Creative Scotland forced into emergency talks to 'review' funding cuts

Under-fire arts quango Creative Scotland has been forced to hold crisis talks to "review" controversial funding cuts.

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer said the emergency board meeting would "take stock" of the responses to last week's funding announcement.
Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer said the emergency board meeting would "take stock" of the responses to last week's funding announcement.

An emergency board meeting is to be held within days to “take stock” of the fall-out from moves to strip 20 companies of long-term funding.

The Scottish Government has revealed that the summit has been called to "review certain decisions," raising the prospect of an embarrassing climbdown for the quango.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The board will be looking at various options for continuing to back the affected organisations, but any rethink will not affect any awards made to 116 other companies last week.

An announcement on the outcome of the talks is expected to be made next week. The talks are to be held following an intervention from culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, which suggested the shake-up had been badly handled.

Creative Scotland has been accused of making a mockery of an official Year of Young People instigated by the Scottish Government by targeting children’s theatre companies for cuts. Theatre companies working with disabled performers and women have also been among those to lose out.

Creative Scotland has been criticised for imposing 100 per cent cuts on some companies despite receiving an extra £16.6 million from the government in its most recent budget settlement.

Ms Hyslop has insisted that Creative Scotland’s funding decisions are made “independent of the government", but has pointed out that an additional £6.6 million was allocated to Creative Scotland to help meet a predicted shortfall in lottery funding and maintain “the same level of funding for regular funding organisations.”

Creative Scotland pegged its long-term funding budget at £99 million, but decided to impose 100 per cent cuts on 20 companies and offer brand new deals to 19 others.

It has defended the removal of several theatre companies from the three-year funding programme by insisting they will be able to bid into a new £2 million touring fund, expected to be up and running from 2019, and offered transitional support in the meantime.

But the shake-up has provoked fury from the theatre sector, in particular, and attracted criticism from organisations like the Scottish Society of Playwrights and actors Alan Cumming and Emma Thompson.

Pressure mounted on Creative Scotland at the weekend when Ms Hyslop intervened to say a lot of “angst and worry” could be avoided if the quango was “clearer” about its support for the theatre sector.

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer said: “We are listening carefully to everything everyone is saying. We’re doing that through one to one meetings with organisations and correspondence directly with us.

“Given the strength of views being presented, we will be bringing forward the Creative Scotland Board meeting, originally scheduled for 15 February. At this meeting, we will be taking stock of the decisions made regarding organisations not included in the regular funding network, and the options available.

“We will make a further announcement as soon as we can next week. It’s important to note that this will not affect any of the 116 organisations, or the transition arrangements, already announced as part of the network.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We have increased funding for Creative Scotland by £6.6 million in the draft budget, allowing them to maintain the same level of funding for regular funded organisations. This is in the context of decreasing funding for the arts from the National Lottery.

“Funding decisions taken by Creative Scotland are independent of the Scottish Government. We understand Creative Scotland is speaking to affected organisations about their future funding, and will shortly convene a special meeting of its board to review certain decisions.”