Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 15:50 UK

Arts merger plan 'will go ahead'

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland, arts correspondent

Ballet dancers
The government wants a single arts body to be established in Scotland

The Scottish Government is 100% committed to the merging of the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, the culture minister has said.

Linda Fabiani said the government still wanted to merge the quangos into one body to be called Creative Scotland.

This is despite MSPs throwing out the bill to create the new organisation two months ago.

Press reports have suggested the cost of the merger could be 10 times the original estimate of £700,000.

Politicians threw the bill out in June after concerns were expressed over the financing of the scheme.

However, speaking at a reception given by the Scottish Arts Council on Thursday night, Ms Fabiani said she was confident "a new dynamic, strategic, visionary body building on the success of Scottish Screen and the Scottish Arts Council" would soon be under way.

"There has been frustration for all of us about the years of discussion about forming a new body to support the arts in Scotland but I'm confident it can be achieved," she said.

We continue to wait and pray and wait and pray and hope that one day it will happen
Richard Holloway
Scottish Arts Council

It has been almost five years since former first minister Jack McConnell first touted the idea of a shake-up of the cultural funding body - which dates back to the 1940s.

Since then, there have been three different culture ministers, a cultural review, a cultural report, a government bill, a new government and a re-worked bill.

Scottish Arts Council chairman Richard Holloway made a tongue-in-cheek speech about the delays.

The former Bishop of Edinburgh said his role as chairman of the new transition body was a bit like being the leader of a cult of eschatology - the study of the end of the world, or alternatively things that never happen.

"We continue to wait and pray and wait and pray and hope that one day it will happen," he said.

Liberal Democrat culture spokesperson Iain Smith said: "There is agreement in the Scottish Parliament that a single body should have responsibility for promoting the arts and creative industries.

"Yet the SNP has botched the handling of the Creative Scotland Bill."

He said the confusion over the government¿s plans had plunged the sector into uncertainty.

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