Labour has questioned the First Minister’s pledged to ‘more than double’ the funding for the arts and culture with an extra £100m of funding – with MSPs being told spending on the sector in Scotland already amounts to £175m a year.
Neil Bibby pressed culture secretary Angus Robertson on the commitment, which was made by Humza Yousaf in his speech to the SNP conference.
The First Minister told last week’s conference in Aberdeen that ministers would “more than double our investment in Scotland’s arts and culture” over the next five years.
This, he said, would mean that “by the end of the five years, our investment will be £100m higher than it is today”.
Labour culture spokesperson Neil Bibby said the announcement of additional money was made in response to “pressure” from the sector after Creative Scotland had £6.6m cut from its budget this year – with this reversing a previous commitment ministers had made on the funding.
Mr Bibby branded that a “serious betrayal of trust” for a culture sector which he said was at “breaking point”.
The Labour MSP then demanded: “Why is the Government stating it is doubling the arts and culture budget by £100m when the existing budget appears to be £175m. People in the sector deserve to know.”
He welcomed the promise of further cash for the sector given its “perilous state” – but said this was merely a “statement of intent” at the moment.
But Mr Bibby added: “We do not welcome broken promises, we do not welcome the cut this year.”
He called on Mr Robertson to both cancel the cut to Creative Scotland’s budget for this year and also set out more details on the promised spending increase.
Mr Bibby said: “The government should keep its promise not to cut Creative Scotland’s budget this year, and give the sector the funding, the certainty, the confidence and the backing it needs.”
Mr Robertson conceded it was an “incredibly challenging time” for the sector, adding that Mr Yousaf’s promise of more funding “not only responds to these pressures but signals our ambition”.
He restated the First Minister’s commitment, saying: “The Scottish Government will more than double our ambition in art and culture by £100 million over the next five years.”
Mr Robertson added: “I am delighted this Scottish Government has committed to doubling spending on culture and the arts.
“For now I can say the increase will start from next year, with further detail to be set out in the upcoming budget through established processes.”
He added that while funding for Creative Scotland had been reduced this year, the Scottish Government had provided the arts organisation with £33 million over the last five years to make up for shortfalls in the lottery cash it receives.
It was agreed Creative Scotland would use its reserve cash to make up this year’s shortfall, so none of the organisations it regularly supports will have their money cut.
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