Funding change threatens future of arts

Open letter to Creative Scotland

Last week Creative Scotland announced a change to the funding of 74 Scottish cultural organisations. In order to accommodate a shift in direct government funds and predicted increase in Lottery funds, Creative Scotland has moved 49 organisations from secure, two- or three-year funding contracts to funding on a project-by-project basis.

These organisations run across all art forms from dance to literature. Taken together, they represent the living heart of Scottish culture.

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They promote cutting-edge art form development. They cater to specific audiences like children and young people. To support them is to serve the people of Scotland for whom they create work.

Creative Scotland does not directly fund the playwrights who have written this letter. Our concern is for the health of the arts for the people of Scotland.

We acknowledge that there needs to be a funding review in Scotland.

We do not doubt the integrity and good intentions of those who are trying to make the best of a difficult job. We appreciate the attempt to be imaginative.

We also believe this particular choice of action seems likely to be a catastrophic error of judgment.

By any measure, including those of Creative Scotlanditself, the organisations we understand will be moved to project funding are successful and efficient.

In the middle of the funding ladder this is the hardest working, and most efficient part of Scottish cultural infrastructure.

They have shown they can manage public funds sensibly and responsibly and taken the name of Scottish arts across the world. They are the very foundation of the future of the arts for the people of Scotland.

We are extremely concerned that insecurity and misdirected management energies, rather than the proper administration of scarce resources, will arise from the system so far announced.

Project funding is a state of constant uncertainty. Under that system, artists and producers can’t plan ahead. It is a kind of limbo which may, just, be a defensible testing ground for young companies, but it is utterly unsuited to the flourishing of established artists and mature organisations.

To apply project funding for everyone will be less efficient than what has existed till now; it requires more repetitive paperwork.

It will be less effective, because it will be distracting from – and less supportive of – the making of good art. And it will cost more in funding officer and arts organisation management time.

Against sound management principles like “economy, efficiency and effectiveness”, it threatens to fail. We should be extremely proud of our arts in this country.

A move to project funding threatens to destabilise many years of delicate and careful work by people deeply focused on providing the best work for loyal and appreciative audiences.

Unless they are handled with urgent care, the decisions as announced risk endangering whatever faith Creative Scotland may have been slowly building in its ability to administrate and nourish our national culture.

There are excellent and experienced managers in the Scottish arts community and they should be involved in an urgent and open-minded discussion with Creative Scotland to ensure a return of trust which is currently being eroded.

It is deplorable that the force of feeling in the community is becoming negative when we should all be working together.

Any new system must not destabilise what we – artists and funders – have achieved over many years.

We understand the funding context is changing and that restrictions apply to the use of Lottery funds for revenue funding. But sensible solutions to such problems must exist.

We urge Creative Scotland not to become blindly defensive, but to join collaboratively with the Scottish artistic community in defining a new funding strategy in which all have trust and that will more effectively contribute to the flourishing of Scotland’s art and culture for the future.

Surely our relationship must not be that of patron and client, but that of partners.

Peter Arnott

Ian Brown

David Greig

David Harrower

Zinnie Harris

Linda McLean

Douglas Maxwell