Whereas most histories of British arts patronage have viewed the tensions between core and periphery in terms of the relationship between the Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB) and the English regions, this article examines the relationship between London and Scotland, a country with its own distinctive history of regional arts development. It considers how the autonomy of the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) was tested in conflicts involving both ACGB and government for control of Scottish arts policy from the 1940s onwards. Our argument is that, from the establishment of ACGB's Scottish Committee – SAC's forerunner – in 1947 until devolution in 1999, Scotland enjoyed considerable autonomy over arts policy, because it was at “double arm's length” from government. This made it less directly accountable, but it also allowed Scotland the freedom to develop the arts in different ways to the rest of Britain. Devolution ended this “double arm's length” relationship and the article argues that the politicization of the arts combined with the drive for public sector efficiency since then, has taken Scotland along a path of convergence with England, both in models of governance and policy.