Our current head-in-the-sand attitudes could not be more clearly demonstrated than in the responses to the fact that, in the contest to be 2017 UK City of Culture, Aberdeen missed the cut and Dundee is in the final four.
The media focus has been on why Aberdeen failed to be selected as a finalist. Aberdeen will, in time, demonstrate its own response to that.
The real issue is the elephant whose presence we prefer not to recognise – the September 2014 independence referendum.
We know that:
- being UK City of Culture brings an economic benefit;
- Dundee needs that uplift;
- the cultural sector in Dundee has been one of the main driving forces of renewal in that city;
- Kengo Kuma’s utterly breathtaking design for the coming V&A on the Dundee waterfront is something none of us can wait to see;
- Dundee Contemporary Arts in Nethergate fired the engine of transformation;
- Design Dundee Limited is developing Scotland’s leading centre for design – in a grounded partnership between the V&A, the University of Dundee, the University of Abertay Dundee, Dundee City Council and Scottish Enterprise.
Dundee – like Newcastle upon Tyne a former industrial powerhouse that is resting its contemporary identity on the excitement of leadership in cultural activity, is in the final contest along with Hull, Leicester and Swansea Bay.
The winning bid is to be announced in November this year, for the nationwide role in 2017.
Supposing Dundee were that winner – and supposing that in under a year from that announcement, Scotland were to vote to leave the UK and become an independent country, with Independence Day already set by First Minister, Alex Salmond, for May 2016?
Dundee could not then be UK City of Culture.
Although no one is talking about this, the organisers must recognise the possibility which, increasingly remote as it is, must still need contingency planning.
Will Dundee’s chances in the final be affected by this uncertainty? If it were to win, would a runner-up be announced in November, required to be ready to step in should September 2014 see Dundee destined to be outwith the UK by 2017?
Being UK City of Culture requires long planning, infrastructural and facilities development and advance booking of major international performances for the events programme for the year.
If that work could reasonably be done in three years and not four, the naming of the winning City would not be done until late 2014.
Were Dundee the winner, would not Dundee and the runner-up need to undertake necessary preparatory spending in the period to September 2014, with one of them facing a lesser immediate return on investment?