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AP looks at the promises set out in party manifestos. This week: Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, SNP and the Brexit Party.

What are some of the UK's political parties promising the arts?

Philip Halling

Last week, AP looked at how highly the UK’s £110bn creative and cultural sector ranked in the campaign promises of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Here, we round up arts and cultural policies as they appear in the manifestos of other major parties.


What’s In

The Conservative Party says it will “maintain our support for the arts and culture, taking pride in the world beating strengths of the UK’s creative industries and its unparalleled cultural heritage”. Its commitments this election include:

•    An already-announced £250m cultural infrastructure fund 
•    Business rates relief for music venues and cinemas
•    An ‘arts pupil premium’ for secondary school students

Labour also has an arts pupil premium policy, but its is directed at primary schools and expected to cost £160m per year. The Conservative Party has costed its version at £110m per year. It has not made any commitment to reconfigure or remove the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

What’s Out

A 2015 promise to provide free wi-fi in public libraries has been rolled into the cultural infrastructure fund. These policies have also been dropped:

•    Introducing a fund for cultural institutions to develop educational resources (2017)
•    Giving “challenging” out-of-London tourism targets to Visit Britain and Visit England

What’s Changed

The Conservatives have retained a 2017 commitment to the cultural infrastructure fund – although it was initially conceived of as a cultural development fund that would “use cultural investment to turn around communities” rather than an explicit capital programme. Pledges to improve employment conditions for gig economy workers and retain creative industries tax credits have been retained from previous manifestos.

Gestures towards addressing the regional imbalance in arts funding have fallen away this year. In 2017, the party said arts and culture were “at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain” and that it would ensure more support was based outside London.

Plaid Cymru

What’s In

The Welsh political party has promised:

•    A dedicated Welsh National Art Gallery
•    Cuts to tourism VAT and a ‘Celebrate Wales’ year
•    Devolved broadcasting that will “create a real Welsh media”

What’s Out

Some of the party’s historic commitments are notably absent this year:

•    Doubling Visit Wales’ funding
•    Establishing a BBC Trust for Wales
•    Transferring responsibility and funding for Welsh language channel S4C from DCMS to the Welsh National Assembly

What’s Changed

Despite very little change in its arts and cultural policies since 2015, Plaid Cymru’s 2019 manifesto contains fewer details than earlier iterations on how these will be achieved. The party says it will place art, culture and language “at the heart of all our policies”, but there are few concrete examples of this in the manifesto document.

In 2015, without committing to any specific policies, the party’s manifesto said the party would “increase access to the arts for young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, through promotion of apprenticeships in media and the arts and promote families to participate together”.

Scottish National Party (SNP)

What’s In

The SNP does not have a codified manifesto, but the party’s stated policies for 2019 include few mentions of arts and culture. Its website says that it is investing nearly £270m in Scottish culture and heritage, but it is not clear whether this is a new election promise or a collection of initiatives that are already under way.

Its other commitments around arts and culture include:

•    Demanding “clarity and certainty” over existing EU funding
•    Backing policies which ensure copyright and intellectual property rights
•    Advocating for authority and funding to be devolved from the BBC to BBC Scotland
•    Developing an ‘Islands Passport Scheme’ to encourage more tourism

What’s Out

Although the party says it will “push for a fairer share of the TV licence fee raised in Scotland being spent in Scotland”, it is no longer calling for £100m of that amount to be reinvested in the country’s creative industries.

Its 2019 policies have also omitted historic commitments to:

•    Reduce VAT in the hospitality sector 
•    Reduce air passenger duties to encourage tourism

What’s Changed

Essentially, there is nothing new this year. The tone of the party’s campaign materials has shifted over the last five years from proposing specific policies to trumpeting its past achievements. The SNP has remained committed to the continuation of creative industries tax relief during that time.

The Brexit Party

The Brexit Party has proposed abolishing the apprenticeships levy system, instead providing tax incentives for employers to take on “genuine apprentices”, a policy that may help falling apprenticeships participation in the creative industries. However, the party has no specific arts and culture policies.