Covid: Scotland's cultural sector must be able to recover from pandemic and flourish – Angus Robertson MSP

Covid has had a major impact on the whole Scottish economy and the culture and events sector in particular.

Party at The Palace 2019 Day Two. Deacon Blue. Picture: Michael Gillen
Party at The Palace 2019 Day Two. Deacon Blue. Picture: Michael Gillen

Lockdowns and restrictions have taken their toll, with the closure of venues, cancellation and postponement of shows, performances, gigs, tours, festivals and events.

With many people in the arts community living a precarious financial existence in normal times, the pandemic has had a devastating affect.

Even before the latest round of public health restrictions, Scottish artists were putting the safety of their fans first. Amy Macdonald and Deacon Blue both cancelled major shows saying that the health of the fans and crew had to come first.

In discussions with the culture and events sector prior to Christmas, it was clear how difficult things have become despite widespread support for the public health safeguards.

Not only has there been a massive hit with cancellations and closures in the run-up to and during the festive period, but there is understandable uncertainty about the viability of future events.

Unlike other businesses that can resume trading and cash-flow immediately, much of the arts sector has irregular income and has to plan months, if not years ahead.

The scale of the Covid challenge for the culture sector is crystal clear, which is why the Scottish government has just announced a record support package – £65 million is being made available, over and above the £175 million the Scottish government has provided to the culture, heritage and events sector since the start of the pandemic.

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The new round of support includes £31.5 million for cultural businesses, organisations, venues and independent cinema support and grassroots venues, £2 million for national performing companies for Christmas losses and touring fund re-purposing, £19.8 million for the events sector, £1.7 million for the museums, galleries and heritage, and crucially £10 million for freelancers.

The Cancellation Fund for Creative Freelancers opens for applications at 2pm on Thursday this week. Freelancers should visit the website of Creative Scotland for further information and make their applications as soon as the fund opens.

Work is already underway between the Scottish government, EventScotland and the Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) to determine the best way of distributing the funding to ensure support gets to those in need across the sector, and details on this will be shared shortly.

Scotland has a vibrant and exciting culture programme for 2022 including: Celtic Connections, the Michael Clark exhibition at the V&A in Dundee, Cyrano de Bergerac at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Dandelion/Unboxed across Scotland, the National Theatre of Scotland with ‘Orphans’ also across Scotland, The Big Top at Ingliston, The Stamping Ground at the Eden Court in Inverness, the Edinburgh festivals and Scotland’s Year of Stories which runs throughout 2022.

We can all look forward to the reopening of the Burrell Collection and the National Theatre of Scotland touring the country with ‘James IV’ as well as a bumper year for Scotland on the small and large screen.

Scotland has an amazing culture sector, which is much valued at home and abroad. The Covid pandemic has had a devastating impact, which is why the Scottish government is stepping up its already considerable financial support.

We must do everything we can to ensure the cultural and arts community is able to emerge from the pandemic, recover and flourish.

Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary

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