Scottish arts in grip of funding crisis

The Hebridean Celtic Festival. Picture: Colin Cameron

The Hebridean Celtic Festival. Picture: Colin Cameron

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ARTS groups across Scotland are facing a cash crisis after it emerged a crucial new funding pot has been dramatically over-subscribed.

Creative Scotland is grappling with a nightmare task of handling £212 million worth of applications for a fund with a £90m cap.

The number of applicants to the body for regular support has also virtually doubled.

The funding body, which has spent months examining some 264 different applications, may have to placate dozens of venues, events, festivals and artistic bodies if their plans are scuppered within the next few weeks.

Creative Scotland, which pledged to end traditional “hierarchies” with a new simplified funding regime, has refused to guarantee funding to any organisation in the country beyond the current financial year.

Although senior staff at the quango will be recommending which applications are approved this week, final decisions on who will receive regular funding over the next three years will not be announced until the end of next month.

With just £90m available over the next three years, the fact that the funding pot has been oversubscribed by more than 130 per cent raises the prospect of events, festivals, venues and arts organisations having to shelve plans or drastically cut back what they were planning to do from next spring.

Creative Scotland has admitted the task of deciding on the applications will be “extremely challenging” because its overall budget has not improved in recent years. Insiders say although the body is lobbying for greater backing for the cultural sector from the Scottish Government, this is unlikely to help deal with the demand from those seeking regular support.

The current situation means that prestigious events like the Edinburgh International Festival, Glasgow’s annual Celtic Connections, Orkney’s St Magnus Festival and the Hebridean Celtic Festival are in the dark over their level of future support.

Also affected are the Arches Theatre in Glasgow, the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Dundee Contemporary Arts centre, Eden Court Theatre in Inverness and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, as well as organisations like Shetland Arts, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and Hands Up For Trad.

Creative Scotland’s chief executive Janet Archer, who was appointed last summer, said the assessment process of the 264 applications for regular funding had been the organisation’s “top priority” in recent months.

She added: “The standard of applications has been extremely high and the quality of thinking, scale of ambition and the creative potential that these demonstrate is impressive. This makes the task of assessment and ultimate decision-making extremely challenging.

“It is our role to protect the levels of funding currently available to sectors we support. It is also our role to make the case for culture at every given opportunity in order to increase available support in the future.”

Although Creative Scotland has streamlined its funding programmes from the end of this financial year, just £30m from its £100m budget has been set aside for long-term agreements with the cultural sector, roughly the same as under previous arrangements.

CURRENT FUNDING DEALS

Arches Theatre (Glasgow) £358,550

Celtic Connections (Glasgow) £170,000

Dundee Rep Theatre £1,085,150

Edinburgh International Festival £2,317,296

Edinburgh Festival Fringe £70,000

Hebridean Celtic Festival £60,000

Pitlochry Festival Theatre £425,000

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra £180,500

Shetland Arts £212,000

Tramway (Glasgow) £303,000

Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh) £974,650

Woodend Barn (Banchory) £69,884

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