A new Culture Commission is to be set up to review the funding and organisation of the arts.
James Boyle will be the new Culture Commissioner
It will be headed by James Boyle, who is to step down from his role as chairman of the Scottish Arts Council.
Culture Minister Frank McAveety made the announcement as part of his long-awaited review of arts and culture.
Mr McAveety said it was the beginning of a new era which would see a much wider access to the arts for everyone, wherever they lived.
He told MSPs that the commissioner would head a year-long review which would lead to widespread reform.
Mr McAveety said that the review was a "once in a generation opportunity" to look seriously and with maturity at the place and provision of culture in Scotland.
He added: "On St Andrew's Day last year, the first minister set out a vision of every citizen securing the right to access and excellence in our diverse culture, and the right to pursue the means of fulfilling whatever talents might be within them.
"We have given careful thought to how we can make the vision a reality."
The aim is to encourage wider access
Local government umbrella group Cosla welcomed the executive's commitment to "revitalising the cultural life of Scotland", but it said it was "disappointed" it was given no warning about the scope of the review.
Councillor Graham Garvie, Cosla's arts and leisure spokesperson said: "To some extent, today's announcement represents a missed opportunity.
"We are very disappointed not to have been involved with the Scottish Executive in their thinking on the cultural review that so far has been developed in isolation.
"Today, we are looking at the review for the first time and considering its implications for our services.
"As ministers themselves acknowledge, Scotland`s 32 local authorities are by far the major players in providing, nurturing and developing a huge range of educational, artistic and recreational opportunities and facilities for all ages."
He added: "However, in spite of these criticisms regarding the process to date, it would be churlish of Cosla not to welcome the broad nature and ambition of the review."
The SNP's Roseanna Cunningham said the review had to look into both how art and culture was being created and how it was being enjoyed by the public.
Tory culture spokesman Jamie McGrigor urged the commission to consider the financial plight of Scottish Opera and ways to attract more film-makers to
And Labour MSP for Eastwood Kenneth Macintosh said: "Will ministers ensure that the cultural review addresses the economic impact of the creative
industries as well as the cultural benefits?"
The commission will be chaired by Mr Boyle, who will resign from the arts council despite earlier this month agreeing to a three-year extension to his contract.
The former controller of BBC Radio Four had agreed to chair the arts quango, which oversees more than £60m in annual funding to a string of major arts organisations, until 2007.
Mr McAveety said: "James is highly respected by the cultural community and I have been very impressed by the initiative and leadership he has brought to the arts council.
"An external commission, drawn from the wider community, will be best placed to listen to the cultural sector and understand what it tells them."
The commission will sit for 12 months, starting on 1 June.
It will then make recommendations to Scottish ministers.
An interim report is expected in October.