Stirling faces ‘cultural disaster’ over gallery threat

The Gallery. Picture: Visit Scotland
The Gallery. Picture: Visit Scotland
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Stirling has been warned it is facing a “cultural disaster” over plans to slash funding for its main art gallery amid claims it could be forced to close down within two years.

Council officials want to reduce funding for the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, which opened in 1874 thanks to a legacy from artist Thomas Stuart Smith.

They are also under fire for proposing swingeing cuts to the charity behind a children’s orchestra set up to transform the lives of children in the Raploch Estate.

The cuts to Sistema Scotland have emerged just days before a tenth anniversary celebration for the Big Noise Orchestras is staged in Stirling, where the first orchestra was set up.

A Sistema Scotland spokeswoman said: “We’re deeply concerned that the council is proposing an almost 50 per cent reduction in our budget over five years, to just £275,000. While we recognise the public sector is under financial pressure, this is a cut too far and could have a devastating effect.”

Nearly 4000 people have backed an online petition against the proposed cuts for the Stirling Smith, which is used by around 20 community groups and attracts around 40,000 visitors annually. It is run by a charitable trust under the stewardship of Elspeth King, former curator of the People’s Palace in Glasgow.

Dr King said: “Stirling Council’s priority-based budgeting process has identified cutting funding of the Stirling Smith by 90 per cent as a necessary saving. With a cut of £242,000, it will be closed by 2020. The Stirling Smith is 144 years young, has a collection of local, national and international importance and an outreach and education programme which connects with all of the Stirling communities and schools. The loss of the Stirling Smith would be a cultural disaster for Stirling.”

An open letter to Stirling Council from the Friends of the Smith states: “Stirling’s key assets are its built and natural environment and its people. Our cultural heritage is internationally recognised and marks Stirling out on an international stage.”

A council spokesman said it was important to stress that final funding decisions would not be taken until its budget is set on 22 February.