Arts groups 'extremely disappointed' after £6.6m funding U-turn

The Scottish Government pledged to preserve £6.6m for Creative Scotland earlier this year but have now backtracked due to 'rising costs'.

Creative Scotland ‘extremely disappointed’ after government’s £6.6m funding U-turn iStock

A campaign to protect arts industries in Scotland has been relaunched after the Scottish Government U-turned on a £6.6m funding cut.

Creative Scotland said it was “extremely disappointed” in the decision, described as an “extraordinary betrayal”, which could put 2,000 jobs at risk.

It comes after the Campaign for the Arts organisation originally launched a protest against the funding cuts, which were outlined seven months ago.

Over 15,000 people signed the Campaign for the Arts’ petition against the plans and then deputy first minister John Swinney confirmed a U-turn from the Scottish Government.

In a letter confirming the money would be provided in March this year, Swinney stated: “We expect Creative Scotland to set out quickly for the culture sector how it will use these additional resources to support organisations at this difficult time.”

However, Creative Scotland revealed on Wednesday this week that the Scottish Government now intends to reimpose the £6.6m cut to their in-year funding.

The body for creative industries, including Screen Scotland, said in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee: “We are extremely disappointed to report that the £6.6m budget has not been included in the Autumn Budget Revisions, and the cut is being reinstated.

“This has been confirmed in writing by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Angus Robertson, in a letter to our Chief Executive on 20 September.”

On Thursday morning, Creative Scotland’s chief executive Iain Munro told the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee that the funding had already been allocated to regularly funded organisations.

As a result of the U-turn, the money would now have to be funded from Creative Scotland’s National Lottery reserves.

Mr Munro said that these reserves are “not intended to substitute for Scottish Government funding”, and that if these reduced funding levels were maintained into 2024-5, around half of the current RFOs, 2000 jobs and nearly 3.5 million audience members would be at risk.

Culture secretary Angus Robertson said the government’s decision was a result of “rising costs and pressure on budgets across government, made more challenging as a result of rising UK inflation”.

Campaign for the Arts is now inviting members of the public to write to their MSPs and to sign and share their petition.

Jack Gamble, director of the Campaign for the Arts, said: “This ‘U-turn on a U-turn’ is an extraordinary betrayal of Scotland’s cultural sector, all those who campaigned to support it, and the Scottish Government’s own commitments to protect it. Scotland’s artists and arts organisations need backing, not broken promises.”

Arts based groups and organisations across the country have condemned the u-turn.

Lori Anderson, director of Culture Counts, which represents arts, heritage and creative industries organisations in Scotland, said: “There are real threats of closures and loss of services coming up now. Financial reserves are being depleted and the sector remains in crisis … This is beyond disappointing.”

Jim Hollington, chief executive of Dance Base, Scotland’s National Centre for Dance, said: “This is absolutely shocking. Arts organisations have moved mountains to adapt to the cost crisis, but we need our government investors to play their part and keep their word.”

In response to the calls from arts industries, culture secretary Angus Robertson said: “Over the past five years, the Scottish Government has provided £33m to Creative Scotland to compensate for a shortfall in National Lottery Funding and we agreed to provide £6.6m to cover this year’s shortfall.

“The Scottish Government has an obligation to balance the budget each year and prioritise funding to deliver the best value for every taxpayer in Scotland.

“As a result of rising costs and pressure on budgets across government, made more challenging as a result of rising UK inflation, we are unable to provide funding to support the lottery shortfall this year. However, I expect this funding will be able to be provided as part of next year’s budget, subject to the usual Parliamentary process.

“Creative Scotland have built up funding reserves and I am pleased they have agreed to use all the resources at their disposal, including these reserves, to support the culture sector and help protect jobs at this challenging financial time for us all.”

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