Edinburgh International Festival boss accuses Scottish Government of 'ignoring' Scotland's arts sector
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Francesca Hegyi insisted Scotland's arts and culture sector was a "global asset", but warned it could be lost without action from the government. She claimed ministers had failed to produce a "bold vision" for the arts, despite achievements in others areas.
Speaking about the situation facing the sector, Ms Hegyi told Holyrood magazine there were now "about 18 months to figure this out before we lose a global asset that we will never get back".
She added: "The sector has been ignored for 15 or 16 years on the basis it will take care of itself. If you look back over the achievements and investments and really bold things the Government has done over those years like free university tuition, free prescriptions, travel, it's made decisions about what it values for society. There hasn't been that same bold vision for the arts and that makes me sad."
In his speech to the SNP conference in October, First Minister Humza Yousaf promised the government would "more than double" investment in arts and culture, saying that this meant in five years time funding would be "£100 million higher than it is today"
But that came after ministers reimposed a £6.6 million cut to this year's budget for Creative Scotland Its chief executive, Iain Munro, told MSPs the organisation's budget now represented less than 0.1 per cent of overall Scottish Government spending, as he warned financial pressures on the sector will "be amplified if the reductions continue".
Ms Hegyi meanwhile said the sector in Scotland was an "outlier" in terms of funding, as she contrasted cash given to the arts here with the "high levels of investment" in Europe.
In April 2023, the Scottish Government announced the Edinburgh International Festival would receive £100,000 from the Expo Fund, with a further £75,000 of funding from the Platforms for Creative Excellence (Place) confirmed in November.
Speaking about investment levels for the sector, Ms Hegyi said: "When you look at Europe they get it, absolutely, that's evidenced by the high levels of investment that go into equivalent types of festivals. It's in a different league. We are an outlier in our level of funding, but we don't just want it to be seen as funding, it's about investing in Scotland's future."
Culture Secretary Angus Robertson said: "We will continue to do everything within our powers and resources to help those in the culture sector most affected by current economic challenges.
"However our ability to respond to the cost crisis is limited by the inactivity of the UK Government and the financial restrictions of devolution. Years of UK Government austerity, historically high inflation caused by the mini budget and of course Brexit has cut Scotland's spending power to invest in crucial sectors.
"Despite these huge challenges, last month we announced that more than £6.5 million has been allocated to support the culture sector in 2023-24. The money will support screen, festivals and community projects- acknowledging the culture sector's vital contribution to our economy, and to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience the transformative and empowering potential of culture."