I love live music. The theatre, almost as much. And TV and film, well, probably like most people I have always just taken them for granted. Until now.
Now I see them under threat.
I see the jobs they create and sustain, the money they bring into the economy and the great modern cultural icons: Glastonbury, the Proms and even the Edinburgh International Festival all seem just that bit more vulnerable.
All of those great expressions of British creativity, the musicians, artists, touring companies and technicians are warning there could be tough times ahead. And it’s all because of one word: Brexit. In the midst of genuine, justifiable arguments about trade, customs unions and the status of EU nationals, the threat to one of our most important industrial sectors has either been squeezed out or simply ignored by this Tory government.
I recently took the argument to a Westminster Hall debate in a bid to open their eyes to the problem. Every year our creative industries contribute £92 billion to the UK economy. Iconic events, like the Edinburgh International Festival , will not be immune to the threat posed by Brexit. You don’t have to take my word for it. The director of Festivals Edinburgh which leads efforts to promote the city’s flagship events around the world has said: “There is a sense of threat and risk and making sure that Brexit doesn’t put us in a worse position.”
No doubt there will be those now scoffing and claiming: “Remoaner. It’s all just sour grapes”.
Not according to the people in the industry.
UK Music has warned that touring and live events will be at risk because of the potential loss of technical talent from the EU. And all events will lose a valuable stream of talent from the EU. Talent which is its life blood.
But it’s not just the impact on culture. It will have an impact on the tourism it supports. Tourism is worth around £127 billion a year to the UK. That’s about 9 per cent of GDP. Across the UK, it supports approximately 3.1 million jobs. It incorporates about quarter of a million small and medium-sized enterprises. Its growth is on a par with the digital sector we hear so much about.
In Edinburgh alone, almost two million international visitors spend around £822m every year in addition to two million domestic visitors who spend £641m. So it’s clear if tourist numbers fall, many areas of Scotland, including my own in Edinburgh will suffer badly… and jobs in every area of the country will be under threat.
And while the link to the hospitality and tourist industry might be clear, there is an obvious impact too for tourist attractions. It will also reach far into other sectors of the economy, affecting jobs in fashion design, video games, television, theatre, furniture design and radio.
Those who would have come here might opt to take up other opportunities on the continent or elsewhere. Without freedom of movement many of them may not wish, or be able, to stay. It’s clear that if we are to protect those areas which are not just central to our economic but also our social and cultural well-being, our creative industries need changes now. Measures like touring passports for musicians, special equipment licenses and support for arts development are all things that can be done.
• Christine Jardine is Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West