Creative Scotland warns ‘difficult decisions’ loom after Scottish Budget fails to ‘alleviate’ rising costs crisis
Scotland’s national arts agency has raised fresh fears over the future funding of events, venues and organisations amid claims the government has failed to “alleviate” the culture sector’s costs crisis in its budget plans.
Senior figures at Creative Scotland have warned they are facing “difficult decisions” over who will get long-term support over the next few years, despite pledges from the government to “more than double” arts spending in Scotland.
Months after raising the alarm that one in three arts organisations were at “serious risk of insolvency” in the short term, chief executive Iain Munro described the outlook for the sector as “extremely challenging” and said he did not anticipate this changing in the forthcoming financial year.
He has told Holyrood’s culture committee that Creative Scotland is still in the dark over what its budget will be in future years, when new “multi-year” funding programmes are meant to be in place.
Mr Munro warned that the level of demand was expected to be “far in excess” of available resources when decisions are taken later this year. Creative Scotland has received around £96m worth of applications for a funding pot currently worth around £40m a year annually.
Mr Munro highlighted repeated calls from across the industry for “longer term budget certainty” to allow organisations to plan ahead better and “reduce operational precarity.”
The government claims it increased arts funding by £15.8m in its draft budget plans last month.
Although £13.2m of this has been ringfenced for Creative Scotland, Mr Munro said its own budget for the coming financial year was expected to be at “the same level” as had been approved in Holyrood last year – before a 10 per cent budget cut was reinstated by the government and it was forced to raid financial reserves to avoid passing the cut onto organisations during the current financial year.
Although Mr Munro welcomed a “statement of intent” from the government to allocate a further £25m for culture in 2025-26, he said it was not known how much would come to Creative Scotland.
Mr Munro said: “Whilst this proposed budget restores some sense of stability and makes positive indications about budgets in future years, it does not alleviate the ongoing and significant financial challenges facing cultural organisations in terms of increasing running costs, falling income, and the implications of meeting requirements such as those for fair work.
"The proposed budget is also for the 2024/25 financial year only. In previous committee submissions and evidence sessions we, and others working in Scotland’s culture and creative sector, have set out the case for longer term budget certainty and called for at least a three-year budget settlement from the government.
“Such a settlement would enable us, in turn, to commit to longer term funding plans for the organisations that we support, enabling them to plan more effectively, reduce operational precarity, and continue to confidently develop work of excellence and impact for the people of Scotland.
“The one-year settlement presented by the proposed budget for 2024/25 has no impact on the multi-year funding programme, which is due to come into effect from April 2025, and for which the two-stage application process is currently live.
“As previously announced, we received 361 applications in stage one of the multi-year funding application process, with an annual financial ask of £96m.
“We have no indication of what our budgets will be beyond March 2025, but we anticipate that this financial ask is far in excess of the grant-in-aid budget that we will have available, and that difficult decisions will require to be made.
"Our national lottery reserves also remain depleted by £6.6m and will limit our ability to provide transition support for organisations currently in receipt of regular funding, but unsuccessful in their multi-year funding application.”
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