Issue 231
May/June 2024

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Jul 21, 2024

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Editorial Comment

Artwork PO Box 3 Ellon AB41 ::

Visit Scotland's early closing days

THE NEWS that Visit Scotland is finally to turn the key on all its remaining tourist information centres will come as little surprise to anyone who has kept an eye on them in recent years.

Over a long period it has been a sad decline, to the point where one began to feel sorry for the staff marooned inside them.

Since the days of the old Scottish Tourist Board their role has been a somewhat confused one. Before such modern 'miracles' as and the like, TICs could, and sometimes did, play a vital role in finding accommodation for visitors who had made no prior arrangements.

But even then they oftern failed in their mission by perversely closing their premises at 5pm sharp - just when visitors without bookings were casting around for a place to rest their heads.

And it has not just been the public face of tourist promotion that has disappointed: all too often it has been difficult to detect a driving philosophy behind the bodies' existence.

All too often, unfavourable comparisons were made with the efforts of other countries. Ireland's approach was often cited as being more inspired, selling something more intangible and less hackneyed.

This lack of inspiration came across in the actual presence of the TICs themselves. In an attempt to recoup some of the running costs they tended to fill their shelves with what can only really be described as tourist tat and tartanry of the saddest sort.

Despite a blossoming of the crafts during the latter part of the century, there was no national showcase to show off the very real skills of the country's craft community.

Where does Visit Scotland go from here? More cruelly put, does it really matter?

(Don't) Hold the front page!

IN THE LATEST round of cuts announced by Creative Scotland two 'literary' ventures lost their funding and were faced with closure.

One, Glasgow's Aye-Write festival, has been saved by the generosity of a large Lottery winner's foundation.

The other, the magazine known as The Map, announced that final closure of its (digital) pages.

The somewhat elusive publication, founded some 20 years ago, was in the news a while back when it decided to end its existence in print. At that time it was disclosed that it had received nigh on £400,000 in support from the arts funding bodies – the old Scottish Arts Council as well as Creative Scotland.

At that point the decision was taken, as so often happens with publications that start their lives in print, to go 'online only.' During this latter period, support was still forthcoming from Creative Scotland, who funnelled another £100,000 plus into the venture to take the total support for the venture over its lifetime to well over half a million.

While it may never have been particularlty visible, The Map did publish some 'fine writing' and has undertaken to masintain an archive of this.

While it could be argued that the half million spread over 20 years only added up to around £25,000 a year, in the context of universally stretched artistic budgets it is still a great deal.

As this humble organ knows only too well, it is a very difficult market. Thanks to our very generous advertiers (and you wonderful readers) we have kept afloat, without any recourse to funding bodies, for over 40 years.

This is probably just as well as we would have been closed down long ago for inappropriate – cheeky even – political comment!

In view of the very large sums spent over the years on various failed publications it is probably sensible to ask if there are other, less direct ways to foster diveersity in this area.

Shared facitlites avsilsble to all such as computer hardware, help with archiving, legal assistance when needed? At all events we must keep trying!

The right way to run a railway?

OVER THE YEARS this modest sheet has devoted many column inches to a battle to see sanity in the running of the railways. Perversely, you might think, for a publication devoted to the arts, but as mentioned above, we have been fortunate in not having to bow the knee to funders of any sort.

Perhaps this campaign has not been totally in vain? Labout seems to have promised to take the system back under national control – hooray (it it's true).

Thanks Dunard - and Greenock

ELSEWHERE in this issue we carry a fairly critical, it has to be said, review of the inaugural show at the new Wyllieum museum in Greenock. What is not said, but needs to be, is how welcome is the very generous support for the venture from the Dunard Fund.

Without the enormous assistance given generally by the fund to the arts in Scotland we would be very much the poorer.

NORTHERN BOOKS FROM FAMEDRAM It's a half price offer with quote AW231 (usually £35/£25)

The Crafts in Scotland 1950-1990
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