Confusion over Scottish Government ‘pause' of youth music fund with tutors out of work
Confusion reigns over the future of funding for a youth music programme after it was ‘paused’ by ministers ahead of the Scottish Government’s cost-of-living emergency budget review.
The £9m Youth Music Initiative, established in 2003 and funded by Creative Scotland, funds musical activities in schools and professional development for young people who are looking to start a career in the music industry.
Culture minister Neil Gray initially confirmed a “brief pause in the distribution” of funding, but later claimed the funding is “secure”, with programmes urged to start or restart with minimal disruption.
Mr Gray said: “While there is a brief pause in the distribution of funding while the Cost of Living Emergency Budget Review is completed, the funding for Creative Scotland’s Youth Music Initiative is secure and will not be reduced.
“The Scottish Government recognises the important role this programme plays in nurturing the talents of children and young people across the country.”
It comes ahead of further cuts from the Scottish Government which are set to follow the UK Government’s own ‘mini-budget’, planned for next Friday.
Nicola Sturgeon pledged the Scottish Government’s own emergency budget within two weeks of a ‘fiscal event’ in Westminster.
The Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, is expected to outline a range of policies including tax cuts, promised by Liz Truss during the Tory leadership campaign, details of the energy price cap, and a move to end the cap on banker’s bonuses.
It is not clear how many musicians and teachers are impacted by the ‘pause’ in funding, however some tutors have been told to search for other work for the period they would otherwise have been working on Youth Music Initiative activities and services.
Councils were told by the Scottish Government that due to the emergency budget review, all government portfolios have been asked to “identify remaining non-contracted spend” and to “defer issuing contracts indefinitely”.
In a letter to music tutors sent earlier this week from one activities provider, it is detailed that Creative Scotland are yet to have made some funding awards.
This led to any planned programmes which were yet to be confirmed as funded by Creative Scotland being cancelled.
Projects span across all local authorities, provide around 1,200 jobs, with the programme having around 200,000 participants in total, and focus on areas where individuals have little or no access to music making activities.
A separate £12m was paid to local councils to remove music tuition charges for pupils as part of the 2022/23 Scottish budget. This is unaffected by the pause in Youth Music Initiative funding.
Former Scottish Labour first minister, Jack McConnell, accused the Scottish Government of “cultural and social vandalism”.
On Twitter, the peer said: “Announcing this now is deliberate. An attempt to cover up the news of this disgraceful decision.
"And earlier this week young musicians played at Holyrood for the late Queen and the new King a piece composed by the guy who helped me set up free tuition for all 20 years ago.”
John Wallace, former principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and convenor of the Scottish Government’s Music Education Partnership Group, said cutting Youth Music Initiative’s funding would be “political suicide”.
He said: “It would be political suicide for any party to cut YMI funding which is targeted especially to the children who need it most.
"To cut It would make a nonsense of all the pious utterances we have heard from politicians lips about equity.
"Jack McConnell’s tweet yesterday says it all - to do it at a time like this, when our very own dear Queen Elizabeth II has been heard to say “Every child should lean a musical instrument”. It’s just not going to happen.
"YMI funding cannot be cut. All we musicians would just march on Holyrood and not stop playing till they gave in.”
However, the Scottish Government has insisted that the funding is “secure”, with Neil Gray stating the delivery of the programme should “start, or restart, with minimal disruptions”.
The culture minister said: “The Youth Music Initiative programme plays a vitally important role in nurturing the talents of children and young people across the country.
“While there was a brief pause in the distribution of funding while the Cost of Living Emergency Budget Review was completed, the Scottish Government has confirmed to Creative Scotland that the funding for the Youth Music Initiative is secure.
“We are working closely with Creative Scotland and expect local authorities to be informed of the up-dated situation as soon as possible to allow delivery of the programme to start, or restart with minimal disruptions.”
Confirmation of the future of the funding is unlikely to be confirmed until the Scottish Government outline its emergency budget, promised within two weeks of a ‘fiscal event’ in Westminster.
The Prime Minister promised to use a ‘fiscal event’ to reverse the rise in National Insurance contributions which was brought in by her predecessor Boris Johnson as a levy to pay for social care.
Ms Truss also pledged to scrap green levies on energy bills temporarily to help bring down prices for consumers.
There could also be announcements around the rate of VAT or whether the tax is removed from energy bills.
Within two weeks, he Scottish Government’s emergency budget review will set out further cuts to services and programmes due to a budget hole of around £700m.
Outlining the first £500m of cuts and savings to the Scottish Parliament last week, the deputy first minister said “difficult choices” had to be made to balance the books.
An emergency budget is likely to see John Swinney as interim finance minister set out a further £200m in budget cuts which are yet to found.
The Scottish Government was faced with the budget hole after it agreed higher-than-expected public sector pay deals.
Pay deals with teachers and health and social care workers are also yet to be agreed, potentially putting more pressure on the Scottish Government’s budget.
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