Scottish independence: Culture secretary pledges to safeguard arts spending in independent Scotland

Fiona Hyslop has pledged to safeguard arts funding
Fiona Hyslop has pledged to safeguard arts funding
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CULTURE secretary Fiona Hyslop has pledged to safeguard spending on the arts in an independent Scotland - despite major institutions already being asked to make cuts over the next few years.

• Wrong for anyone to suggest UK museums and galleries suffering due to funding cuts with Scottish budgets in rude health, says Fiona Hyslop

• Overall budget available to culture and external affairs portfolio going up 1.26 per cent to £240.8 million

• Creative Scotland to have more money to spend overall despite core budget being cut by two per cent

Speaking at a major museums and galleries summit in Edinburgh, she vowed that new economic powers in the event of a “yes” vote would ensure that budgets for cultural institutions would be protected from the “vagaries” of the UK Government.

Ms Hyslop also said it was wrong for anyone to suggest musuems and galleries “across the UK” were suffering because of government funding cuts, insisting that budgets in Scotland were in “rude health.”

She has made the claims despite both the National Museums and Galleries having their budgets cut by 0.5 per cent for the next year financial years in the most recent settlement from by the Scottish Government and being warned to expect similar cuts in future.

Drastic cuts

Historic Scotland, which is responsible for flagship attractions like Edinburgh Castle, Skara Brae and Linlithgow Palace, is facing the most drastic cuts of up to a third off its budget over the next three years.

And although flagship arts agency Creative Scotland will have more money to spend overall, due to ringfenced money for capital projects, its core budget is being cut by two per cent.

However the overall budget available to Ms Hyslop’s culture and external affairs portfolio will be going up 1.26 per cent - to £240.8 million.

This includes millions of pounds earmarked for celebrations to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 2014, the next Year of Homecoming, and a programme of cultural events to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Ms Hyslop told the Museums Association Conference: “All too often I read reports that museums and galleries are suffering “across the UK” because of “Government” cuts. Actually this isn’t true. Scotland’s museum’s are in rude health and, while budgets are fractionally smaller, not to the same degree as in other UK nations. I have fought hard to preserve the grant funding that is made available to our local museums and galleries.

“Whilst there has been small decreases to the budget given to our National Collections, 0.5 per cent for the coming year and for this year, these are not as extensive as many of their UK counterparts and we have increased capital expenditure to ease the burden of maintenance and repair.

“The Scottish Government supports independence so that it can choose its own priorities, and boost the economy to fund those.

“Independence at least gives me that chance of further protecting museum budgets from the vagaries of the UK spending decisions - culture is a priority of ours and we want the economic powers to ensure a strong economy can protect a strong cultural spend.

“One of the reasons I have fought so hard to preserve funding for museums and galleries is because of their importance to society. Museums and Galleries provide places of learning – a glimpse into the past, present and future.

“We must also value the impact museums and galleries have far beyond being cultural activities. There is evidence which shows that participating in such cultural activity can have real benefits across a number of outcomes; for education, justice, and health.

“Scotland’s culture and heritage IS our soul – its traditions, its innovation, ideas, debates, disputes, its many truths and its many questions.

Adding to the social value of museums and galleries, is the economic value they bring to a nation. So let’s focus a little on the economic value that this sector generates.

“The numbers speak for themselves. In Scotland alone, industry figures suggest there are 23.5 million visits annually, producing £662 million for the economy. I am also proud to say that Scotland’s museums and galleries employ a proportionately higher percentage of its population than other nations in this Union.”