Federation of Scottish Theatre are profoundly concerned and disappointed regarding the situation facing the performing arts if the cut to Creative Scotland within the Constitution, External Affairs & Culture portfolio is reinstated.
Since the cut was first announced and subsequently reversed in January, hundreds of individuals and organisations have contributed diligently to consultations with the Scottish Government, and the messages have been powerful and consistent: the culture sector brings enormous benefits to Scotland despite chronic, long-term under-investment, and could contribute significantly more, given comparatively small increases and genuine political will to harness their potential.
The very pressures being given as a rationale in Angus Robertson’s article in The Herald on Sunday for this u-turn in funding to Creative Scotland are exactly those being experienced by a fragile sector at a dangerous tipping point, and those who reported severe difficulties earlier this year are witnessing their predictions becoming an absolute reality. Our members describe a sector at breaking point. We hear persistent reports of personal and organisational burnout, as long-established and previously flourishing organisations scale back their operations and risk falling into administration. This cut will result in a stark reduction of opportunities for professional freelance artists, craftspeople, technicians, and other specialist practitioners, but also audiences, participants, and communities. The reality is that no further adaptation is possible. There is no space closer to the edge to move to.
While the cut to Creative Scotland can, as a last resort this year, be covered in the short-term by National Lottery reserves, the displacement of these funds will be disastrous in the medium to long-term. The timing of this proposed funding reduction has the potential to cause real, long-lasting, and untold damage, not least the 5,000 jobs currently protected across the different art forms in the portfolio of Regularly Funded Organisations.
Others outwith the network are uncertain about future longer-term funding given that we now know the extraordinary demand for Multi-Year Funding alone. This is £113m annually from 500 organisations, compared to the current network of Regularly Funded Organisations which is in receipt of £32.7m in 2023-24. This is driving decision-making now that may result in loss of activity and jobs that will be impossible to reverse.
Of the many others facing equally precarious situations our essential freelance workforce must not be neglected. The hardest hit by the pandemic, and now the cost crisis, they remain among the most poorly paid and inconsistently supported workers in Scotland. Some have been forced to leave the industry altogether, with new entrants having their careers stalled indefinitely. While the narrative around the cuts to Creative Scotland has focused on organisations, the effect on the entire infrastructure cannot be underestimated. The movement of National Lottery reserves to temporarily safeguard one part of the sector means that other areas will, by necessity, be neglected.
As well as reversing the current proposed cut, we call on the Scottish Government to instigate an immediate emergency plan for longer-term recovery. This would recognise that, even if the proposed cut is reversed, a continuation of standstill funding into 2024/25 and beyond has the potential to be just as damaging over an even more protracted timeframe. Any plan should connect to the refresh of the Culture Strategy and include a robust action plan. It should also utilise the expertise of colleagues across the sector and the willingness to collaborate. This plan could seriously progress initiatives such as Percentage for Culture, protect and direct support for culture within Transient Visitor Levy initiatives, and rigorously explore cross policy working and longer-term funding settlements.
We call again on the Government to find ways, working with colleagues in Westminster, to mitigate the impact of the financial crisis, to ensure the societal, cultural, personal, and economic value the performing arts and other parts of the cultural and creative sector bring to society is not lost.
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