National Galleries plead for help to finish troubled project after 'major' cost hike

Significant new public funding will need to be found to finish off a late-running overhaul of Scotland's flagship art gallery to help pay for a "major increase" in its cost due to the pandemic.

The ongoing revamp of the Scottish National Gallery will now not be complete until the end of 2022 at the earliest.

The National Galleries has refused to say how much the long-awaited overhaul of the Scottish National Gallery is currently projected to cost – despite telling MSPs that a significant bail-out is needed.

However it has warned a Scottish Parliament committee that cultural organisations are facing an “uncertain future” due to the “massive impact” of Covid on their plans.

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The National Galleries, which are directly funded by the Scottish Government, claims the cultural sector with suffer a decline in quality and “key opportunities will be missed” unless there is further financial support and investment.

New exhibition spaces overlooking Princes Street Gardens are being created under the ongoing revamp of the Scottish National Gallery.

The previous £22 million price tag for the Scottish National Gallery project, which is running at least five years later than originally envisaged, was confirmed in 2018.

At the time, the project, which has been in the planning stages since 2012, was due to be completed by early 2021.

Since then, it has been held up by the discovery of “unexpected defects” in the original 19th century building on The Mound, including asbestos, damp and faulty drainage, as well as the impact of Covid restrictions, which halted construction work for several months.

It emerged last November that the project, which has been ongoing at The Mound complex for the last three years, was not due for completion until the end of 2022.

The project will see the transformation of former offices and storage facilities into new galleries overlooking Princes Street Gardens which will showcase some of Scotland’s finest art treasures.

The National Galleries insists it is unable to give a final cost until all construction work is “closer to completion.”

In a submission to Holyrood’s culture committee, which is exploring the future of arts funding in Scotland, Elaine Anderson, head of planning and performance at the National Galleries, said: “Covid has had a massive impact on the cultural sector in Scotland and many organisations face an uncertain future.

“Without support and investment, the sector will decline in quality and reach and key opportunities will be missed.“There has been a significant loss of income due to the reduction in footfall and lengthy periods of closure.The Scottish National Gallery is a flagship city centre building which will be a showcase for Scottish art on completion of the development project.

"Hampered by Covid and unexpected construction challenges, this has led to a major increase in costs. Additional financial support will be required to complete the project.”

A spokeswoman for the National Galleries said: “We have previously stated publicly that there would be additional costs for this project as a result of unexpected complexities with the site as well as Covid-related delays.

"As construction progresses, we are resolving the challenges on-site successfully and are liaising with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders on funding.

"We will continue to manage costs diligently and will share a final construction figure for the project when this work is closer to completion.

"Ultimately, as we emerge from the pandemic, this major project will provide a significant boost to cultural renewal in Scotland.”

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