Arts organisations warn Scottish Government against culture cuts

More than 120 arts, heritage and business organisations have joined forces to warn the Scottish Government of the “severe impacts” if its culture budget is cut next week.

Ministers have been told key economic growth ambitions will be “critically undermined” if there are cuts imposed on a sector worth £4.6 billion a year and supporting 84,000 jobs.

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Campaigners have pointed out the £325 million currently spent on culture and tourism represents less than 1 per cent of the government’s total budget. The letter insists funding may need to rise to maintain the “status quo” in the cultural due to a slump in National Lottery funding and cuts to local authority budgets.

The letter, addressed to Scottish finance minister Derek Mackay,has been coordinated by the charity Arts and Business Scotland. Chief executive David Watt, said it reflected concern about a “real risk” to future funding and the “devastating impact” this would have all across the country.

The National Theatre of Scotland, the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, Dundee Contemporary Arts and the Scottish Book Trust are among those protesting over the prospect of cuts. Operators of the Traverse, Royal Lyceum, King’s and Festival theatres in Edinburgh are also backing the letter, along with the Citizens and Tron in Glasgow, and Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

It states: “We are writing to express our collective concern as to the severe impact of potential cuts to revenue funding to the cultural sector in the forthcoming budget. The significant added value culture brings to Scotland’s economy and society has been widely documented. At the same time, having a vibrant cultural sector offers important societal benefits. A 2013 study by the Scottish Government shows clear and significant links between cultural participation and improved health and wellbeing – and there is also widespread evidence of the broader positive societal impact culture brings in areas including education, justice and community cohesion.

“The latest Scottish Household Survey shows that, at a rate of 92 per cent, the population is more culturally engaged than ever. Given the huge added value the sector brings to Scotland’s economy, society and business community, we believe that public investment in culture offers outstanding value for money.”

Mr Watt added: “We are able to make a compelling case that the cultural sector is actually already punching significantly above its weight when it comes to addressing a wide range of government priorities.”