Campaigners have launched a petition calling for the Scottish Government to “keep a promise” and restore funding to creative industries.
Funding of £6.6m has been cut from Creative Scotland’s budget despite reassurances earlier this year that the cuts would not go ahead.
The national body for creative industries, which includes Screen Scotland, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision and has been forced to use National Lottery reserves as a “one-off” attempt to prevent job losses.
The UK-wide Campaign for the Arts organisation has now launched a petition calling for culture secretary Angus Robertson to rethink the decision which the group have dubbed a “‘u-turn on a u-turn” and an “extraordinary betrayal”.
In less than 24 hours the petition has gathered over 4,600 signatures with multiple arts organisations condemning the Scottish Government’s decision.
It reads: “This is absolutely no way to treat Scotland’s arts and culture, let alone in a perfect storm of economic pressures and post-pandemic challenges.
“This u-turn on a u-turn puts treasured venues and companies, thousands of jobs and access to Scottish culture at risk.”
As well as honouring the original promise to protect £6.6m uplift, campaigners are also calling for ministers to “scrap any proposal cut Creative Scotland funding from the 2023-24 Autumn Budget Revision” and “commit to maintaining and increasing investment in arts and culture from 2024-5, for the benefit of everybody in Scotland”.
Campaigners say Scotland “cannot afford to lose any more arts organisations – or the benefits they bring to our lives, communities and society” following recent closures of the Filmhouse cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen and the Blue Arrow Jazz Club and the Nevis Ensemble in Glasgow.
Creative Scotland uses the Scottish Government money towards what it calls Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO).
There are currently 120 RFOs who employ approximately 5,000 members of staff and support around 25,000 artists.
Some of the high-profile groups and organisations include Glasgow’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint; Celtic Connections Festival; Citizens Theatre; Dundee Repertory Theatre; the Edinburgh festivals and the Scottish Book Trust.
Following the news, 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.”
There has also been condemnation of the decision from across other political parties.
The Scottish Conservatives’ shadow cabinet secretary for the constitution, external affairs and culture Donald Cameron MSP said: “The SNP have shamefully shifted the goalposts on this vital funding for Creative Scotland once again.
“It is completely unacceptable that ministers who were quick to boast about u-turning on previous planned cuts earlier this year are now set to impose them on Creative Scotland after all.
“That is an insult to Scotland’s struggling arts sector and it is clear the cutting of millions of funding from their budget will have a devastating impact.
“Creative Scotland’s evidence at committee is a damning indictment of how the SNP have mistreated this sector.
“Angus Robertson now has serious questions to answer as to how job losses in the sector will be avoided as a result of this funding cut, and why his government have u-turned on their previous commitments.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour culture spokesperson Neil Bibby said: “The SNP has abandoned Scotland’s iconic arts and culture sector at the worst time possible.
“Not only are they inflicting brutal cuts on Creative Scotland’s budget, but they have caused utter chaos with their string of u-turns.
“We are used to the SNP breaking promises but to do so after just seven months is particularly disgraceful – no wonder people in the sector are losing faith in the Scottish Government.
“It’s clear their disastrous incompetence is putting the very future of our creative industries under threat – they are risking jobs, damaging our economy and making culture less accessible.
“It is essential that we support Scotland’s world-class culture sector during this turbulent time and provide as much certainty as possible.”
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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