Ulster Unionist MLA Sam Gardiner has urged the Culture, Arts & Leisure Minister to ensure that Ulster Scots remains a priority within her Department.
The Upper Bann representative said:
“At Stormont Questions this week I asked the DCAL Minister to outline her Department’s vision or concept for the Ulster Scots Academy.
The Ulster Unionist Party was concerned at the withdrawal of funding from the Academy and is seeking assurances that it will receive its fair share of resources.
I welcome the Minister’s confirmation response that the Ministerial Advisory Group, set up in March 2011, has been allocated £2 million for the period 2011 to 2015 and I am calling on the Minister to ensure the allocation is spent within the financial timeframe and that Ulster Scots remains a priority within her Department.”
Note: This so-called Ministerial Advisory Group was set up by a former DUP DCAL Minister and contains no Ullans Speakers. Representatives from DCAL and the Ministerial Advisory Group for the Ulster-Scots Academy were at Stormont last June to give evidence to the Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure.
Astonishingly, DCAL Director of Culture Arthur Scott was unable to provide the committee with a figure for spending on the academy project to date and instead promised a written response. We already know, however, that an annual £1 million has been allocated during the four-year Ministerial Advisory Group project.
There is no possibility that we will see an Ulster-Scots Academy during this Stormont mandate, for the emphasis instead is likely to be on “smaller, free-standing research projects considered on merit” as the following exchange demonstrates.
Dominic Bradley: It has been quite a long time in the making, the academy, and I notice that, even at this stage, there is no certainty that there will be an academy. Your briefing paper says that a decision on setting up a formal academy will be considered at a later stage. How long more will we have to wait until the actual academy is established?
Arthur Scott: In the assessment of the business case by the project steering group there was an issue around affordability, and in the particular financial circumstances which are likely to prevail for this CSR period of four years — you know, unless there is a significant change over the four-year period — it may not be considered, but it is something that can be considered in future if there is a change. The other, of course, development may well be that the work that the Ministerial Advisory Group does in terms of bringing leadership to the sector and co-ordinating the efforts of the sector [means that] the nature of what people were thinking about in the past about an academy, what they were thinking about in the business case, could change over time, and there may be other ways, other options for doing it which may be more affordable.