A new bill will help nurture Scotland's cultural talent, according to the culture minister.
The bill proposes more central funds for groups like Scottish Ballet
Patricia Ferguson spoke after the publication of a draft bill, which will now be the subject of a consultation.
The bill plans to create "cultural entitlements" which would mean councils consulting with residents about how they can get more involved in the arts.
The SNP and Greens said the proposals represented an attempt by the Scottish Executive to directly control the arts.
The bill suggests establishing an offence of dealing in tainted cultural objects, such as foreign pieces which have been stolen and brought to Scotland for sale.
It also proposes a new cultural development body called Creative Scotland, which would bring together the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen.
Ms Ferguson said: "The bill will provide a legal framework that will help nurture cultural talent and promote excellence in our national cultural life.
"It will help secure the widest possible participation in cultural life, bringing real benefits to communities and individuals, and unleashing creative potential."
The draft legislation comes almost 18 months after a report from the Cultural Commission.
It was welcomed by local government group Cosla.
Councillor Graham Garvie, Cosla arts spokesman, said the group would work closely with ministers and Creative Scotland to put the proposed legislation in place.
He added: "It will, I hope, lead to a flowering of latent talents and skills in all communities and across the full cultural spectrum."
Dr Richard Holloway, chairman of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, said: "Creative Scotland has the potential to inspire and empower a new generation of artists and creative Scots to spread the influence of the arts throughout Scotland, energising and transforming our nation for the better."
However, the document was criticised by the SNP.
Culture spokesman Stewart Maxwell voiced concerns about the level of government involvement in the arts under the proposals.
"It is absolutely essential that our arts have the freedom to decide their own artistic direction without having to look over their shoulder to government," he said.
"It is farcical that after almost eight years the sum of Labour's efforts is a consultation on a draft bill which can't even be implemented before the elections in May."
The Scottish Greens arts spokesman Chris Ballance said: "It has always been accepted that arts funding decisions should be at arms-length from politicians.
"This bill tears that principle up.
"Creative Scotland will be independent - but only if it does what it's told by government."