Policy Profile United Kingdom


The United Kingdom is not a member of the European Union, it is not obliged to follow all EU directives, laws, regulations and policies.

The United Kingdom and the EU

The United Kingdom is an important partner of the EU, which maintains a Delegation to the UK to foster cooperation with the country. Relationship in the cultural sector is quite important, especially through its partnership with the EU National Institution of Culture in London (EUNIC London). The UK government also maintains a Mission to the EU in Brussels.

National Cultural Policy in the United Kingdom

At a national level, the framework for cultural policy in the UK is managed by the UK Government Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It is also responsible for the listing of historic buildings and scheduling of ancient monuments, and the export licensing of cultural goods. Within the UK Parliament, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on the House of Commons examines government policy, expenditure and administration on behalf of the electorate.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is supported by and works with 42 agencies and public bodies. There 4 advisory non-departmental public bodies, a large number of executive non-departmental public bodies (e.g. the National Heritage Memorial Fund), and public corporations (such as Royal Parks and Historic Royal Palaces).

Overall, the UK Parliament and Government retain both legislative and policy responsibility for the whole of the UK in specific areas of culture. However, every other area not reserved to these institutions are the responsibility of devolved administrations. The Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly are able to make primary legislation concerning devolved cultural areas. On the other hand, the Welsh National Assembly for Wales is only able to make secondary legislation; responsibility for primary legislation for Wales remains with the UK Parliament and Government.

Cultural Policy at Regional and Devolved Level in the UK


Since England does not have a separate Parliament, there is no legislation specific to England, and UK policies are applied.

The Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development agency for creativity and culture. It operates under a Royal Charter and is responsible for supporting, especially financially, the arts, museums and libraries in England.

Historic England is the government’s statutory advisor on the historic environment. This important body is mostly dealing with listed and scheduled monuments and sites.


The Culture and Major Events Directorate of the Scottish Government is the main body responsible for cultural policy in Scotland. Its role is to support Scotland’s culture, heritage and creativity, and to ensure that culture reaches a wide audience at home and abroad. Within the Scottish Parliament, it is the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee which is in charge of the cultural framework.

A great emphasis is placed on culture, there are therefore various pieces of legislation specific to Scotland. Just as for England, Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body set up to investigate, care for and promote Scotland’s historic environment.


In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities of the Executive is responsible for the arts and culture, museums and libraries, languages, and the historic environment. The Department is working with 18 bodies, such as the NI Museums Council, Foras na Gaeilge responsible for the promotion of the Irish language, the Arts Council of NI, and National Museums NI. However, there are not many policies applying only to Northern Ireland. The government is mostly following UK legislation.


Within the Welsh Government, the Deputy Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism and the Minister for Education and Welsh Language are the main bodies dealing with cultural policy. The Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee of the Welsh Parliament scrutinises the Government expenditure, administration and policy matters, especially those concerning the Welsh Language and culture, the arts, and the historic environment. However, the number of policies specific to Wales remains quite low.

The official body for arts financial support is the Arts Council of Wales. Local authorities (councils) also play a central role in governing Wales. The Welsh Local Government Association ensures this devolution, notably in the cultural and heritage area.

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* = This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence

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