Scottish Budget: Angus Robertson pledges help for crisis-hit arts organisations – if the alarm is raised early enough

Scottish culture secretary Angus Robertson has pledged that help will be offered to arts organisations facing major financial problems – so long as they do not leave it too late to raise the alarm.

Mr Robertson said everything possible would be done by the Scottish Government and its agencies to help arts organisations facing financial difficulties. But he said there was a need for greater awareness of where the “greatest risks are” across the Scottish cultural landscape.

The culture secretary said “early warning” of looming problems was vital so potential help could be offered before an organisation collapsed.

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Mr Robertson was speaking at Holyrood’s culture committee, which was told last week by Creative Scotland’s chief executive Iain Munro that between a third and a quarter of arts organisations reliant on long-term funding were at risk of insolvency within months due to rising costs and reduced audiences since the pandemic.

Scottish culture secretary Angus Robertson: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Creative Scotland had raided its financial reserves to avoid passing on a 10 per cent cut in its Government budget, which was confirmed despite its warnings of a “perfect storm” engulfing the Scottish cultural sector.

MSPs raised the case of the sudden collapse of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the Filmhouse cinemas in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with the immediate loss of 107 jobs in October.

Mr Robertson said: “Speaking in general terms about the challenge to organisations, and this is something I’ve discussed with Iain Munro and colleagues at Creative Scotland, we’re all going to have much more and much earlier insight into any particular concerns relating to organisations. We need to know where the greatest risks are.

"If one wants to maximise the potential intervention and support, one needs to be able to do that before organisations get to the stage where they cannot trade. That is just a statement of fact. If it gets to the stage where organisations are unable to trade, it is beyond anyone’s ability to try to maintain those organisations because it then becomes a legal process.

“If it’s necessary to help, assist and support particular organisations, then I’m very keen that we’re able to do that. Time is the key thing.

"It’s not something I can keep a running commentary on for very obvious reasons of commercial sensitivity, but this is already happening. Organisations have been able to make changes and secure the support of others because people have put their hands up in time.”

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Mr Munro last week warned Creative Scotland may have to drop around 60 of the 120 arts organisations it gives long-term funding to if its budget cut is maintained.

Mr Robertson told MSPs: “Over the last five years, we’ve provided Creative Scotland with over £33 million as an additional element of funding in response to a downward trend in arts funding from the national lottery.

"At a time when we now face incredibly difficult decisions about Government funding, with Creative Scotland able to draw on its accumulated lottery reserves, we have discontinued that element of funding.

"Given the level of constraints the Government is under, I think it’s a good thing that Creative Scotland is able to maintain its level of funding from this next financial year. I will be working very intensively with them to understand the dangers that they foresee.”