Government U-turn on plans for £7m cuts to Creative Scotland

The national arts agency faced a 10% cut to funding with campaigners warning thousands of jobs would be at risk.

Creative Scotland will have almost £7m funding restored following a Scottish Government U-turn.

The national arts agency faced a 10% cut under new budget plans for 2023/24, sparking fears for the future of thousands of jobs and creative projects.

Union leaders issued demands to deputy first minister, and acting finance minister, John Swinney warning that the proposed cuts would be “devastating” and could result in the loss of 8500 arts workers.

The draft budget, produced in December, proposed a decrease of around £7m to Creative Scotland’s Grant in Aid budget from £63m in 2022/23 to £56m in 2023/24 – a reduction of more than 10%.

Arts companies, reliant on the funding, are also facing increased pressures from reduced audience numbers following the Covid pandemic.

Creative Scotland is the the public body that supports the arts, screen and creative industries across all parts of Scotland distributing funding provided by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery

The Scottish Government previously suggested Creative Scotland could use National Lottery reserves to plug the gap in funds.

The UK-wide Campaign for the Arts launched an eleventh hour bid to stop the cuts less than a week ago with an online petition gathering 15,000 signatures.

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) had been among those to back the campaign by to Swinney and culture secretary Angus Robertson on behalf of the Musicians’ Union, the Scottish Artists Union, BECTU, Equity, the Writers’ Guild, Scottish Society of Playwrights and the Society of Authors.

General secretary Rozanne Foyer wrote: “We’ve been campaigning for increased support for all workers right across Scotland to receive the urgent assistance they need to survive the cost-of-living emergency.

“Among the most precarious of these are those in our creative industries. They’re twice as likely as other workers to be working two jobs and are disproportionately subject to low pay and insecure work. They’ve also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.”

She added: “At a time when we should be rebuilding our creative industries, cutting arts funding is the wrong choice at the wrong time. It seems perverse to simply cut funding in this way without any seeming rationale for doing so.”

Announcing the government’s U-turn on Tuesday, Swinney said: “We had asked Creative Scotland to sustain investment next year by utilising £6.6m from their accumulated lottery reserves in place of a further year of additional grant funding for general lower lottery income.

“I am now in a position not to require that and will provide an uplift of £6.6m for 2023-24 to ensure Creative Scotland’s reserve funding can supplement rather than replace grant funding.”

He added: “That means there is a substantial increase in the Scottish Government’s funding for culture and major events in the next financial year, at a time when the country requires the inspiration that the culture and arts sector can provide for all of us.

“I have judged that this is the absolute limit of additional funding that I can provide.”

Swinney also announced that councils across Scotland will receive a last-minute funding boost of £100m.

Ahead of a vote on the Scottish Government’s budget, John Swinney revealed the UK Government had provided a £146m boost from Barnett consequentials and a forecasting error.

Robert Wilson, chair of Creative Scotland said: “Alongside the board and staff, I am very pleased to see this announcement about the Scottish Government’s budget.

“It follows a great deal of work from Creative Scotland in setting out the impact and implications of the proposed budget reduction, and the enormously valuable advocacy work from people and organisations across Scotland’s culture sector and beyond.

“The board will now consider what this means for our budget and our funding in 2023/24 and we will announce more on this as soon as possible.”

Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan says: “If the proposed cuts to Creative Scotland’s budget had gone ahead, it would have had a potentially devastating impact on the arts in Scotland, leading to hundreds of job losses and even organisation closures.

“Today’s news of a change of heart from the Scottish Government is a welcome relief, however even with this budget restored, it still leaves the theatre sector facing a standstill in funding at a time of rising costs in a sector that is yet to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”

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