Traditional arts and the state: the Scottish case

Simon McKerrell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Since Scottish devolution from the UK in 1999, there has been a sustained and growing commitment to Scottish traditional music, storytelling and dance – collectively defined in Scottish cultural policy as the “traditional arts”. The public policy discourse of traditional arts is at once politically related to a growing Scottish confidence and intimately bound into a personal and national politics of identity. Today, in this transitional time around the referendum on Scottish independence, the potential for Scottish traditional arts to make a substantial and more sustainable contribution to cultural life in Scotland is within reach. However, there are some underlying problems that need to be addressed by the community of policy-makers and artists. In this paper, I examine the commodification and professionalization of Scottish traditional arts in broad terms and then go on to use this as a means to understand the recent emergence of a national cultural policy of intrinsic worth for the traditional arts since 1993. I finally consider the possibilities and opportunities for a more robust cultural policy for the Scottish traditional arts post-referendum. In recognizing that traditional music has entered a new and self-conscious period of commodification today, we open the door for a debate about the ways in which traditional arts in contemporary society can be performed and supported in a more equitable national cultural policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-168
Number of pages10
JournalCultural Trends
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014


  • cultural policy
  • Scotland
  • traditional music
  • arts
  • nationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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