Holyrood probe set to spark Scottish arts funds overhaul

Joan McAlpine, convener of the committee, said that sustainable funding for the future of the arts is 'critical to us having a thriving cultural sector'. Picture: John Devlin

Scottish arts funding is set for an overhaul after a parliamentary probe was ordered in the wake of widespread criticism of how the nation’s main culture quango hands out grants.

MSPs will explore the creation of a more “sustainable model” of supporting artists and organisations a year after Creative Scotland was engulfed in a prolonged crisis.

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Holyrood’s culture committee is also expected to identify the key threats to the sector, the biggest problems in securing funding in the existing cultural landscape and possible new sources of support.

Artists, organisations and freelance workers are being asked to submit evidence on what should be done to make it easier to secure funding, while the committee will also look at the best overseas models. The culture committee delivered a damning verdict on Creative Scotland last year, saying its system for allocating long-term funding was “well below” the standard expected of a public body following months of criticism of stewardship of the sector.

A series of cuts announced at the start of last year were overturned in the wake of protests from the arts sector and an intervention from culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

The quango’s chief executive, Janet Archer, and two of her board members, Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch, resigned over the backlash.

Joan McAlpine, convener of the committee, said: “Sustainable funding for the future of the arts is critical to us having a thriving cultural sector that encourages and supports a diverse range of artists.

“The committee took evidence on this issue when it looked at the process Creative Scotland undertook. Whilst we found specific issues with that process, some of the evidence also raised wider concerns, including difficulties in accessing public funding and also how the process is set up.

“We want to hear from as many people as possible to get a view of what more can be done to support artists and the wider sector for the long term, including what we can learn from other countries.”

Iain Munro, Ms Archer’s deputy during her five-year tenure, has been acting chief executive since her departure.

He said: “We share the desire for a thriving and vibrant cultural sector, welcome the opportunity to contribute and are committed to working with all stakeholders to achieve a sustainable way forward.”