Fears for future of Scottish cultural events after funding cut for arts charity

Fears have been raised for the future of cultural events across Scotland after a funding cut for one of the country’s leading arts charities.

Arts & Business Scotland, which has been forging links between the business and cultural sectors for decades, has warned that the 33 per cut for a crucial funding pot risks discouraging crucial investment from the private sector.

It claims it has been left with no option but to close down down a Scottish Government-backed fund for the rest of the current financial year while it grapples with the unexpected loss of £100,000.

The Culture and Business Fund Scotland, which allows arts organisations and event organisers to attract match funding of up to £40,000 for sponsorship deals, is said to have provided financial backing to the tune of £2.5 million to 149 different projects over the last five years, with £1.4 million coming via the private sector.

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    The Borders Book Festival returned to Harmony Garden in Melrose earlier this month. Picture: Alex Hewitt

    Arts & Business Scotland chief executive David Watt said: “Unfortunately, this budget reduction will impact negatively on the fulfilment, scale or ambition of cultural activities due to be delivered across the country. Applications will either receive reduced or no funding support.

    “Many of those existing, and other potential future applicants, have been in touch to share their concerns.”

    Diana Murray, the charity’s chair, added: “It would be entirely reasonable for business leaders who want to invest in the country’s cultural vitality by partnering through this fund to think again about doing so with this match funding incentive being withdrawn.

    “But I urge businesses to continue to support and collaborate with their culture sector partners.

    “This fund provides an efficient lever for additional investment from non-public funds to support wide ranging cultural activities for the benefit of communities across Scotland.

    “We’re committed to working together to ensure that these laudable ambitions are not jeopardised.”

    Borders Book Festival director Alistair Moffatt said: “Match funding has provided a crucial injection of funds to the festival, enabling us to initiate and nurture mutually beneficial partnerships with sponsors.

    “It has grown to be one of the country's top three book festivals, returning an economic impact of £2.3 million to the community the year before Covid hit.”

    Edinburgh Science Festival chief executive Simon Gage said: “The lower than anticipated award from the government is regrettable, especially at a time when cultural organisations are having to deal with uncertainty related to Covid and absorbing the impacts of inflation, including wage rises.”

    Fiona Carr, head of development of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, said: “It is hugely disappointing and frustrating that this fund has been paused.

    “This fund has been a crucial bridge between cultural organisations and the business community, enabling a greater range of work to be undertaken and more people to participate in and benefit from culture in all its guises.

    “It means we will be able to do less than planned and fewer individuals and communities will be able to access our programmes.”

    Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “We recognise the important role that Arts & Business Scotland play in funding cultural and heritage projects.“Given the difficult public expenditure environment and the ongoing economic challenges arising from Covid, there are however pressures on funding.”

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