‘Perfect storm’ warning for Scottish arts sector amid fears of ‘significant’ funding cuts

Scotland's national arts agency says "significant" cuts are likely to be made in its annual funding from the Scottish Government amid growing fears of a “perfect storm” engulfing the cultural sector over the next few months.

A full house at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.
A full house at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

Creative Scotland has warned MSPs that a “fragile” recovery from the pandemic has been “more than overtaken” by a combination of rising costs, falling income and the impact of Brexit.

The quango, which funds venues, arts organisations, events and festivals, has said that maintaining standstill funding is “increasingly unviable” because of soaring additional costs.

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Instead, it has suggested that it may have to cut back the number of organisations it provides long-term funding to in future.

Creative Scotland, which normally receives more than £63 million from the government, claims it is unable to plan ahead properly because it has “no certainty” over its future funding.

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Holyrood’s culture committee has been taking evidence on how the Scottish cultural sector is currently funded.

The Federation of Scottish Theatre has told MSPs that the prospect of funding cuts after years of standstill funding, combined with an imminent cost crisis, will "cause devastation on a society-wide scale, affecting individuals and organisations at all levels."

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It has told MSPs: “It cannot be underestimated how long it will be before income and activity levels can be restored to anywhere close to prelockdown levels and ‘full’ recovery is possible.”

The umbrella body representing Edinburgh's festivals has warned that rising costs faced by venues over the next few months risks a return to "a crisis of cultural closed doors."

Creative Scotland’s submission states: “At the time of writing, there is no certainty as regards the Scottish Government budgets that will be allocated to Creative Scotland. The indications are that significant cuts are likely.

"Despite the retreat in the direct impact of the pandemic, Scotland’s culture and creative sector continues to operate in an extremely challenging and continuously shifting environment.

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“A combination of rising costs, falling income from other sources, and the implementation of public policy developments, is placing unprecedented pressures on the sector.

"Funding at a ‘standstill’ level, particularly with current and projected levels of inflation, represents an increasing year-on-year cut for organisations supported through our regular funding programme.

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“Sector recovery is fragile and gradual, and the benefits of Covid emergency support are being more than overtaken by a ‘perfect storm’ of factors.”

Creative Scotland has already delayed a long-anticipated shake-up of its long-term funding programmes until 2024.

However it adds: “A major consideration in the successful implementation of this revised funding approach will be the level of budget made available to us.

“This budget will determine the scope and scale of the funding programme in terms of the number of organisations we’re able to support.

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"We are clear, however, that ‘stand-still’ funding for cultural and creative organisations is no longer viable, particularly in the face of rising inflation and operational costs. We anticipate we may have to fund fewer organisations on a multi-year basis, but aim to fund them at a more sustainable level.

"We will not know what the budget available to us is from the Scottish Government until December 2022, nevertheless, we continue to prepare and work to this timeline, but it may require to be revisited should we not secure sufficient budget certainty at the end of 2022.”

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