Culture secretary admits world cycling event went £8m over budget days after £6.6m arts cut was revealed
A senior Scottish minister has sparked renewed anger within the arts sector after admitting a major cycling event had gone £8 million over budget – days after a £6.6m cut for Creative Scotland was revealed.
It has also emerged Creative Scotland is facing a further £4m worth of cuts from its budget.
The Scottish Government had already upped its contribution for the cycling event – billed as the biggest of its kind anywhere in the world – from £30m, after the overall budget soared to almost £60m.
Critics accused the Government of being unable to manage its own budgets, with former SNP MSP Joan McAlpine questioning “what did this event do for our economy?”
Mr Robertson was speaking at the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee on Thursday as he was quizzed about the reinstatement of a 10 per cent cut for Creative Scotland, which he insisted would have “zero detriment” on arts organisations as the administrative body would be using its financial reserves to make up the cut.
The minister and Humza Yousaf have previously suggested that public sector pay settlements and inflation were to blame for the decision to reduce Creative Scotland’s budget.
Mr Yousaf was also faced demands to justify the cut during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.
Mr Robertson insisted the extra funding required for the 11-day cycling event, which brought together 13 existing world championships for the first time, would be spread across government.
However, in a letter confirming Creative Scotland’s cut, published after a Freedom of Information request, Mr Robertson said he was unable to confirm £2m for the Screen Scotland agency, £500,000 for Edinburgh's festivals and £1.5m for Culture Collective, a network of 26 projects across Scotland.
He wrote: “We are still assessing options for this and will confirm whether this funding can be released or not in due course.”
The Government revealed the £6.6m cut in December last year, but U-turned in February after an industry backlash. But Creative Scotland last week revealed the cut had been reinstated in late September.
Mr Robertson told the culture committee: “This year we saw funding from the Scottish Government and partners to help deliver the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships, which helped promote the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling, and drive wider economic and social benefits across Scotland.
"But due to increased costs, including inflation, the total funding is in the process of being finalised. Final costs will be confirmed in due course, but are in the order of £8m. Government funding for the event prior to its completion was delivered through our major events budget.
“But since the event’s conclusion, any additional funding that may be required will be managed centrally.”
Posting on social media, singer-songwriter Iona Fyfe said: “I don’t like pitting one sector against the other, but for ONE event to go £8 million over budget, when Creative Scotland is simply asking for the promised £6.6m to ensure it’s RFO [regularly funded organisation] networks’ survival, really does let the arts sector down. Jobs will be lost.
"RFOs are mainstays of Scottish culture. They’re not some big circus that comes into town, then leaves. We are all better off due to RFO organisations like Feis Rois.
"This new news just rubs salt in the wounds of those in the arts sector.”
Scottish Labour culture spokesman Neil Bibby said: “If Angus Robertson can’t keep promises on culture funding and can’t manage his budget, then perhaps he should be getting on his bike.”
Ms McAlpine, who represented the south of Scotland from 2011 to 2021, said: “What did this event do for our economy? In Dumfries, roads were closed, driving business away from small shops. There seemed to be more stewards than spectators. ‘People Make Glasgow’ signs absurdly hung over the River Nith.”
One source in the cultural sector said: “It’s been known for some time that the cycling championships were over budget, but it was deliberately kept quiet until after they were over.
"The Government has effectively had to underwrite the entire event to ensure it went ahead.”
Mr Robertson told the culture committee the Government had had to find an additional £785m to settle public sector pay deals, but insisted that organisations reliant on Creative Scotland funding during this financial year “are going to be paid as they were expecting to be paid".
He said: “If there are parts of the public sector that are in a position to hold reserves, and reserves are there for when we are in times of duress, if reserves are going to make a material difference to the extreme situation we find ourselves in, frankly they should be used and that is what is happening.”
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Yousaf said: “I can give an absolute commitment that even when our finances are constrained – and, of course, we will ask Creative Scotland, as we ask other public bodies to sometimes help and assist, and if that means using their reserves then we will ask them to do that. We will look to support culture and the arts as they are so valuable to all of us in Scotland, and to the rest of the world too.
"Every single regularly-funded organisation will receive the funding they were expecting in this financial year.
“There will be no detriment to them because Creative Scotland is being asked to use a portion of its reserves.
"Subject to parliamentary approval, when it comes to next year’s budget, we will make sure we restore that £6.6m back into Creative Scotland’s reserves.”
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