The Editor, The Herald
The cultural sector in Scotland awaits the UK Government’s budget announcement on Wednesday this week with trepidation: a perfect storm approaches. Stark warnings have been issued to prepare for significant financial challenges. But further cuts to the public funding that supports the arts and its infrastructure in Scotland, the bedrock of a cultural offer recognised worldwide for its quality, will undoubtedly lead to the disappearance of many irreplaceable arts organisations.
The sector in Scotland has already weathered cuts of more than a third in real terms since 2010, including a year-on-year collapse of Lottery funding, which until now has been used to shore up Creative Scotland’s core funding for theatres, galleries, venues, literature, and more. Creative Scotland would need an increase of 48% or £22m on the 2016 budget simply to match the real-term level of 2010. Arts Council England, by contrast, this year announced £170m in new investment to support 180 additional National Portfolio Organisations.
Core funding reductions are compounded by threats from other areas: if Barclay Review recommendations are implemented, millions would be wiped from the budgets of arts venues across Scotland. Culture is not a protected spend, so further cuts to Local Authority budgets will wipe out grass roots community arts activities.
We welcome the positive public statements made by the Scottish Government in acknowledging the central role culture plays across our society, and we applaud the major new investments in film and the Edinburgh Festivals, The Burrell Collection and The V&A in Dundee. Clearly, the will to support arts and culture exists at the highest level.
However, big flagship investments cannot substitute for the basic funding that our everyday, small-to-medium sized cultural groups need to exist. If these disappear, which many will if predictions about cuts to Regular Funding Organisations (RFOs) are correct, how will we nurture and sustain the highly skilled but low-paid artists who deliver arts, culture and creative experiences to audiences across every community in Scotland?
We are clear that we have now arrived at a tipping point where even a small cut to Creative Scotland’s Grant-In-Aid, alongside the reduction in Lottery funds and local authority cuts, will devastate Scotland’s arts and culture infrastructure. Damage to this infrastructure, developed with the aid of public investment over the last fifty years, will be irreversible. This cannot be overstated.
Conversely, a very small increase in funding would allow the core infrastructure of arts and culture in Scotland to survive and to thrive.
The argument for investment is strong. The arts and culture sector is one of the most efficient and dynamic in the country. In 2015/16 RFOs attracted £109m of extra investment from sources other than public funds and created 1.62 million public participation opportunities. In 2015, 92% of adults in Scotland participated in a cultural activity and Scotland’s Creative industries contribute £4.6bn GVA to the Scottish economy, supporting 73,600 jobs. These outcomes draw from, and depend on, skills identified and developed by the arts.
We are proud to live in a country that values arts and culture for its own sake as well as for its wider societal impact on health, education, justice and communities. Government funding is vital to this ecosystem. We write to ensure the potential impact of further cuts is fully understood, and we ask the Scottish Government to demonstrate that understanding in the Draft Budget to come.
Seonaid Daly, Director, Scottish Contemporary Art Network
Marc Lambert, Literature Alliance Scotland
Jan-Bert van den Berg, Director, Artlink Edinburgh & Lothians
Fiona Logue, Director, Craft Scotland
Dave Watson, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Unison
Claire Stewart, Director, Creative Edinburgh
David Francis, Director, Traditional Music Forum
Jude Henderson, Director, Federation of Scottish Theatre
David Watt, Chief Executive, Arts & Business Scotland
Janie Nicoll, former President, Scottish Artist Union
Sara Graham, CC Skills, Nations Director
Robert Livingston, Director, Regional Screen Scotland
Diana A Sykes, Director, Fife Contemporary