Arts quango staff endured '˜open abuse' as funding row flared

Staff at Scotland's national arts quango faced 'open abuse' in the aftermath of the ill-tempered funding row which saw the body forced into an embarrassing climbdown.

Janet Archer. Picture: Neil Hanna

But bosses at Creative Scotland have rejected suggestions they are seeking to silence future criticism in response to funding awards over the prospect of new guidance on “acceptable conduct” .

The body is reviewing the way it provides long-term funding after an embarrassing U-turn earlier this year when it was forced to reverse cuts to five companies. The quango’s chief executive, Janet Archer, quit soon afterwards.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Interim chief executive Iain Munro was appearing before Holyrood’s culture committee yesterday, along with chairman Robert Wilson, to discuss the changes under way at the organisation.

Green MSP Ross Greer said the body’s Five Stages document included a recommendation setting out “expectations on what constitutes acceptable conduct” following any announcement of future funding awards. The MSP called for an assurance the body is not seeking to “restrict applicants ability” to speak out.

Mr Wilson insisted this was not the intention and Creative Scotland would never seek to “inhibit” this.

“I would give the assurance about that,” he said, adding that the recommendations came from an in independent report.

The body faced widespread public criticism when funding for the Birds of Paradise, Catherine Wheels, Lung Ha, Visible Fictions and the Dunedin Consort groups were cut – before later being re-instated.

But Mr Wilson added: “It’s been a time of anxiety and frustration and anger. I absolutely see and hear and understand that.

“It’s also worth recognising it’s been a very bruising experience for the staff at Creative Scotland who are committed to what they do and do that with much diligence and care.

“We have had instances of what I would call unacceptable behaviour for anybody in any form of public life which has strayed into people individually, as staff members of Creative Scotland, being abused in a very open environment, not even in a closed setting, which in itself would be a problem.

“We have set standards in the way that we operate which we would want to see reciprocated within the sector in terms of trust and confidence and mutual respect. Whilst we might not always agree, the business of Creative Scotland is delivered by people and people are at the heart of it.”

A “mutually respectful relationship” is at the heart of this, he added.

The body allocates more than £100 million of arts funding annually.