Creative Scotland must address ‘strategic failings’, says Holyrood Committee

Janet Archer, Chief Executive Officer of Creative Scotland. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Janet Archer, Chief Executive Officer of Creative Scotland. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
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Creative Scotland decision-making on funding fell well below the standard expected of a public body, a Holyrood inquiry has concluded.

A damning letter from the Culture Committee to chief executive Janet Archer said confidence in the arts funding organisation had been “badly damaged” by its actions earlier this year.

The committee held an inquiry after widespread criticism of Creative Scotland’s decision to axe funding to some companies.

A decision to hold an emergency meeting in February to reconsider some applications, without telling the wider sector, “appears to have undermined the sector’s confidence in Creative Scotland’s decision-making and underlying strategic approach to funding,” the letter said.

MSPs said it was a “serious matter” that while Creative Scotland said its board was unaware of any factual inaccuracies in assessment reports, this had been contradicted by written evidence from the companies involved.

The committee said it was “very concerned” by the handling of regular funding applications from touring theatre and dance companies which “fell well below the standard that is expected from a non-departmental public body”.

The approach the organisation had taken had “hampered the sector’s trust in Creative Scotland and added to ongoing uncertainty for the sector at a time when the funding pressures on the sector are already high”, the letter said.

A failure to address strategic issues within Creative Scotland at an earlier stage had left the sector “in a very challenging position”, it warned.

Concerns were also raised that too much regular funding was being directed away from artists towards network organisations.

The committee called on Creative Scotland to urgently address its strategic failings.

Convener Joan McAlpine MSP said: “We received unprecedented levels of representations from within the sector following Creative Scotland’s handling of regular funding for 2018-21.

“With more than 50 responses from artists and arts organisations, it is clear to us that the confidence of a significant element of the cultural sector in Creative Scotland’s regular funding process has been badly damaged.

“In particular we felt that the handling of the process in relation to touring theatre and dance companies fell well below the standard that is expected from a non-departmental public body.”

Deputy convener Claire Baker MSP added: “The committee has expressed serious concern over Creative Scotland’s regular funding for the 2018-21 period.

“We keenly await its written response to the issues we have raised and have set a deadline of August 31.

“We will also invite representatives of Creative Scotland to appear before the committee again when Parliament returns from summer recess.”