£65m funding bailout for culture sector amid fears restrictions will be in place for months

Arts venues, performers, event organisers, museums and galleries are to share a £65 million rescue package for the Scottish cultural sector in the wake of new Covid curbs which may have to be kept in place for months.

The Scottish Government has announced a breakdown of emergency support following the shutdown of hundreds of venues, shows and events since restrictions were confirmed four days before Christmas.

The support was set out amid confusion over how long curbs on full-capacity events will be kept in place for.

Speaking on the BBC, Scotland’s national clinical director, Jason Leitch, suggested April would be too early for an event on the scale of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party, which was expected to attract a 30,000-strong crowd onto Princes Street on Friday night.

The annual pantomime at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh was one of many festive shows forced to pull the plug. Picture: Graham Clark

The government announced an initial £21 million in support for the culture and events sectors before Christmas and confirmed an additional £44 million last week.

Venue and cultural businesses have been allocated £31.5 – almost half the available funding, while £2 million has been ringfenced for national companies such as Scottish Ballet, which was forced to halt its production of The Nutcracker.

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The live events sector will get £19.8 million worth of support following the widespread cancellation and postponement of concerts, shows and tours.

Individual performers and other freelances will be able to apply for help from a £10 million support fund, while £1.7 million has been set aside for museums, galleries and heritage attractions affected by curbs on crowd numbers.

Scottish Ballet has been forced to halt its production of The Nutcracker. Picture: Andy Ross

Over and above the support for the culture and events sectors, the government has pledged £5 million to help nightclubs which closed their doors rather than repurpose themselves as pubs.

New crowd limits – capped at just 100 for indoor standing events and 200 for all-seater shows – were announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, along with the return of physical distancing rules, which prevented many venues opening for the first time during the pandemic until last September.

The government has also effectively banned audiences from dancing anywhere other than weddings under the new measures, which were introduced to try to help keep the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid under control.

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Scottish culture secretary Angus Robertson said: “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is once again causing disruption and uncertainty in the culture and events sector, who have already been hit so hard by its impact.

“We have been engaging with the sector about the impact of the Omicron variant and we are fully committed to supporting culture and events while they recover from the impact of the COVID – and we are aware of just how important they are to Scotland, and indeed the wider recovery from this pandemic.

“These additional funds will help protect the livelihoods of the people working in the sector – and allow us to give further support to freelancers, culture organisations, venues and our national performing companies.”

Creative Scotland chief executive Iain Munro said:

“We’re very grateful for this significant increase in emergency funding from the Scottish Government which reflects the severity of the challenges being faced by Scotland’s culture sector.”

Paul Bush, VisitScotland’s director of events, said: “The Scottish Government’s commitment of £19.8 million for Scotland’s events sector is welcome news as the industry continues to deal with the latest challenges presented by the pandemic.”

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