Demands grow for removal of Brexit barriers facing Scottish artists and performers

The Scottish Government is demanding action from Westminster to break a visa deadlock which is said to be putting performers and artists at risk of being cut off from the rest of Europe.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned artists and performers face being cut off from the rest of Europe unless the visa deadlock is broken.
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has warned artists and performers face being cut off from the rest of Europe unless the visa deadlock is broken.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has increased the pressure on the UK Government to ensure artists and creative industry workers can work freely in all 27 members of the EU in the wake of Brexit.

Westminster has been urged to ensure “reciprocal” visa free access arrangements are in place for artists and performers, even though that was not part of the official Brexit agreements.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Ms Hyslop said Scottish musicians were facing the prospect of “huge barriers” to touring around Europe if they had to try to comply with different visa regimes in each country.

She has urged her Westminster counterpart, Oliver Dowden, to reverse a situation she claims would “cut off Scotland’s creative talent from the rest of Europe.”

Ms Hyslop said: ““It remains a fact that Europe is the most important international market for many who rely on touring and action is needed now to support musicians and other creative professionals to tour again, when it is safe to do so.”

Some of Britain’s best-known performers, including Sir Elton John, Liam Gallagher, Gary Numan, Sir Ian McKellen, Julie Walters and Patrick Stewart have demanded the UK goes back to the negotiating table after failing to reach an agreement which would allow performers and crews to travel visa-free.

The UK government and Brussels have blamed each other for failing to resolve the issue, each saying the other side rejected its proposals.

UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden is being urged to ensure Scottish culture workers can continue to tour freely around Europe.

However more than 280,000 people have signed a petition calling for a cultural work permit deal to be thrashed out.

Ms Hyslop told Mr Dowden that she wants the UK Government to “take a lead” in resolving issues over visa and work permit requirements, as well as haulage for performers and their crews, as soon as possible.

In her letter, she said: “It is evident from the views put forward by a number of stakeholders that more needs to be done to address the issue of visas and work permits directly with the EU, to ensure consistency of arrangements and clarity across all member states.

"There is potential for the UK Government to seek visa-free and work permit-free arrangements for the sector directly with the EU.

“Visa exemptions for certain activities also already exist between the EU and individual countries, and so again it would be possible for the UK Government to explore directly with the EU whether such an arrangement could be put in place for creative professionals from the UK. This could also be done without reopening the TCA.

"While there are clearly challenges, I see no reason why the UK Government could not open a dialogue with the EU to explore whether such arrangements would be possible, given their clear benefits to both sides in terms of supporting culture and creative sectors and facilitating cross-border cultural collaboration.

“Representatives of the culture and creative sectors have made clear the urgency around these concerns.”

The government insists a new working group will be considering “outstanding issues” for the arts and creative industries around touring throughout the EU.

A spokesman for the UK Government said: "We want our cultural and creative professionals to be able to work easily across Europe, in the same way EU creatives are able to work flexibly in the UK.

"Though the EU rejected proposals that would have allowed this, we're now working very closely with our cultural industries and the devolved administrations to resolve any new barriers they face, so that touring can resume as soon as it is safe to do so."

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director


Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.