HC Deb 15 February 1978 vol 944 cc411-3
4. Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to have discussions with the Scottish Arts Council.

Mr. Millan

I have no plans at present for a meeting with the Council, but my Department keeps in close contact with the Council.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Bearing in mind that a previous Government were committed to spend £4½ million to help provide half the cost of a multipurpose theatre in Edinburgh, will the right hon. Gentleman consider giving an increased grant to the Scottish Arts Council and be prepared to meet the Council on this subject?

Mr. Millan

The hon. Gentleman is referring to the problem with the Lyceum and, perhaps, the Little Lyceum theatre. I shall be writing to the Council today telling it that I shall be happy to have a meeting to discuss the problem. There is a distinction between the Opera House project and the Lyceum project. The first was a project of national significance, but, however much I wish to see the Lyceum preserved as a theatre in Edinburgh, I am not sure that I could say that it is of the same national significance.

Mr. Rifkind

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay a visit to the current exhibition organised by the Scottish Arts Council in Edinburgh, where he will find more than a dozen almost entirely blank canvasses painted by an artist who believes in minimal art and practises what she preaches?

Mr. Henderson

They are Tory election manifestos.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the exhibition has cost public funds more than £1,500, and will he make inquiries to ascertain whether the Council has been taken for a ride or has merely taken leave of its senses?

Mr. Millan

I understood that these pictures were representations of the Tory policy on devolution. If I thought that a visit to the exhibition would provide some enlightenment on that subject, I might go. Otherwise, I do not think that I shall.

Mr. Crawford

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is time the hierarchy of the Scottish Arts Council was elected democratically by artists and their colleagues rather than appointed, as at present, on a "jobs for the boys" basis?

Mr. Millan

I repudiate the suggestion that the Council is appointed on a "jobs for the boys" basis.