Scottish culture gets £97 million rescue package from UK Government

Scotland’s crisis-hit arts and culture sector has been handed a £97 million rescue deal from the UK Government.

Management at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh said they had been forced into cost-cutting measures and redundancies to avoid running out of money completely by November.

Holyrood’s share of a £1.57 billion package for theatres, concert venues, museums and galleries to help them survive the coronavirus crisis.

The funding was confirmed in the wake of growing pressure on the UK Government from leading figures in the cultural world amid warnings that social distancing regulations would force venues to remain closed well into 2021.

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Last week the Scottish Government announced the creation of a £10 million “lifeline” fund to help performing arts venues stave off the risk of insolvency.

Job cuts had already been announced by several theatres, including the Royal Lyceum, Pitlochry Theatre and Perth Theatre, while music industry leaders warned that 2800 jobs were at risk across Scotland.

The Government said £880 million of the overall package would be made up of grants, with the rest coming via loans.

Unveiling the deal, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “The show must go on. We’re introducing a world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions weather the impact of coronavirus.

“Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture.

“That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.

“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: This UK Government investment in protecting Britain’s cultural, arts and heritage institutions means a welcome £97 million boost for Holyrood.

“The talent and creativity of Scottish arts organisations is renowned throughout the UK and internationally. I know they have the creativity and resilience to bounce back better than ever with the right support.”

Francesca Hegyi, executive director of the Edinburgh International Festival, said: “As an organisation that presents and produces the work of artists from Scotland, the UK and across the world, we’re deeply aware of Covid-19’s effect on our industry and on the many artists, freelancers and suppliers that rely upon us.

“The Edinburgh festivals generate £313m for the economy, so the absence of activity will be felt far beyond our audiences. This investment will ensure we emerge from the pandemic with the necessary strength and resilience required to once again welcome audiences to our global celebration of the arts.”

Robert Kilpatrick, general manager of the Scottish Music Industry Association, said: “We want to work constructively with the Scottish Government, its agencies, industry organisations and the private sector to make sure commercial music industry operators are able to access vital funding too; especially in the live sector.

“These businesses — which are part of Scotland’s cultural identity and contribute considerably to the country’s economy — are usually prosperous and resilient but have been devastated through no fault of their own.”

Nick Stewart, manager of Sneaky Pete’s live music venue in Edinburgh and spokesman for the Music Venues Alliance in Scotland, said: “We warmly welcome this announcement, and we are keen to continue our discussions with Scottish Government on how to target funds to prevent the looming permanent closure of many grassroots music venues in Scotland, which are the research and development hub of Scotland's music industry and at the heart of our communities.

“Fiona Hyslop has let us know at many stages that she is ‘fully supportive of grassroots music venues and the important role they play in the music sector and in contributing to the talent pipeline,’ so we are looking forward to our next conversations about how these funds will not just save Scottish venues, but make them thrive.”

Jude Henderson, director of the Federation of Scottish Theatre, said: “We’re glad that the UK Government has also recognised the impact of our industry, following last week’s announcement from the Scottish Government.

“We now look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland and our colleagues across the arts and cultural sector on the most effective distribution of the extra £97 million coming to Scotland.

“In total, it is a very significant sum but it needs to do a lot of work to support freelancers, venues and companies to survive, adapt and thrive.”

Elizabeth Newman, artistic director of Pitlochry Festival Theatre, which had previously warned that almost half its staff were at risk of redundancy, said: “We are so relieved that this generous help has arrived from the UK and Scottish governments.

“We have always known that they have understood the importance of theatre, especially with regards to how much it contributes to the economy and the wellbeing of the population.

“For Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Scottish theatre industry this is the first vital step on a long road of recovery and we are reassured by the government's decision. We cannot thank both governments for their unrelenting support during this unprecedented time.”

Playwright David Greig, who is also artistic director at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, which had previously warned it would run out of money in November without making job cuts, said: “This is very good news. Culture belongs to us all. It’s an economic argument and a moral one. This is a chance for rebirth & change in our sector. Let’s use it wisely.

“Well done to all who have advocated from the grassroots to the national institutions. Everyone played a role.”

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