Why we're all winners in the lottery of life
FROM multi-million-pound grants aimed at transforming landmarks of Scotland's heritage to small sums preserving an endangered habitat or helping children research their local history, the Heritage Lottery Fund has proved to be a lifeline for many.
Yesterday as a 43,600 grant for 300 children in Inverclyde to explore the life of inventor James Watt, was handed over, it meant the fund had reached a milestone.
Since its launch in 1995 the Heritage Lottery Fund has now given more than half a billion pounds to Scottish projects.
But amid the congratulations and back-slapping, with free admissions and tours at several sites planned in celebration this weekend, there are warnings that the years ahead may not be so rosy.
The fund claims to have regenerated 30 town and city centres, and helped conserve species including the black grouse, red kite, chough and red squirrel, and helped restore everything from historic boats to footpaths.
The culture minister, Linda Fabiani, appreciated the help the fund had given: "The fund has been fantastic for Scotland, supporting a wide range of very worthy projects which may otherwise have struggled to gain financial support."
Glasgow's Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery was a major beneficiary, receiving 13.2 million towards its 35 million revamp. The project was such a success that the gallery attracted more than three million visitors in its first year.
Sitting in his office in Thistle Street, Edinburgh, the head of the fund in Scotland, Colin McLean, cites Kelvingrove as a prime example of what the lottery has achieved. "It wouldn't have happened without us," he said, explaining that Glasgow City Council upped its game in its fund-raising drive in response to the grant.
Out of sight of this and other headline-grabbing multi-million grants, the fund's Scottish committee hands out a stream of smaller ones. In May, the Friends of Bellie Churchyard in Moray received 2,504 to put an information board at the front gates. Pollokshields Development Agency in Glasgow got 11,000 to "create a permanent archive of information, memories, experiences and histories of migrant women living in Pollokshields from the 1940s".
Cash available to the fund is about to shrink drastically, however. UK-wide the sum paid out will fall from 330 million last year to 180 million next year.
The reasons lie in a combination of lottery money heading towards the London Olympics fund – 160 million last year – and new cash-flow guidelines.
The money available for grants over 5 million, from which Scotland has benefited disproportionately, netting huge sums for Edinburgh's Royal Museum, the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland, and the Riverside transport museum in Glasgow, will shrink to just 20 million, across the UK this year. The Royal Museum alone got 17 million in 2005.
But Mr McLean also singled out the 5.8 million contribution to the planned new museum in Ayr, celebrating the life and work of Robert Burns, as a big contemporary achievement.
The Scottish Government is putting in 5.5 million towards the project's total cost of about 18 million, while the National Trust of Scotland, a partner on the project, faces raising another 5 million.
Four different applications were made to the fund before funding was approved. But the museum will not open in time for the Year of Homecoming in 2009, centred on Burns' 250th anniversary.
"It's taken us all this time to finally receive a proposal that's been good enough to fund," Mr McLean said. "Now they have a good scheme, and it's one of the great gaps in Scottish culture that we don't have a decent museum for Robert Burns. We will have when this is complete."
Margaret Toner, deputy leader of South Ayrshire Council, is chair of the joint board for the Burns Heritage Centre. She said: "There was a lot of toing and froing and a lot of adjustment in the actual bid that went in but at the end of the day it went through." The first application was for a smaller museum and development. "The lottery felt that because of Burns being the poet of Scotland, we should be looking for something bigger, and should go for the main grant in London," she said.
Out of every 1 lottery ticket, 50p goes to the prize fund, and about 12p in tax. About 28p is assigned to "good causes", with 5p to Camelot and 5p to the retailer.
Of the good causes cash, the Big Lottery Fund now gets half, with its mission to support community groups and health, education and environment projects.
The other 14p in the pound is split between the Heritage Lottery Fund, the arts and sports.
This year the fund spent 260 million across the UK. Scotland's share comes in two parts, with 11.5 million given out this year by the Scottish committee in smaller grants. Grants of 1 million or more come out of the fund's central pot, overseen by the UK committee. It is here that Scotland has done particularly well. In the UK the per person spend by the lottery is about 72. In Scotland it is just over 100.
But the picture is changing radically. "There will be a squeeze on this larger pot now," Mr McLean said. In previous years, the fund was encouraged to commit more money than its income to keep its cash balances down. It can take several years between approving a major grant and actually paying the sum out.
But with the cash balances in its National Lottery Distribution Fund having shrunk, the HLF is earning less interest.
Mr McLean is proud of the HLF's track record in Scotland, after the hit-and-miss spending of the Millennium Commission on major projects which failed to sustain themselves. "We have not had a project in Scotland that's not been completed, or has collapsed," he said. "We are pretty tough in our assessment to prove sustainability."
Recipients range from bird sanctuaries to architectural projects; one funded an exhibition on the history of the West of Scotland Lawn Tennis Association.
Demand has surged, said Mr McLean, so that even strong projects must now compete with each other. The biggest single part remains historic buildings, with grants to almost 1,700 in Scotland.
But the fund has other priorities. Its "Young Roots" programme has given cash to a project for young offenders in Polmont to look at the impact of sectarianism on football. The fund has sought applications from poor areas in Inverclyde, Falkirk, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.
It stresses access, learning, participation. "In the old days, the way to preserve heritage was to lock it up. Not now."
When the fund helped buy a Botticelli for the National Galleries of Scotland, it developed a programme for the picture to tour the country. "We are not just here to save the heritage," said Mr McLean. ''We are here to make sure everybody enjoys it."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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