Row breaks out over arts funding

Creative Scotland forced to dig into reserves

by Jennie Kermode

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson
Culture Secretary Angus Robertson Photo: Scottish Government

Organisations representing Scotland's cultural sector have criticised the Scottish government today following a U-turn over funding.

Seven months after the then Deputy First Minister John Swinney responded to lobbying by the Campaign for the Arts by reversing a budget decision which would have seen Creative Scotland left with less funding, Culture Secretary Angus Robertson has confirmed that the promised money will not be forthcoming. While Robertson has defended the decision, stressing the pressure on government finance more widely, it has been greeted with dismay by many in the creative community.

The funding arrangement originated when Creative Scotland, in common with other major arts organisations across the UK, suffered from a shortfall in National Lottery funding, and the Scottish Government stepped in to fill the gap. In the absence of ongoing government support this year, Creative Scotland has had to reach into its reserves to find £6.6m with which to support the 119 Regularly Funded Organisations which, in turn, depend on it.

"Given the extensive messaging and advocacy regarding the pressures on culture budgets and risks to the culture sector that we, and many others have been making, this is a concerning development," they said in a statement.

"Whilst the unprecedented pressures on public finances are understood, we are disappointed that the Scottish Government has taken this decision, However, Creative Scotland is acting swiftly and pragmatically to help stabilise the situation in the short term."

The Campaign for the Arts team was less forgiving, stating "We are clear: [Scotland's cultural sector] is in a state of deepening crisis, and it needs backing, not broken promises."

Robertson, responding, said “Over the past five years, the Scottish Government has provided £33 million to Creative Scotland to compensate for a shortfall in National Lottery Funding and we agreed to provide £6.6 million to cover this year’s shortfall.

“The Scottish Government has an obligation to balance the budget each year and prioritise funding to deliver the best value for every taxpayer in Scotland. As a result of rising costs and pressure on budgets across government, made more challenging as a result of rising UK inflation, we are unable to provide funding to support the lottery shortfall this year. However, I expect this funding will be able to be provided as part of next year’s budget, subject to the usual Parliamentary process.

“Creative Scotland have built up funding reserves and I am pleased they have agreed to use all the resources at their disposal, including these reserves, to support the culture sector and help protect jobs at this challenging financial time for us all.”

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