Access must be at the  heart of art awards - Ian Murray

Party at the Palace and Let's Rock Scotland are joining forces this summer (Picture: Submitted)Party at the Palace and Let's Rock Scotland are joining forces this summer (Picture: Submitted)
Party at the Palace and Let's Rock Scotland are joining forces this summer (Picture: Submitted)
​Yesterday’s Edinburgh News front page was a reminder of the wonderful festival options available on our doorstep in the Lothians.

​I wish the organisers of Let’s Rock Scotland and Party at the Palace all the very best with their new Linlithgow joint venture. I fondly remember my own job running a festival in Edinburgh, before I entered politics.

With the Fringe, the international festival, the book and TV festivals, the Tattoo and all the other events in our city, we can sometimes forget how lucky we are.

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At the international festivals programme launch last week it was clear that these festivals aren’t just for us Edinburgers but are a huge contribution to global culture. But the arts must be accessible for everyone – and that, sadly, isn’t always the case. That’s why it’s so important that we recognise the value of the culture sector, and public money is spent wisely.

My Holyrood Labour colleagues led the successful fight against the SNP’s decision to cut Creative Scotland’s budget by 10 per cent last year. But Creative Scotland has questions to answer itself, after awarding £85,000 of public money to the Rein project involving “hardcore” sex performances.

That money must be clawed back in full, the legality of the project must be investigated and the original application must be published.

Over the next few weeks, arts organisations across the country will be making their multi-year submissions to Creative Scotland, and it’s vital that confidence is restored in the process. At the heart of these awards must be better access to the arts.

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The creative industries contribute more to the UK economy than the life sciences, aerospace and automotive industries combined. A UK Labour government will work with industry on an ‘Access to the Arts’ plan to secure the future pipeline of British talent and deliver creative opportunities, regardless of your background.

We will support the arts and creative industries to create more opportunities for working class children and young people, and more secure jobs in the sector.

Scotland has enormous creative potential that needs to be mobilised and released. Over time, our objective should be to help develop Scotland’s creative sector ecosystem so that it moves from an industry subsidised through arts funding to one supported by R&D and private investment.

This could be transformational in the TV and film sectors, as in Northern Ireland where ‘Games of Thrones’ was filmed, and we are also capable of competing with London and Manchester.

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So we will treat the arts and creative industries as an economic asset, with clear career paths.

Labour is also committed to fixing issues caused by the Conservative UK Government’s approach to visa and touring issues to ensure that the hosting of major events in Scotland and our thriving music and cultural sector are not put at risk.

The Tories don’t understand the arts of course – they don’t believe working people need culture. What a contrast it is between our positive vision for a fairer Britain and their divisive views.

Rishi Sunak is still refusing to hand back the £10 million his party received from someone using racist and misogynist language. What an utter disgrace they are.

The sooner we get rid of the Tories and build a fairer, more tolerant and inclusive country for all, the better.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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