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Idea that blossomed

Everyone should have at least one big idea during his or her working life. Sylvia Dow, head of education at the Scottish Arts Council, concedes that the Links programme - the partnership between the SAC and education authorities - has been one of hers.

The idea blossomed when the big-budget regional councils such as Strathclyde and Central were abolished. A way had to be found of attracting National Lottery and other funding towards arts education that the smaller local authorities could no longer afford.

Sylvia Dow explains the SAC tactic as "a strategic funding repositioning" and then apologises for the arts council speak and says that it is like the Oxfam philosophy of give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. The policy was to employ Links officers in as many authorities as would take them, at the rate of one a year, which was as much as the SAC could afford.

The schee, by any yardstick, has been a runaway success. Six Links officers are now employed, in the cities of Aberdeen and Dundee, in North and East Ayrshire and in North and South Lanarkshire. Two more operate in the national bodies Children in Scotland and Youthlink Scotland, though only in advocacy and information roles.

The cost of the salaries of these officers is shared between the SAC and the local authorities, with the SAC contribution declining to nothing after three years on the premise that in any year the incumbent will raise more than his or her own salary and that after three years the benefits of the post would be so obvious that the authority would want to maintain it. This has already happened in four of the authorities.

Ms Dow continues to monitor the officers. She brings the eight together in Edinburgh once a month, where they exchange ideas and best practices and work together towards a linked project.

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