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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
Culture tsar denies cronyism
James Boyle
James Boyle will be the new Culture Commissioner
The head of Scotland's new culture commission, James Boyle, has rejected criticism of his independence.

Mr Boyle was accused of "cronyism" by opposition parties after he stepped into the Scottish Opera affair to defend the first minister.

Tories accused him of acting in "a political and biased manner", while the Nationalists said it was a "dubious" intervention for a public servant.

But Mr Boyle insisted his intervention was based on public interest.

Confidential information

The row follows a newspaper story which claimed that Scottish Opera would be bailed out with 5m on condition that it overhauled its working practices, made chorus members part-time and relinquished the running of its base in Glasgow, the Theatre Royal.

Jack McConnell has denied leaking the confidential information and has described as "ridiculous" calls for an inquiry into the allegations.

Writing in The Herald newspaper, Mr Boyle said: "Does anyone really believe that because the first minister and his culture minister intend to deal decisively with a company that has not managed its business, they are contemptuous of Scottish culture?

"Why should any company be allowed to be profligate?

A scene from Wagner's Ring Cycle, staged last year by the company
A scene from Wagner's Ring Cycle, staged last year by the company

"Where is the philistinism in a determination to protect the public purse?"

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Boyle denied he was coming to the aid of Mr McConnell and said he felt he had to speak out.

He said: "If I see something that I think is not just patently wrong, but unethical, then I think that's to the detriment of Scotland and it's my duty to speak out and I did."

It was announced last month that Mr Boyle, who is currently chief of the Scottish Arts Council, would be the head of a newly-established Culture Commission set up to review the funding and organisation of the arts.

The commission will sit for 12 months, starting on 1 June. It will then make recommendations to Scottish ministers.

The Scottish National Party has demanded an inquiry into Mr Boyle's appointment to the post.

'Uniquely qualified'

His job as chairman of the commission was in the gift of ministers.

The Scottish Executive said short-term jobs were exempt from normal rules and that Mr Boyle was "uniquely qualified" for the job.

It has also emerged that there will not be an open competition to replace Mr Boyle in his current role as the Scottish Arts Council chairman.

An interim replacement will be recruited from the council's existing 15 members.


SEE ALSO:
Opera row 'exposes gaping hole'
24 May 04  |  Scotland
Inquiry call over opera 'leak'
23 May 04  |  Scotland
McConnell refuses leak inquiry
20 May 04  |  Scotland
New tsar to head culture review
22 Apr 04  |  Scotland
The saga of Scottish opera
20 Sep 01  |  Entertainment


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