Budget: Scots culture funding cut by £20m

Finance Secretary John Swinney  unveiled his draft budget to MSPs. Picture: Neil Hanna
Finance Secretary John Swinney unveiled his draft budget to MSPs. Picture: Neil Hanna
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SCOTLAND’S national performance companies have all been hit with funding cuts in John Swinney’s budget.

Almost £5 million has been stripped out the funding pot for the National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Although the overall sum available to the five companies will be coming down by 17 per cent, the government has insisted that this figure includes previous funding for capital projects.

Funding for Scotland’s historic collections of art, artefacts and literary treasures has also been slashed by 8.5 per cent under the proposed settlements for 2016-17.

The ring-fenced funding for organisations like the National Galleries of Scotland, National Museums Scotland and National Library of Scotland has been cut by some £7.3 million, down to £78.6 million.

Nearly £20 million has been chopped from the overall culture budget, representing a cut of nearly 10 per cent.

The separate budget for major events and “themed year” campaigns as been cut by 25 per cent, from £3.2 million to £2.4 million.

Arts agency Creative Scotland has been hit with a cut of 3.6 per cent in its core government funding, which is now £32.2 million. The quango also receives almost £40 million from the UK National Lottery.

A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “While we made a strong case for something more positive, we appreciate that the Scottish Government had difficult choices to make.

Creative Scotland will now look closely at how we apply our reduced budget for 2016/17, both in terms of our own operations and the grant-in-aid funding that we disburse, much of which is used to support regularly-funded organisations across Scotland. Our board will be meeting next week to agree our approach.”

• READ MORE: 15,000 council jobs at risk following Scottish budget A spokeswoman for the National Theatre of Scotland, which has been hit with a three per cent cut in its core funding, said: “While it is appropriate that all Scottish Government funded organisations should assume a share of reductions in an era of diminished public spending, even a three per cent cut has a major impact on the National Theatre of Scotland’s operating budgets.

“In addition, the fact that we are not being advised of subsidy figures beyond March 2017 makes our ongoing financial planning ever more challenging.”

Krishna Thiagarajan, chief executive of the RSNO, which has also had a three per cent funding cut, said: “Stabilising the nation’s finances is an unenviable task, particularly in times of economic uncertainty, and we recognise we may all be required to contribute to the balancing of the budget.

“We thank the Scottish Government for preserving as far as possible its investment in our future, which will allow us to continue our core programming.

“However, it is undeniable that continued reductions will have an impact on the scope and breadth of our ambitions. The RSNO will remain committed to serving Scotland and music lovers across the world to the highest standards, as we have done for the past 125 years.”

The Scottish Government said its forthcoming budget would include funding for the new V&A museum in Dundee, the forthcoming refurbishment of the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, an international culture summit during the Edinburgh Festival.

Its budget document states: “Scotland values its creative talent and provides opportunities for that talent to develop and thrive.

“Our continued investment in the arts and culture through Creative Scotland and the national performing companies will help ensure that Scotland’s culture reaches a wide audience at home and abroad.

“Our investment ensures all children and young people are encouraged and have the opportunity to engage in culture.

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering arts for all, and to giving every young person in Scotland the opportunity to access and engage with the arts, helping them to reach their full potential.”