Councils who actively protect and support arts and culture should be "rewarded", a Labour MSP has suggested.
Former culture minister Patricia Ferguson said the squeeze on public finances often led to cuts to "soft" budgets such as the arts.
She called for the Scottish Government to adopt a plan which she said would avoid having to reintroduce ring-fenced, or protected, spending.
Speaking in a Holyrood debate, Ms Ferguson told Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop: "When budgets are tight there is often a concern that the softest target for cuts will be the arts, and indeed sport suffers in this way too.
"I realise that we've moved on from the concept of ring-fencing. I'm not suggesting it should be reintroduced but I wonder whether she would consider raising with her cabinet colleagues the idea of incentivising or perhaps rewarding those local authorities that champion the arts?
"We know that the arts contribute towards educational achievement, assist regeneration, boost tourism and generally add to the dynamism and character of an area. But it is vital that the progress Scotland has made in this area in recent years is not lost.
"It would perhaps also send a gentle signal to those local authorities where arts are perhaps not such a priority, or where there is a temptation to look for savings in the area of the arts, to take a more balanced approach."
Her comments were made in a Scottish Government-led debate on the country's five performing companies.
Ms Hyslop used the debate to announce a series of concerts from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) in China.
The RSNO, with new music director Peter Oundjian, will perform six concerts at five venues in December and January. Funds of £110,000 will support the performances in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin and Macau, as well as the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.
Ms Hyslop said: "Overseas tours by the companies showcase Scotland's creative talent on a world stage, further enhancing our global reputation. They also strengthen cultural and diplomatic links with countries identified as a priority in our framework for international engagement, such as China."