The National Gallery of Scotland needs to raise £50m to prevent the sale of Titian's Diana and Actaeon from being sold. The painting, part of the Bridgewater Collection, has been loaned to the gallery for decades but is now being sold by its owner, the Duke of Sutherland. Well, £50m is quite a lot of money. Then again, it's a pretty nifty painting (though my own tastes run a little later - to Caravaggio and Velazquez in particular).
Anyway, it's hard to imagine there being any discussion in France or Italy or Germany of the rights and wrongs of committing public money to the fund-raising effort. And while I have some sympathy with the notion that the arts should be self-supporting or rely upon private patronage, frankly I'd rather see the government lavish millions on the arts than on many (most?) other areas in which they currently squander billions.
None of that seems to really concern Labour MP Ian Davidson, however. In a display of provincialism startling even for a paid-up member of the West of Scotland Labour mafia, Mr Davidson told the BBC this morning:
"It is difficult to argue that this is part of Britain's cultural heritage when it's a picture by a long dead Venetian - it's not as if it's Jock McTitian...Very few people will ever have heard of Titian, many will have thought he was an Italian football player. What is the point of wasting this money in this way?"
Now there's an endorsement of the education system north of the border...
UPDATE: Mr Eugenides weighs in too.