgets and we have promoted and supported the arts, culture and heritage wherever we can, the length and breadth of Scotland and across the world. We do this because we believe that the public funding of the arts is a fundamental good, and one that is necessary for the wellbeing of individuals and communities across Scotland.
“The Scottish Government is committed to widening opportunities for everyone to access, engage in and benefit from cultural activity. Culture and heritage are of us all and for us all. Across Scotland, our communities are alive with music, dance, literature, theatre and poetry. We want everyone to be empowered and benefit from our rich cultural life.
“As we move towards this September’s referendum, I believe that culture and heritage must continue to be at the heart of Scotland’s continued development and must shape our engagement with the world.”
What is the role of Culture to ease the exit from the actual crisis?
“It is the Scottish Government’s role to create the conditions for cultural and creative excellence to flourish. This is a prerequisite for all the other benefits that culture can deliver for our quality of life, our well-being and then for our economy. While we recognise and appreciate the significant contribution our culture and creative industries make to the economy, that is not how we measure the value of culture, and that is not why we continue to support and fund the sector.”
How the upcoming public consultation on independence of Scotland and a win of the "Yes" can impact the promotion of Scottish culture internally and abroad.
“I want Scotland to be a country where everybody cares about, shares and champions our culture and our heritage – where everyone has a responsibility and can make a contribution.
“Devolution has demonstrated the immense value we place on our arts, culture and creative industries, in and of themselves as well as for the wider benefits they bring. Culture is already largely devolved, and this Scottish Government has demonstrated our commitment to the sector, which we value and support because it sits at the heart of who we are. Culture is key to our quality of life and wellbeing; it roots us in place and shapes how we think of ourselves and how others see us.
“I want Scotland to be a country that is proud and confident, rooted in culture and heritage; a country where we not only cherish our diverse heritage and traditions, but also continually seek to create opportunities to share and to celebrate.
“In an independent Scotland our arts, our creativity and our heritage would be collectively valued, nurtured and supported across the public, private and third sector - not just because of the economic impact that would deliver, but because culture and heritage are an intrinsic and instrumental good for us all.
“This is the most culturally ambitious government that Scotland has ever seen. With independence we would take our strong ambitions to the next level and see Scottish culture and heritage achieve even more than it does already.”
This year Scotland has been home to several cultural initiatives in the framework of the Homecoming Scotland 2014. What is the provisional balance, beyond, within or under your expectations?
“Homecoming Scotland 2014 positions Scotland on the international stage as a dynamic and creative nation. The year extends the benefits and opportunities offered by the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and MTV Europe Music Awards by presenting a year-long, coordinated programme of events designed to generate pride in the people of Scotland and welcome visitors around the world in a celebration of some of Scotland’s greatest assets.
“The programme launched on New Year’s Eve 2013 and will run through to New Year’s Eve 2014. There are more than 880 events happening across every part of Scotland, and more than 300 have already taken place.” “Homecoming 2014 celebrates the very best of Scotland’s food and drink, our assets as a country of natural beauty as well as our rich creativity and cultural and ancestral heritage. The year is supporting ongoing engagement with Scotland’s diaspora around the world and building Scotland’s positive profile at home, throughout the UK and internationally. “Homecoming Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative which is being delivered by VisitScotland with support from a range of partners. Homecoming 2014 is supported by a core budget from Scottish Government of £5.5m; and from this VisitScotland are targeting a return on investment of £44m additional tourism spend for Scotland. A full economic impact will be undertaken at the end of the year.”
What is the actual state of the cultural exchange between Scotland and Italy? Is there room for improvement?
“There are many historic connections between Scotland and Italy, built on a firm and long-standing friendship between the people of our two nations.
“This year alone we are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the building of the Italian Chapel in Orkney by Italian Prisoners of War who came to Scotland in captivity but left as firm friends. Other cultural links between our two nations include Scotland’s contributions during the Venice Biennale, and the many Italian influences and productions that feature in our international festivals, for example the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, which features several Italian musicians and artists this year.
“The Scottish Government is committed to further strengthening our cultural links with Italy and we look forward to engaging further with the country during its Presidency of the EU this year."