Arts quango Creative Scotland is set to get an extra £6.6 million a year from the Scottish Government to offset the impact of a slump in National Lottery funding.
The three-year deal, announced at Holyrood as part of the SNP administration’s draft budget plans, is likely to ease fears that dozens of arts venues, festivals and organisations are set to be hit with funding cuts in the new year.
Creative Scotland, which has won a 21 per cent increase in its "grant-in-aid" funding from the government, warned the arts sector in October that it was “unrealistic” to expect the body to allocate funds in a similar way in future due to the slump in lottery income.
It has traditionally made up around 40 per cent of Creative Scotland’s overall but has slumped by 15 per cent over the last year, leading to repeated warnings from senior figures at the agency of the impact of a cut in its government support.
Ben Thomson, the current chair of Creative Scotland, warned last month the unless other funding could be found to make up a £6 million shortfall in lottery income there would be a “significant loss of jobs.”
Board member Ruth Wishart said the worst-case scenario the organisation had been planning for was best described as "cultural carnage."
The measure to “mitigate” the impact of the lottery slump on Creative Scotland was part of a package of measures which will see spending on culture increased by almost 10 per cent over the next year, to £166 million.
This includes a previously-announced £10 million in additional support for Scotland’s film and television sectors, which will be channelled through a new screen unit which Creative Scotland will oversee.
Creative Scotland has received 184 applications for three-year funding deals worth £153 million, but is not due to announce who has been successful until the end of January.
Janet Archer, Creative Scotland’s chief executive,said: “The increase in culture spending set out in this draft budget underlines the Scottish Government’s commitment to the pivotal role that culture and creativity plays in people’s lives across Scotland and the cultural, social and economic value delivered through creative endeavour.
“This is particularly welcome in the context of declining income from the National Lottery.
"We also welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to a three-year budget which will help us provide more certainty for those that we are able to support.”
The government said Scotland’s five national performing companies - Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the National Theatre of Scotland - would have their ring-fenced £22.9 million protected.
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Against the backdrop of the UK Government’s austerity regime, I am pleased that we were able to increase our support for Scotland’s culture sector to ensure it can continue to thrive.
“We’ve been working relentlessly since early this year to mitigate the impact of the reduction in UK Lottery money.
“I’m delighted we are able to step in and increase financial support for Creative Scotland and to provide £10 million for the new Screen Unit which will be set up in Creative Scotland.“This budget confirms our commitment to expanding our international outlook as a Government for Scotland, creating solid links with other countries.”
The prospect of a cut in the government's culture budget had sparked widespread fears of a looming crisis across the country.
More than 100 of the nation's leading writers published an open letter earlier this month warning the government that funding cuts would have "major consequences for the future health of the nation."
A separate open letter, backed by more than 120 arts, heritage and business organisations. claimed the country's economic growth ambitions would be “critically undermined” if cuts were imposed on a sector which is said to be worth £4.6 billion a year and supports 84,000 jobs.
David Watt, chief executive of the charity Arts and Business Scotland, which had asked the government to protect the culture budget, said: "We strongly welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment of an additional £6.6 million to Creative Scotland’s regular funding programme next year.
"It’s a real lifeline for Scotland’s cultural sector, helping to offset the recent downturn in National Lottery funding and an important recognition of the crucial contribution culture makes to the wider economy in Scotland.”