Scottish Government's bad choices see millions spent on Cycling World Championships and millions cut from arts funding – Scotsman comment
Being in government is all about making choices, as Rishi Sunak demonstrated in his Conservative party conference speech on Wednesday – controversially deciding to scrap the Manchester-Birmingham leg of the HS2 rail link in order to fund a number of other smaller transport projects. Whether this is a better use of the billions that would have been spent remains to be seen, but it’s Sunak’s call to make and he will be judged for it in the court of public opinion.
When the Scottish Government made the decision to fund the UCI Cycling World Championships to the tune of £36 million, it made a choice. And now, like other projects touched by the SNP, we learn the event is about £8 million over budget and Scottish taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
This sits uneasily alongside another choice: to cut £6.6 million from Creative Scotland's budget, after some toing and froing. And now we learn that Culture Secretary Angus Robertson is considering slashing a further £4 million from arts sector funding.
The message that the Scottish Government appears to be sending is that it believes a one-off cycling event is more important than the health of our ailing arts and culture sector. That a vanity project which put Scotland on the global stage for a brief time somehow beats ensuring that a vital part of our economy, which helps to define what being Scottish actually means, will thrive and not shrink.
In good times, spending millions on a cycling event might have been acceptable. But amid a sustained period of economic problems that have been hitting the arts world hard – from the 2008 financial crash and the years of austerity that followed to the Covid pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis – it was a ridiculous decision.
However, these are choices for our elected government to make. And, if we don't like them, it’s important to express our feelings and, ultimately, if our voices are not heard and we feel strongly enough, to vote for a change of government. In a democracy, the most important choice is made by its people.
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