Artists forced to survive on £100 a week

Janie Nicoll, whose art has been shown worldwide, said in a good year her turnover would be around �15,000. Picture: Rob McDougall
Janie Nicoll, whose art has been shown worldwide, said in a good year her turnover would be around �15,000. Picture: Rob McDougall
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THREE-quarters of visual artists in Scotland are earning less than £5,000 a year, according to a new report.

Just five per cent of artists surveyed for the study said they were earning more than £15,000 after tax and expenses.

When it came to actual turnover, 70 per cent of those who took part in the study for the Scottish Artists Union (SAU) were generating less than £10,000 a year.

The SAU, which has been campaigning for a fairer deal for self-employed artists, said the figures present a “stark and 
worrying depiction” of their earnings across Scotland.

It has collected more than 500 signatures on a petition demanding the setting up of a “reliable, accessible and effective infrastructure” for artists.

The union also wants to see a minimum-pay rate for artists enforced via all publicly funded bodies and organisations.

The SAU, which has more than 900 members, has been one of the most vocal critics of arts body Creative Scotland, calling for greater transparency in its work and claiming there was “no confidence” in the agency across the visual arts sector.

It said it had carried out the study over the last few months because it was concerned at a lack of evidence “in the public domain” about working conditions and professional circumstances of artists.

More than half – 57 per cent – of those surveyed by the SAU had either never applied for nor received public funding for their work, while 43 per cent were having to support their practice through part-time work.

Two-thirds of artists were having to work from home, which the union says raised questions about the affordability of rented studio space and the financial security of having a professional practice.

Only seven per cent of artists who took part in the anonymous poll said their turnover was more than £25,000. However, this does not take into account the likes of hiring studio space and the cost of materials.

President Rowena Comrie said: “The turnover most artists bring in is scarily low and it’s hard to imagine how they would survive without tax credits. A lot of people have partners that support them and some have part-time jobs, but these figures are very worrying.”

Earlier this month, award-winning writer James Kelman revealed he made just £15,000 last year. After collecting his latest honour, the Saltire Society’s Scottish Book of the Year prize, he said: “And that after being a writer for about 40 years.”

There has been anger from artists after it emerged Creative Scotland’s chief executive Andrew Dixon will get six months’ salary – about £60,000 – after he leaves his post in January.

Mr Dixon has borne the brunt of criticism over the running of the agency, which has a budget of more than £83 million.