Once again in a personal capacity and not …

Comment posted on Challenge to local election candidates from Museums and Heritage Forum by Bob Clark

Once again in a personal capacity and not as Manager of Auchindrain, I welcome Louise Glen-Lee’s statement. The basis on which I do so is wholly neutral and not in any way party political, and indeed my hope is that others contesting the election will now make at least comparable commitments. It would be very good indeed to find that on 4th May, whatever other policy issues may divide the new Council there is consensus that a long, hard look needs to be taken at the nature of the authority’s engagement with community heritage and heritage-based tourism.

It is Catherine Gillies, not I, who speaks for the Museums & Heritage Forum, but I am sure most Forum members would join me in arguing that the essential first step is for the issues, potential and options to be given full and in-depth consideration. Thus armed with knowledge and understanding, I then have to subjectively believe that the new Council will of course take the “right” decisions and pursue an enlightened course.

Bob Clark also commented

  • We can do the same, or better, in Argyll!

    A large proportion of the families who emigrated, and whose descendants are now the target for Homecoming 2014, were displaced from joint tenancy farm townships by the processes of agricultural improvement.

    For this particular market, Argyll has a nationally-unique asset and selling point in the form of Auchindrain. It is the Last Township, and the only place where Homecoming descendants can go that will offer them a real feel for the sort of place their ancestors came from, and left behind.

    Auchindrain is ready to welcome them, but we can’t handle such a big issue alone.

  • We’ll look forward to seeing you at Auchindrain sometime soon.
  • There are a lot of complex issues emerging here! I’ll try to make some sensible responses.

    The first point to make is that since the 19th century responsibility for supporting almost all museums has lain with local authorities. This is not something they MUST do (like, for example, provide schools), but as previously noted almost all of them across the UK do, and do so because they are persuaded that the benefits heritage can bring to communities and the local economy at least equate to the cost of supporting it, and very often more. The point here is that although a Council is entitled to decide not to support a particular museum, or museums in general, it cannot reasonably do so on the basis that someone else ought to be doing so instead. Museums are, and have been for a very long time, in the first instance a local authority function.

    In Scotland, the government in Holyrood provides quite generous funding for project grants through Museums Galleries Scotland, and there are many other agencies that can sometimes be persuaded that a museum or community heritage project meets their criteria. But all of that is only ever short term, and the established norm is that local authorities provide the long-term view and sustained support. So Argyll & Bute Council does not get money specifically to support museums – it is simply anticipated that from their funds they will do so to an “adequate” extent.

    The second point to consider is the question of a “list of assets”. That is actually sensible thinking, because you can’t very easily provide support to something when you don’t have a grasp of what’s out there, or of its strengths and weaknesses. But such an exercise should be able to be undertaken very quickly because the sector is quite well organised in a self-help way through the Forum, and to a large extent the process could be achieved by simply asking the names on a contact list to provide defined factual and statistical information, and then holding a few round-table and one-to-one meetings to get a feel for the issues.

    The third point is Daniel’s question: do we want policy to be top-down or bottom-up? Sadly, the issue isn’t as simple as that. Of course every heritage organisation in Argyll & Bute would love to be able to define the Council’s policy towards it, but that shouldn’t happen and isn’t going to. So we do need to kick off with a strategic vision that comes “from above”, albeit one that has been developed through discussion rather than in isolation. Here, I think the core issue is that Argyll & Bute Council already has a great many policies and objectives that are actually relevant, with the challenge being that historically it has found it hard to see how museums and heritage could contribute to their delivery. In the sector, we know what we can achieve, and there is a huge amount of solid information and precedent out there from other parts of the UK to confirm this. What is needed, however, is for the sector locally to be able to talk to a Council that has a broadly-based and in-depth understanding of issues and potential, and which for example accepts the principle the heritage attractions can be key drivers in building tourism and that achievement needs to be measured more in terms of indirect spend (the B&B, the meal out, the fuel, the High Street shopping) than direct income on site. The ground that arguably needs to be reviewed contains a series of principles about how museums and heritage can contribute to strong communities and economic success, but which to date have not been well understood or much accepted within Argyll & Bute. Perhaps the central point that Catherine and I are variously arguing is to suggest that the new Council should consider these matters very carefully and build its corporate understanding, with this being based on a belief rooted in precedent elsewhere that when they do so they could well see some new ways in which they can take forward existing key objectives in community cohesion, social care, health, education, tourism development, and so on. It isn’t so much about needing a policy for heritage that is new and freestanding as it is about understanding what heritage can do across the board and then letting THAT inform how it in specifics and detail it engages with and decides to support the sector.

    Finally, to come to Daniel’s point about impact over 5-10 years, the issue here is that this depends on where the Council decides its priorities lie. Some local authorities focus on economic development and don’t expect their area’s museums to make a massive contribution to community development: for others, it is the opposite way round. Some authorities choose to target investment at areas of social disadvantage, others opt to build good day-visit and tourism destinations into excellent ones. The available mix of options is almost infinite, with the key issue perhaps being that no matter where you turn the heritage sector will have answers ready to illustrate how it can help. So whilst maybe now the drums need to be banged to get people’s attention, once the core points have been accepted the sector needs to move into listening and thinking mode whilst it hears what the Council wishes to achieve and then individually or collectively presents its ideas.

    The sector’s byeword in this respect is generally to think not what others can do for us but what we can do for them: my objective, as the manager of a museum that could given half a chance of its nature absorb almost infinite resources, is always to persuade YOU that by supporting us you can fulfill YOUR objectives. It all looks very different with the telescope turned around that way!

  • Daniel, the heritage sector can very easily identify its priorities – that’s not a problem. However, this is chicken-and-egg: it’s much better to set objectives and priorities when you are talking to a body that is able to understand the issues and ready to discuss options.
  • We DO need a strong and clear Council policy towards heritage. Although most of the activity should and will continue to be lead and managed by independent, often community-based, organisations, the Council should have a key enabling role.

    In other areas, these things generally work as a partnership. The local authority sets out a strategic policy framework for economic and community development that acknowledges the direct and indirect contributions that can be made by museums, heritage attractions and local history groups. On the back of that, it provides funding to develop and improve things, and to support running costs, which it recognises will not in reality be available from any other source. It uses its statutory position and influence to lever in investment from other agencies. Often, also, it will take a central role in marketing the cultural tourism offer within its area to day-visitors and tourists. There is an argument that the present relatively weak state of heritage in Argyll & Bute is because over the years the Council has never felt confident about taking on these roles to any significant extent.

    As noted before, there is a specific point to make in relation to funding. Properly planned local authority financial support for heritage is NOT a “handout” to organisations that do not have the wits and creativity to thrive in the marketplace. Rather, it overtly recognises that in terms of both community and economic development heritage can deliver net added value which over time is greater than the direct cost.

    It is a matter of fact, on the public record, that Argyll & Bute stands almost alone in the very limited extent to which the local authority has ever actively engaged with, or supported, museums and heritage. I do not say this in a way that is intended to be critical or to stray into politics, but how can it be that most other local authorities ARE persuaded by the arguments and provide often very considerable support? You can be sure, for example, that an authority like Glasgow does not spend that much money on heritage because it has a soft heart or a few Councillors and senior officers like visiting museums! No, there is a hard economic and community case underlying everything.

    Over recent decades, the community has responded as best it can to the situation. In Auchindrain, Kilmartin House Museum and Dunollie, Argyll now has three sites of genuine national importance operating as museums and heritage attractions. Beyond this, almost every mainland settlement of any size – Campbeltown, Oban, Strachur, Dunoon, Helensburgh – and many of the islands – Bute, Islay, Mull, Lismore, Easdale – has onr or more community-run heritage organisations that between them pretty much represents a full network. But, as has been noted, these bodies are generally resource-poor and struggling to achieve and maintain standards to an extent that is untypical of the sector elsewhere in Scotland and the UK.

    Everyone in the heritage sector in Argyll & Bute and beyond has seen the elephant in the room for years: the missing element in this area is policy-driven, active, local authority engagement. That is why, with elections on the horizon, it is so very welcome to see one of the political parties making commitments in this respect, and why it would be even more welcome to see those at least matched by every other party and individual candidate.

Recent comments by Bob Clark

  • Furnace Roll of Honour – the men behind the names
    We have identified one of the two men who have nothing about them in the newly-published Furnace Roll of Honour.

    “A Townsley” on the memorial was Alexander – Sandy – Townsley. He and Charles – Charlie – Townsley stayed in the old Traveller camp by the shore at Furnace. They were brothers, and had another brother called John.

    We hope this usefully fills in a gap in the records.

  • Furnace Roll of Honour – the men behind the names
    https://www.facebook.com/auchindrain.township/posts/556590601109898?comment_id=556627984439493&offset=0&total_comments=2&notif_t=feed_comment
  • Moving Minds at Auchindrain
    Thank you, For Argyll, for publishing this. “Moving Minds” is at Auchindrain every day, 10am to 5pm, through to 20th September. There is no charge for access to the Visitor Centre where the exhibition is to be seen.

    We hope that For Argyll readers and their friends will regard this as a “must-do, must-see” sometime within the next seven weeks.

  • Challenge to Scottish Government: Change the everyday racist discrimination that asks how civilised is Scotland?
    We’re pleased and proud of the way in which For Argyll has reacted to our growing links with the Argyll Travellers.
  • Historic Scotland gives Auchindrain two years to prove itself
    We look forward to seeing you later this year!

    Gaelic represents something of a challenge to us. We are VERY aware of its historical importance, do our best to give the language its place, and where it is realistic for us to do so we support current activities to develop the use of Gaelic in the modern world. However, as a medium for interpretation it is of very little use because so few of our visitors can read Gaelic and none of those who can are also unable to read English. As and when we have funds to develop our interpretation, simply reality indicates that our top priorities for language translations are German, Spanish, French and Italian. We could with relative ease get everything we write translated into Gaelic, but have to date fought shy of something that would be tokenistic rather than adding to understanding of the place. That said, however, it’s an open debate, and we’d welcome differing views on what we ought to do, how, why, and with what outcomes in mind.

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59 Responses to Once again in a personal capacity and not …

  1. I’ll give you a personal promise on that one. The culture and heritage of Argyll & Bute should be one of its best selling points and has been hugely undervalued. I can’t promise away money the council may not have in these difficult times, but I can promise to work for a council where our historic and artistic riches are seen as assets and treated as such. Other regions capitalise on this with great success and I see no reason why Argyll & Bute should miss out.

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    • Caig’s Tower and Donollie Castle are sites that are under used during the tourist and schools could use them as an educational tool. The council should activate a full summer program or advertising them more widely and better

      Visitors and townspeople would need free transport as part of the deal for those events. It would also attract people to shop in Oban and thus help the local economy.

      I wish you every success and hope you are able to muster the required votes for your stated aims.It is a pleasure to be in agreement

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  2. The way in which the council neglected the Clock Lodge at Lochgilphead for decades – failed to follow through with an excellent project to renovate it to hold the county archives (no thanks to Historic Scotland), and left it to be further damaged by fire before trying to sell it – doesn’t bode well for the council taking their cultural responsibilities seriously unless there’s a step change in the quality of some of our local politicians.

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  3. We are already talking with people at the highest level to pull together some exciting news for those in heritage, arts and culture, post election.
    It’s time to recognise what we have here in Argyll and Bute to secure, stabilise and sustain it for the future.
    There will be no pet projects – there will be a determined and strategic focus on building a future from our past.
    We will engage with our hard working dedicated experts to ensure we can show off, what I believe to be the best examples of, Scottish life and history.
    The rise in heritage tourism is not something we as councillors should ever take for granted. It could be the key to our future.
    Later today I will post our key manifesto commitments in Heritage, Arts, Culture and Sport. I would do it now but I am looking over Appin to Lismore – heritage, culture, landscape and our future all in one view.

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  4. I am standing in Lomond North, an area rich in cultural heritage and, should I be fortunate enough to be elected, I will be very happy to meet with any heritage group and to work with them to get the best result for everyone from heritage fans to tourism businesses. It is time for joined-up thinking and our heritage is a vital link with the past and for the future.

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  5. While wholeheartedly agreeing with the Heritage challenge this must be part of the real challenge, which is population growth in Argyll and Bute with economically active people who will live, love and work in the area to give birth to future generations.

    Argyll and Bute cannot continue to be a glorified old folks home because the working population will be unable and, I suspect sometime in the not too distant future, unwilling to support such an increasing ageing population.

    The new council needs two missions: the first is radical compassion, to foster self and voluntary help for the needy and secondly, enterprising sustainability where every initiative must be assessed on its ability to create wealth.

    Argyll & Bute is in many respects Scotland’s Fynest but it must be promoted with an eagerness to expand our culture. The past has been magnificent, the future can be even better

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    • Totally on board with wealth creation. We can’t afford to lose money and every penny spent should have a good chance of bringing a return to the community. Heritage and culture are well placed to do just that and make our lives richer to boot!

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  6. Graeme gets my vote! visit britain research has been well quoted to say that primary reasons for UK visits is 1. castles 2. a visit to a pub!!…..heritage is important….we have it in abundance but we need young folk to create communities/economies in which to enjoy it!!! so…whilst the challenge made is important, it must be given the priority of work, live, visit! The primary impact will be visits…..so if heritage can stimulate more direct jobs, or is the reason for folks to remain or relocate then it will then become important in an election

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    • Actually Daniel I don’t entirely agree with you. The primary impact is not ‘visit’, although that is obviously an important factor.
      I always liken the heritage as similar to football. If you are interested in football then it is a really big part of your life. If you aren’t, then it is difficult to understand its impact (I really don’t care about football!!). However if your heritage IS important to you – whether it because you care about a public building like the Clock Tower or because you want to trace your own ancestry, then it is a really big thing in your life. NOT having the opportunity to enjoy it impacts heavily on your happiness and wellbeing, on your commitment to where you live and work, and how you interact with other people. “This is where I am from, this is who we are” is absolutely fundamental.
      You only have to look at the meltdown that came in the wake of the Cultural Revolution in China and the attempts to sweep away large chunks of heritage DNA in the USSR to understand just how important heritage is to people’s lives. I am still astounded by the risks people took, and the imprisonment they endured, to safeguard their community heritage and memory. We are obviously not in that position, but we are needing to look after our community soul better. People are distressed by its neglect – all of us who work with the many volunteers who WANT it to be better cared for, see at first hand just how much it matters.
      So I agree with you wholeheartedly that the priority list should have “visit” in third place in the menu. “Live” is higher up, and includes heritage as a fundamental part of it.
      “Work” also includes heritage as a fundamental part of it. You strip it away, or neglect it, and Argyll will become just like any other part of Britain, only harder to get to. If we don’t look after our amazing Victorian/Edwardian seaside townscapes, if we allow our prehistoric landscape at Kilmartin to become degraded and overgrown, if we give up on caring for the last intact township of Auchindrain, if we let our 60 medieval castles fall down and our host of early Christian sites become lost, then Argyll becomes bland and characterless; lovely scenery without stories. The tourists will lose interest, the hotels and guesthouses have to work harder for business, the shops lose out, the population will decline, it will become a less attractive place for professionals to come and work, and all the current efforts for regeneration will lose their potency.
      Overstatement? No – plenty of precedent. As there also is for heritage being part of regeneration and creating a climate in which young people want to live and work. Don’t forget one of the original bullet points here – heritage and arts as linked activities. The Highlands and Islands, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland invested heavily in culture as part of their creation of thriving environments, and for some years now young people have been choosing to stay, return after studying, or move there to live and work. Culture creates excitement and a climate for creativity which pervades everything, from events, festivals and attractions down to the nitty gritty of how people develop brand and marketing materials. You can develop all the industry you like, but if you do it in a cultural vacuum it won’t bring people to live and work, any more than a place without a good leisure centre for the football and sports enthusiasts will. Especially not the young.
      Work, live, visit. Do any of them without heritage AND culture and you are stuffed.

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      • There is also a VERY solid economic argument surrounding heritage. An ad-hoc review undertaken over two years ago amongst some members of the Museums & Heritage Forum showed it to be a more-than-million-pounds-a-year business involving over 250,000 visitors. And that’s without significant Council input! How many businesses that big does Argyll & Bute have? Beyond that, look at the tourism “honeypot” of Inveraray: what would be there worth visiting without the Castle, the Jail and Auchindrain?
        Catherine’s points are well-made.

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        • There is a very simple argument for heritage.
          There has been consistently more time and money spent on the website Ancestry.co.uk than Ebay.co.uk over the past decade.
          As a genealogist there are hundreds of thousands of people wanting to learn where their ancestors came from. That includes the people who still live in the same area. They want to learn the skills, experience the lives, understand the communities. They want to take home something that will remind them of it.
          We have the beginnings of Ardchattan Parish Archive here. Up till this year it was not very accessible but still people came. Those people had often been to other places, like Lismore, (families commonly related). One partner might have spent time learning about their people, the other had spent over £100 in the shop, enjoyed the cafe, and the scenery. Happy people… useful income to the area without any exploitation or degradation to the island.
          Our heritage is a living creature – our past informs our future. There are thousands of stories yet to be told.
          There is plenty about our old skills that we will need in the future.. and that people simply enjoy learning.
          To do that while staying in the most beautiful scenery, and in some of the finest accommodation in the country is a magical mix for any marketing guru to fall in love with.

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  7. I write in a personal capacity, not as Manager of Auchindrain, to echo and endorse Catherine Gillies’ comments made on behalf of organisations and individuals working in heritage within Argyll & Bute.

    Over the decades, Argyll & Bute Council and its predecessors have perhaps not always found it easy to recognise the contribution that heritage already makes to the area’s economy and communities, or more importantly the potential contribution that it could make given support, active encouragement and funding.

    The great majority of local authorities within the UK are persuaded that investment in heritage delivers worthwhile economic and social returns. If this were not the case, so very many of them would not allocate such considerable resources to heritage, and would certainly not have done so consistently over the decades – in many cases since the 19th century.

    The reasons for the relatively disadvantaged position of heritage in Argyll & Bute can through historical reasoning be traced back many years, and thus understood. It is now, however, perhaps time for a change, and for the Council to reappraise its whole policy approach to the heritage sector.

    My hope is that the new Council, once elected, will agree by consensus to give full and thorough consideration to the nature and scale of its engagement with the area’s vibrant but resource-starved heritage sector, and in particular to reflect on the possibility that the long-term indirect added value gained through investment might well in net terms outweigh the short-term direct cost.

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  8. What a challenge for the new council! Just how big is evidenced by the ongoing deliberate neglect of Kilmory Farm, quite literally on the council’s doorstep. While the council have lavished a fortune on repeated makeovers of their chief executive’s office, they have blithely ignored the tragic decay of this magnificent set of buildings. Their only recognition that it exists was to surround it with the ugliest possible security fence, a starkly visual reflection of their own headquarters building, summarising quite succinctly their utter lack of aesthetic standards.

    I live in hope of a seismic shift in our local politics next month – I dread the prospect of another session with these philistine numpties.

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  9. I think that Bob Clarke has got it right here. Several administrations ago the local Council made what they thought was a saving by failing to fill the post of Archivist when the last holder of that position retired.

    I know that times are hard and that financial constraints are necessary but I sincerely hope that the new Council will take the longer view and appoint a suitably qualified person to maintain and safeguard the priceless heritage and records of Argyll.I am sure that this would be a very worthwhile long term investment rather than a cost.

    Along with some younger, and I hope fitter, companions a group of us, interested in local history, are seeking to tidy up and make accessible the last resting place of James of the Glens-famously executed for a crime he did not commit. He is buried in the graveyard at Keil in Duror but the site is hopelessly overgrown. The ownership of the site is far from clear although some are carefully sifting for information through the Record of Sasines in Edinburgh. It would appear that when the county boundaries were switched to transfer Duror and points north from Argyll to Highland the relevant records were “lost” in the process.

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  10. The culture and heritage of Argyll & Bute is for many its greatest draw, and not only tourists. I am one of these economically active young people of whom Graeme speaks, and though I moved to the area 4 years ago I have only recently got employment in the sector. And I know of others who would love to move to Argyll which is so rich in historical and archaeological sites, it really is an exciting place to be, but the jobs are few and far between (and they would be unwilling to waitress for 3 years waiting for the next opportunity)

    Now heritage sites if managed correctly and with the right support can have a huge benefit to their local communities. They can provide employment and volunteer opportunities; they can work with local schools to provide learning out with the classroom. They can work with community groups to provide sessions for the young, old, the vulnerable, or minorities alike giving them a chance to interact with the wider community, helping them to grow in confidence and independence. They are meeting places,can support the arts and can host events which enable the local community in an informal way to engage with the site and get a sense of ownership and pride for their shared past. In short heritage sites are an essential part of the social wellbeing of any community and we should not forget ours.

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  11. Catherine, you’ve clearly touched an important nerve here, and the responses are very heartening. As I’ve said before, I think Argyll has a huge opportunity to exploit because (a) so much of its heritage is central to the story of Scotland’s development and (b) so many of the sites, museums, and heritage centres complement each other, contribute different elements of the story, and don’t just repeat the same familiar themes, as happens in many other parts of rural Scotland. As one example,look at how well Inveraray Castle and Auchindrain complement each other to reflect two very different but inter-related social patterns.

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  12. catherine/bob – i have the highest regard for your work in this field and my comments are just to widen the debate as I’ve had to leave the region and my family to get a job elsewhere. I left our economic development agency which doesn’t have competitive salaries, now doesn’t have anyone of <30yrs working for them, however, they are investing in emergent sectors that will create new jobs, wealth and inward investment.
    I don't disagree with any of your well informed opinions and agree that public sector does have to make an investment in heritage. however, i don't think looking to the past is the best way…..we need a strategic local authority that has foresight to position heritage as part of their investments made into economic and social development.
    despite what local authorities think, the world around them moves on and younger generations are very 'mercurial' therefore unlike T Coia, many won't play the long game and stick around till things change. On a lighter note, the council may surprise us and seek World Heritage Status for some of our roads & telecommunication networks.
    I value heritage but we need to explore the synergies between our traditional sectors and the emergent…the SAMS/Dunstaffnage is a perfect example. Aquaculture and Island Communities another. A&BC must also invest in the interaction of heritage with high value 'niche" tourism that we can excel on. For instance, what is their role in encouraging communities to max. on the cycle network between Oban and Appin???
    To be fair….the issue doesn't solely lie with local authority…..our communities and residents also need to play there part. I've just read about planning application for fish farms close to Colonsay, yet there is much debate/split opinion. Its a must, for the fragile island to prosper, we need new jobs, that attract people and that gain exposure to heritage/culture…….and on, and on.
    Bob, unfortunately, in terms of impact, £1M isn't beyond some/many tourism businesses and they will also call on much needed investment in "connectivity" which has to happen or we will be lost!. for instance, there are decent hotels/restaurant in Inveraray/Oban that hit that mark and the FTE jobs and collective visitor numbers will be comparable. They also need lots of support to keep good young people to be hospitable to residents/visitors…….so, its a case of priorities….so it would be refreshing for the Heritage Sector to highlight their 3 priorities, for Argyll & Islands, cost them and pitch them to councillors. There are many and diverse demands that are all merited but A&BC can't do them all.

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    • I think we are really saying the same thing Daniel: Argyll needs a regeneration/population/deomgraphic programme. For this to work it needs a lot in the mix. Heritage and culture are part of this as standard elsewhere in Scotland, what the Forum is saying that Argyll and Bute needs to get with the programme and do it here too – and the challenge proffered here is to the prospective councillors specifically because this is an election push. However it does need a range of people and agencies behind it. Ultimately it will all be about partnership. We are all for that – after all, the Forum is a partnership organisation by definition.

      I also make the point that it is a change of heart that is needed, which costs not a penny so this is not necessarily about saying ‘give us money’: we recognise the situation as well as anyone. Once a new ethos is achieved and the general principal established it will start to draw in funding partners. Lots to play for, and the council might as well start doing what other councils have been doing for years, which is making the most of what is out there.

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      • catherine – totally agree – but a challenge back……try to make very specific challenges of those with resources (human and financial)

        your political challenge plays into the hands of politicians……play them at a sport they don’t know.

        the points you’ve listed are very loose and open to loose interpretation.

        ……the “creating an atmosphere” ” recognising and promoting” and “building partnerships & leadership” are very pink and fluffy…..and i doubt they are going to get you the £M’s required to achieve the step change you seek.

        get specific, get targeted, get achievable goals and then get action focused!

        my suggestion to the forum, is challenge councillors of specifics as the bullet points are open to interpretation easy to wriggle around!! any political-savvy candidate would be able to provide evidence that they did what you asked, whilst, importantly……not delivering anything!

        *creating an atmosphere of support and encouragement for communities to celebrate and *further cultural heritage in their own communities
        *recognising and promoting heritage and arts as intertwined activities in Argyll
        *recognising and fostering cultural tourism as a key economic driver
        *building partnerships and leadership

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        • I know exactly what you are saying and I deal daily in measurables and specifics in funding applications, but what we need here at this precise moment IS something amorphous.
          Argyll and Bute Council has no policy on culture. It doesn’t exist – or rather, the policies that were written some years ago lie on shelves and have never been activated. Before Argyll and Bute Council can begin to enter the world of cultural funding and linked strategic development they need to come up with a mission statement at the very least. They will be asked for this at every turn, and at the level of funding that they could be accessing it needs to be specific and robust. The bullet points I have laid out here may look woolly, but they are actually bedrock. This is what they would achieve as a mission statement:
          1. Allow cultural management to start within communities for communities rather than becoming lost in top down policy (essential as the existing infrastructure is all independent and if it is too top down they may not meet effectively in the middle).
          2. Making sure that heritage and arts not only work together, which they already do, but that this is policy. By happy accident Argyll is ahead of the pack in the integration of the two, which usually do their own thing. The total lack of art/exhibition venues in Argyll means that arts use museums. This is now being actively encouraged by public agencies. The council needs to recognise it and embed it so they get it right.
          3. Finally FINALLY get recognition of the role culture plays in the economy, which is vast, and outstrips anything golf brings into this country several times over. This bullet point formalises the point that it is a key economic driver (you said so yourself in your first point), which later down the line enables heritage/arts to get into strategic funding streams within council budgets. So far they have been treated like a corner sweetie shop.
          4. Building partnerships and leadership is absolutely vital. The first is underway thanks to some of the good councillors who do get it (but they are a minority at the moment), but there is no leadership, no expertise, and no strategic vision within the council whatsoever when it comes to cultural management and development. Without good leadership, the public agencies will not invest.
          So – not woolly, absolutely essential laying down of policy. Only then can we start to proper planning, and only then start talking figures. First things first.

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  13. catherine – also forgot to mention….vote for neil macintyre in may! he worked for historic scotland for many years and has an appreciation for heritage…I’ll also make sure I press him at every opportunity

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  14. SNP Manifesto commitments in Heritage, Arts, Culture and Leisure.

    We will:

    recognise the council’s responsibilities to local young people and local communities by increasing support for leisure and sports provision encouraging social enterprise and community-owned initiatives.

    support tourism as a key industry, working with and being guided by the local tourism partnership, local tourism partners and local tourism partners.

    increase the number of people who visit Argyll and Bute and the length of the tourist season.

    support events and festivals that draw people to Argyll and Bute.

    develop, in association with Historic Scotland and other national agencies, a strategic plan for promoting our heritage.

    reclaim local knowledge of our unique past by building a historical profile of Argyll and the islands.
    maximise the number of young people and adults who have the opportunities to experience sport in their own community by developing plans to fit with Scottish Government funding.

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  15. Sometimes I wonder if Argyll & Bute Council actually understands the value of heritage and the role it has in the local community. I am also concerned about the lack of attention that has been given to the real (and potential) economic contribution that heritage has to offer. I hope that whoever succeeds in the forthcoming election doesn’t just talk about supporting heritage in principle, but actually outlines a way to properly assess and deliver a series of practical measures, what ever the end-result of that particular consultation process is. Without consultation and >real< subsequent action I fear that we will be lost in a game of words with no real progress being made.

    The first step? Talk to the members of the Argyll and Bute Museums and Heritage Forum. Listen to their ideas and suggestions from their variety of backgrounds and experience. Then talk and listen to the community, go and see for yourselves how the 99% of tourist attractions are run and barely survive. Think about how the rest of Scotland, and the rest of the world, views us. What impression will we create if our heritage is left to ruin? Think about what people do when they go on holiday. Do we want people just to visit for the landscape and invest in little else? Think about what is required in order to improve that.

    Do we really want Argyll & Bute to become a desolate cultural graveyard? Are we capable of growth? Think about the potential drivers that will make people come and want to stay (and subsequently invest). Think about identity, citizenship and community cohesion. If the community has no outlet to express itself, how on earth can you expect people to stay? If there is no expression, how on earth can you expect people to visit?

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      • Totally agreed too – but see my new reply to Daniel above. Top of the page is a mission statement. To get an idea of where we are as museum managers/developers in Argyll, it has always been like walking down a street of closed doors hammering fruitlessly on every one. Only a few months ago a prominent councillor said of Dunollie “it’s a bunch of old pots, who wants to see that” (needless to say he hadn’t visited). Oh boy we have a long way to go. But once the first flake lands on the surface I promise you we will be on it like piranhas. That first flake is recognition, ethos, principle.

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  16. louise – we can all “recognise” and “support” – very loose term – does your party have anything more specific? also, your campaign manager/manifesto editor needs some advice on tourism, as no mention to increasing “value.”

    strategic plans……how about tactical and action plans……too much strategising!! – wil that take the term of council?

    “maximise” the number experiencing sport…….again SNP have failed in past manifesto commitments re: 2 hrs of PE…more work required!!!!

    no problem with the reclaiming and creating profile but lets hope in doing so…..its digitised immediately!!!

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  17. Once again in a personal capacity and not as Manager of Auchindrain, I welcome Louise Glen-Lee’s statement. The basis on which I do so is wholly neutral and not in any way party political, and indeed my hope is that others contesting the election will now make at least comparable commitments. It would be very good indeed to find that on 4th May, whatever other policy issues may divide the new Council there is consensus that a long, hard look needs to be taken at the nature of the authority’s engagement with community heritage and heritage-based tourism.

    It is Catherine Gillies, not I, who speaks for the Museums & Heritage Forum, but I am sure most Forum members would join me in arguing that the essential first step is for the issues, potential and options to be given full and in-depth consideration. Thus armed with knowledge and understanding, I then have to subjectively believe that the new Council will of course take the “right” decisions and pursue an enlightened course.

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  18. Thanks for your comments.

    We want to engage as soon as possible with those folks who work so well under extreme conditions in Heritage, Culture, Arts and Leisure.
    I think this is an area where we can make some great progress, and we need to do that as quickly and as meaningfully as we can. The conversations we have had to date are progressive and positive. An SNP-led administration wants the best environment in which to work, we know that this area has been under-funded and under-developed and we want that to change. The folks involved in this debate are some of the key partners who should be involved in firming up policy. These are exciting times filled with possibility.

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    • Louise – glad you’ve had positive discussion…if you up for it, I would like a discussion about A&BC management of sport parks, pricing and availability!! all of these matters are negatively impacting the development of a sport I’m involved in and some progress needs to be made. in fact…I’m sure catherine etc can help provide old imagery of the 000′s that lined mossfield parks to watch sport being played….now, we can’t even get on it to train!!! (candidates – neil macintyre & roddy maccuish – have reliably told me sport used to be played 3-5 nights per week in the oban area!! why is that resticted now in modern day???….simple actions can impact anti-social behaviour/health/culture/heritage/. I’ll maybe drop you an email

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  19. I am really heartened by the way this discussion is going. It is quite clear to me that two lines are being pursued which are totally compatible but simply serve to point up the gap between where the community and the council.
    Those of us who work in the sector know how far back the council is, and this challenge is to get them to at least start thinking straight. For goodness sake get some policy!
    The community, who takes the importance of heritage and arts for granted, because they are SO much further ahead and see the impact of it elsewhere in Scotland and the world, are saying “forget the words, for goodness sake make some proper committments. Action on the ground please”.
    Both are absolutely correct.

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  20. totally agree on the leadership point but disagree on policy!! why does leadership need to come from local authority or a councillor??? do they tend to have leadership or management qualities?? with regard to policy, do you want heritage to be embedded into the CPP?…..that is deemed the governing policy/process by which the agenda is set for a 3-5 yr period. what has that delivered in the last 3-5. I’ve just checked and read our national outcome 12/13 and heritage fits into that nicely BUT, it is wooly policy, wooly success measures (if they are there…lots of tbc) I’m sure you have read them…incomplete policy documents, with poor success measures and long term targets… finally, on a positive, they do have someone assigned to them as lead for 2009-12. namely. SNH Andrew Campbell and also George Harper, Director of A&BC. (so, they can’t even keep the documents up to date!!)

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    • We DO need a strong and clear Council policy towards heritage. Although most of the activity should and will continue to be lead and managed by independent, often community-based, organisations, the Council should have a key enabling role.

      In other areas, these things generally work as a partnership. The local authority sets out a strategic policy framework for economic and community development that acknowledges the direct and indirect contributions that can be made by museums, heritage attractions and local history groups. On the back of that, it provides funding to develop and improve things, and to support running costs, which it recognises will not in reality be available from any other source. It uses its statutory position and influence to lever in investment from other agencies. Often, also, it will take a central role in marketing the cultural tourism offer within its area to day-visitors and tourists. There is an argument that the present relatively weak state of heritage in Argyll & Bute is because over the years the Council has never felt confident about taking on these roles to any significant extent.

      As noted before, there is a specific point to make in relation to funding. Properly planned local authority financial support for heritage is NOT a “handout” to organisations that do not have the wits and creativity to thrive in the marketplace. Rather, it overtly recognises that in terms of both community and economic development heritage can deliver net added value which over time is greater than the direct cost.

      It is a matter of fact, on the public record, that Argyll & Bute stands almost alone in the very limited extent to which the local authority has ever actively engaged with, or supported, museums and heritage. I do not say this in a way that is intended to be critical or to stray into politics, but how can it be that most other local authorities ARE persuaded by the arguments and provide often very considerable support? You can be sure, for example, that an authority like Glasgow does not spend that much money on heritage because it has a soft heart or a few Councillors and senior officers like visiting museums! No, there is a hard economic and community case underlying everything.

      Over recent decades, the community has responded as best it can to the situation. In Auchindrain, Kilmartin House Museum and Dunollie, Argyll now has three sites of genuine national importance operating as museums and heritage attractions. Beyond this, almost every mainland settlement of any size – Campbeltown, Oban, Strachur, Dunoon, Helensburgh – and many of the islands – Bute, Islay, Mull, Lismore, Easdale – has onr or more community-run heritage organisations that between them pretty much represents a full network. But, as has been noted, these bodies are generally resource-poor and struggling to achieve and maintain standards to an extent that is untypical of the sector elsewhere in Scotland and the UK.

      Everyone in the heritage sector in Argyll & Bute and beyond has seen the elephant in the room for years: the missing element in this area is policy-driven, active, local authority engagement. That is why, with elections on the horizon, it is so very welcome to see one of the political parties making commitments in this respect, and why it would be even more welcome to see those at least matched by every other party and individual candidate.

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  21. see your point but all I’m saying is….the heritage, culture & arts stakeholders could prioritise a policy/strategy/actions that the council can sign up to or support! with council engagement, agreement and sign off…..this would help the stakeholders be nimble and still retain ownership.
    the diverse sub-sectors of food & drink sector has come together at national level and agencies/local authorities opt into the policy, strategy and actions. why wait for the culture change in an organisation that you have told us has neglected you for so long!! change takes long time, policy takes long time and usually……the times they are a changing (and by the time you cajole a disparate political landscape to get a policy sorted, you may have missed lots of opportunities….as you have in times gone by!

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  22. Daniel, the heritage sector can very easily identify its priorities – that’s not a problem. However, this is chicken-and-egg: it’s much better to set objectives and priorities when you are talking to a body that is able to understand the issues and ready to discuss options.

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  23. Like it or not core heritage and culture policy and administration are government responsibilities, and are administered through Museums and Galleries Scotland and Creative Scotland at strategic level, and on the ground through local authorities.
    Argyll and Bute receives money annually to spend on museums in Argyll. This is the system. We can policy-make until we are blue in the face, but as the strategic development dialogue takes place between MGS, CS and the local authorities, it is a pointless exercise.
    What is happening here is that a perfectly workable national system for the care of our heritage suddenly hits a glass floor in Argyll and Bute, where there is no policy or working mechanism for dealing with it. Underneath it are all of us independent museums beating against the glass ceiling. I recognise your call for independent thought but hey, we have been doing that for a long time and would love to be doing it with a really important partner like the Council.
    I just want to share with you the latest Government thoughts on cultural value:
    “The creative industries in Scotland support over 60,000 jobs and contribute over £5 billion to the economy; the historic environment supports 60,000 jobs and contributes more than £2.3 billion; and Scotland’s museums and galleries welcome an estimated 25.3 million visitors per annum and are worth an estimated £800 million to the economy.”
    We want a slice of that for Argyll please…

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    • okay. i’m still learning, debate is good….keep the stats coming as they help paint a picture for those ignorant to them (myself). I totally agree you want a slice but….what do you need to help you get a bigger piece of the cake? Bob says he can prioritise the actions from the 50 or so organisations involved in the Forum. Could you tell us what they are and what is the impact over 5-10 yrs as Anne wishes to forecast? (I fear, the vision will not reflect the reality….as the key economic trends continue to be negative!!)…..plus the snp communication machine tends to use ‘recognise” “maximise” and “brighter future” which doesn’t really mean much!

      I’m still troubled by the policy stuff….as someone else must be failing you. i.e.: CS and MGS and their pay masters i.e.: Government. Is it bottom-up or top-down policy you are looking for? or is it a 2 pronged attack on the authority?
      As you’ve said….A&BC already work within a policy framework and are given funding to spend on museums etc, so are they not doing their job? or are you suggesting they should be spending more than the minimum and be bolder in commitment to heritage?? Just trying to understand your argument to help relay it to others.

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      • LOL! Daniel, you identify SNPspeak quite accurately. It’s one of the by-products of working in a team.

        But don’t assume it’s meaningless. However hard things are, we know we can improve Argyll & Bute’s prospects. As Catherine says, often it’s not about money. If a change of attitude in the council can help the heritage sector bring new money, jobs, tourists, ratepayers into the region, we’d be mad to pass it up. (Or if I identify an alternative source of revenue and see a way to maximise it, I can create a brighter future;-)

        Good debate and I like your questions.

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        • thanks Anne….I’m all for team work, I’ve seen and heard of plenty SNP team work. admittedly, SNP are very tight and proactive bunch…just that they often offer equal measure of high level of communication to mask things that don’t go their way, mistakes or a frailty is exposed. SNP in my opinion have the right attitude but its vitally important that we have capable opposition or constituents that can ensure they don’t don’t get too head strong or individuals get carried away with themselves (in the early stages)

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  24. Catherine, A key part of the SNP group’s thinking is that the council needs a vision for Argyll & Bute. Where do we want to be in five or ten years? To make a good job of that you need to make a list of assets and in this region anyone with eyes would see that heritage and culture must be a part of that, properly integrated with other objectives like planning, jobs, tourism or transport. Policy, that much vaunted and often meaningless word, is only truly possible when you’ve done that. It’s not a day’s work by any means – it has to be an ongoing process – but we have our collective sleeves rolled up.

    Times are hard and everything from the council to the local brownies is affected, but with a will, working together, a much brighter future is possible.

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    • to make a good job = list of assets!!……sounds like a job for an officer, council committee or even better a consultant to travel the length and breadth of our region to investigate. I respect, you didn’t mean it in that way but come on…..i’ve read lots of policies or strategies that list our assets…doesn’t help stimulate investment! (i.e.: read the sports strategy….but council aint investing in the parks etc) come on SNP candidates….think out the box and beyond tick box exercises!
      in fact….what ever did happen to that consultant lead review of pitches/parks strategy that I attended lots of public meetings and consultations….must contact Willie Young, find out what the outcome was!
      stop: forgot the outcome was Campbeltown’s economic/regeneration project (CHORD funds for 3G park)…..I’ll need to get my hands on the business case for it. Anne – could you help with that?

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      • Daniel, you’re right! Thousands of wasted hours, thousands wasted on consultants (some of whom end up in the Herald because they’re taking money for rubber stamping someone else’s work), and at the end of it you get a business case with holes in it. We can’t afford that.

        What we can afford is some clear thinking. We’re in a region where the planning department says a school is crucial to regeneration while the education department is saying it’s inconsequential to survival. We’re in a region where council meetings are held within ten minutes of some of Scotland’s most astounding archeology, yet most of the participants couldn’t define prehistory. There has to be a moment where we define, for everyone, what Argyll & Bute is, determine what its assets are, and how we’re going to go about making it work. Council departments and staff all need to be moving in the same direction, not wasting energies, and money, on being at cross-purposes. A clear vision, a well thought out strategy, a positive direction – it may sound like SNPspeak, but this is the context those words come from and they’re truly meant.

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        • I’m keen to see if the SNP walk the walk, as lets be very clear….current SNP candidates need to look into their own history….they were in power via the alliance for a significant proportion of the last term. that period saw lots of waste, lack of vision and lots of directions…..all or most of which were off track!!! I’m not anti…in fact, I’ve supported much of their stuff at national level…but IMHO they have weaknesses on the ground in our constituencies

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          • Daniel, negotiating with a senior partner in an alliance is a good deal different from being in power. Current SNP councillors did manage to do some of what they wanted but weren’t in a position to do it all. Hopefully people are waking up to the current administration (attacking 26 wee schools fairly wakes people up across the region)and May now holds the promise of a very different scenario.

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  25. Aha! Lots of extremely pertinent questions above!!
    1. Heaven defend us from consultants! I agree on the tons and tons of wasted money and hours. Or rather heaven defend us from bought in consultants. Some homegrown information gathering would be useful and not have the price tag.
    2. Are Argyll and Bute Council doing their job? Easy answer – no. Should they be spending more than the minimum? Well actually the minimum would be nice! . I am not sure what their spend on museums is, but I have formed the impression from various statements that the money expected to be spent on heritage is finding other homes. It isn’t ringfenced and there are a lot of demands. Without a clear structure it is hard to keep its purpose.
    I know you are impatient with the idea of ‘ethos’ and ‘mission’, but such low prioritising in the end comes down to not having policy, planning and committment, so we need to crank that up. We have a super tanker here which needs to spend some time turning around, and some fine words would be a good way to start.

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    • Now I understand why the council has no sense of commitment to a workable primary education system, and it’s a bit of a mystery how they’re prepared to spend money on anything other than their own establishment.

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    • well I’m convinced!!….maybe there is a policy requirement to spend what is allocated as a starter for 10!…..just like to get under the flesh a little. Just let me know how i can help in helping communicate your plea and (hopefully) future successes!……I’m off to speak to Neil!

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  26. There are a lot of complex issues emerging here! I’ll try to make some sensible responses.

    The first point to make is that since the 19th century responsibility for supporting almost all museums has lain with local authorities. This is not something they MUST do (like, for example, provide schools), but as previously noted almost all of them across the UK do, and do so because they are persuaded that the benefits heritage can bring to communities and the local economy at least equate to the cost of supporting it, and very often more. The point here is that although a Council is entitled to decide not to support a particular museum, or museums in general, it cannot reasonably do so on the basis that someone else ought to be doing so instead. Museums are, and have been for a very long time, in the first instance a local authority function.

    In Scotland, the government in Holyrood provides quite generous funding for project grants through Museums Galleries Scotland, and there are many other agencies that can sometimes be persuaded that a museum or community heritage project meets their criteria. But all of that is only ever short term, and the established norm is that local authorities provide the long-term view and sustained support. So Argyll & Bute Council does not get money specifically to support museums – it is simply anticipated that from their funds they will do so to an “adequate” extent.

    The second point to consider is the question of a “list of assets”. That is actually sensible thinking, because you can’t very easily provide support to something when you don’t have a grasp of what’s out there, or of its strengths and weaknesses. But such an exercise should be able to be undertaken very quickly because the sector is quite well organised in a self-help way through the Forum, and to a large extent the process could be achieved by simply asking the names on a contact list to provide defined factual and statistical information, and then holding a few round-table and one-to-one meetings to get a feel for the issues.

    The third point is Daniel’s question: do we want policy to be top-down or bottom-up? Sadly, the issue isn’t as simple as that. Of course every heritage organisation in Argyll & Bute would love to be able to define the Council’s policy towards it, but that shouldn’t happen and isn’t going to. So we do need to kick off with a strategic vision that comes “from above”, albeit one that has been developed through discussion rather than in isolation. Here, I think the core issue is that Argyll & Bute Council already has a great many policies and objectives that are actually relevant, with the challenge being that historically it has found it hard to see how museums and heritage could contribute to their delivery. In the sector, we know what we can achieve, and there is a huge amount of solid information and precedent out there from other parts of the UK to confirm this. What is needed, however, is for the sector locally to be able to talk to a Council that has a broadly-based and in-depth understanding of issues and potential, and which for example accepts the principle the heritage attractions can be key drivers in building tourism and that achievement needs to be measured more in terms of indirect spend (the B&B, the meal out, the fuel, the High Street shopping) than direct income on site. The ground that arguably needs to be reviewed contains a series of principles about how museums and heritage can contribute to strong communities and economic success, but which to date have not been well understood or much accepted within Argyll & Bute. Perhaps the central point that Catherine and I are variously arguing is to suggest that the new Council should consider these matters very carefully and build its corporate understanding, with this being based on a belief rooted in precedent elsewhere that when they do so they could well see some new ways in which they can take forward existing key objectives in community cohesion, social care, health, education, tourism development, and so on. It isn’t so much about needing a policy for heritage that is new and freestanding as it is about understanding what heritage can do across the board and then letting THAT inform how it in specifics and detail it engages with and decides to support the sector.

    Finally, to come to Daniel’s point about impact over 5-10 years, the issue here is that this depends on where the Council decides its priorities lie. Some local authorities focus on economic development and don’t expect their area’s museums to make a massive contribution to community development: for others, it is the opposite way round. Some authorities choose to target investment at areas of social disadvantage, others opt to build good day-visit and tourism destinations into excellent ones. The available mix of options is almost infinite, with the key issue perhaps being that no matter where you turn the heritage sector will have answers ready to illustrate how it can help. So whilst maybe now the drums need to be banged to get people’s attention, once the core points have been accepted the sector needs to move into listening and thinking mode whilst it hears what the Council wishes to achieve and then individually or collectively presents its ideas.

    The sector’s byeword in this respect is generally to think not what others can do for us but what we can do for them: my objective, as the manager of a museum that could given half a chance of its nature absorb almost infinite resources, is always to persuade YOU that by supporting us you can fulfill YOUR objectives. It all looks very different with the telescope turned around that way!

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      • Bob – much better…..I know the “challenge” was well intentioned but unfortunately…..its YOUR responsibility to tell us the specific about the history, landscape and motivations of your sector. After some healthy debate, questions and very detailed responses….you’ve certainly got my attention. I hope its the same for others. so…..my action. I’ll arrange for my kids and I to visit Auchindrain (last time was when I was in P6 and also Dunollie, still not entered the newly refurbished House!) Well done and best wishes

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  27. One important focus for all the new administration is that 2014 is the Second Homecoming.
    ABC was one of the few Scottish Counties to get little benefit from the First one, except through the efforts of a small number of individuals.
    This initiative is one that fits Argyll best of all, and should be grasped immediately as a huge opportunity that we will need the next 18 months active hard work to make the most of.
    Each of the groups and organisations involved in our heritage and culture need support of various kinds to develop the best response appropriate to themselves and then coordinated to be able to deliver a joint welcome message to the hundreds of thousands of the diaspora of Argyll around the world.

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      • We can do the same, or better, in Argyll!

        A large proportion of the families who emigrated, and whose descendants are now the target for Homecoming 2014, were displaced from joint tenancy farm townships by the processes of agricultural improvement.

        For this particular market, Argyll has a nationally-unique asset and selling point in the form of Auchindrain. It is the Last Township, and the only place where Homecoming descendants can go that will offer them a real feel for the sort of place their ancestors came from, and left behind.

        Auchindrain is ready to welcome them, but we can’t handle such a big issue alone.

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