There’s one thing I’ve never heard in more than 40 years in the arts in Scotland, and that is ‘money is no problem’. It has always been a problem, often the only problem. There’s no lack of ambition or inspiration, but money has always been hard to come by. And it could be a great deal harder to come by after 18 September, the day Scotland decides whether or not to leave what has been the most successful political and cultural union in history. For over 300 years Scotland has been a distinctive part of a united kingdom and during that time its artists and architects have flourished, alongside her soldiers, engineers and entrepreneurs, on a British stage. Think of Robert Adam in the 18th century or David Wilkie in the 19th, or all the Scottish Turner Prize winners of recent years. Their successes were won on a British playing field. This could all change if we Scots pull up the goal posts and leave the pitch.
And what about Scotland’s museums and art galleries? Let’s look at the position as it is at present. The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh must surely house the most impressive national collection of old master paintings of any similar-sized country in the world. Think of those countries with a population of some five million – Denmark, Norway or New Zealand for instance – Scotland’s national collection is in a different league to theirs. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has one of the finest 20th-century collections in Europe.