Creative Scotland crisis deepens as it prepares for 'standstill funding' while facing £47.5m black hole

Arts industry warned only a ‘proportion’ of applications will be backed

The Scottish Government funding is under growing pressure over its support for culture after its own arts agency revealed a £47.5 million black hole to meet demand for long-term funding.

Creative Scotland has warned it will only be able to approve a “proportion” of the 281 applications it has received ahead due to the projected shortfall as it is planning ahead on the basis of “standstill funding” from the Government.

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The fate of many of Scotland's best-known theatres, music venues, arts centres, festivals and arts organisations is hanging in the balance for months after final bids worth £87.5m were lodged for the multi-year funding programme. Under a planned shake-up of its funding programmes and based on its Government budget of £68m, Creative Scotland would have just £40m available for long-term funding.

The Girls of Slender Means is currently being staged at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Picture: Mihaela BodlovicThe Girls of Slender Means is currently being staged at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic
The Girls of Slender Means is currently being staged at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

Arts industry collective Culture Counts said it had estimated up to 55 per cent of applications to Creative Scotland could be turned down and warned this would have a “devastating impact on Scotland’s cultural sector”.

Creative Scotland has revealed it has set aside £4m this financial year and £5m in the next year for “transition support” to help unsuccessful organisations to either restructure, scale back or “cease operations”. Although decisions are due in October, Creative Scotland has been kept in the dark over its future budget from the Government.

This is despite a pledge in October last year from First Minister Humza Yousaf to “more than double” arts spending during the period of Creative Scotland’s next funding programme.

A spokesman for Creative Scotland said: “There is ongoing concern across the culture sector about the lack of clarity regarding longer-term funding. This has been a consistent message from Creative Scotland, and from people and organisations working in the sector.

"In the absence of confirmation of longer-term budgets from the Scottish Government, we are working on the premise that budgets will remain at standstill level, which means we would have £40m to support organisations through multi-year funding.”

Culture Counts director Lori Anderson said: “The Scottish Government has set out its ambitions for culture and pledged to support the sector through committing to increase the culture budget by £100m by 2028/29.

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“However the sector needs to see this ambition translated into immediate action, with a significant portion of this investment allocated ahead of these vital funding decisions being taken in October. Without this commitment, we will be looking at a very different cultural landscape come winter.”

More support for the arts was pledged by the Government weeks after it quietly re-imposed a 10 per cent cut on Creative Scotland, effectively overturning an announcement in its 2023/24 Scottish Budget.

Mr Munro said: “As we've emphasised consistently, our budgets remain extremely limited and we anticipate being able to fund only a proportion of the organisations which have applied.

"While we welcome the Government’s commitment to increasing culture funding by £100m over the next five years, and the intimation that £25m of this will be allocated in 2025/26, we await confirmation of what this means for our budget.”

Writing in Creative Scotland’s new annual plan, Mr Munro added: “The context that the creative and cultural sector works in remains challenging, with ongoing long-term financial pressures, increased demands on resources and audience numbers that have yet to return to pre-Covid levels.

"Contraction in other parts of the funding landscape, including philanthropic giving, adds to this concern.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Decisions on these funding applications are a matter for Creative Scotland.

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"We understand Creative Scotland aim to conclude their assessment of stage two applications and make funding decisions by October 2024 to give organisations preparation time in advance of the new multi-year funding programme coming into place in April 2025.

"We expect Creative Scotland to use all the resources at their disposal to support organisations and help protect culture sector jobs at this difficult time.

"In 2025/2026 we aim to provide an additional £25m to the culture sector. This commitment to additional funding despite the challenging budget situation signals our confidence in the Scottish culture sector and is the starting point of a journey of three phases – sustain, develop, and innovate.

“As is the normal procedure, the Scottish Government draft budget for 2025/2026 will be published later in 2024.”



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