Scottish Budget: Creative £7m funding cut restored as Scottish Government U-turns in wake of campaigns

The Scottish Government has U-turned on a 10 per cent funding cut for its national arts agency in the face of fears over thousands of job cuts and following a nationwide campaign that won the backing of more than 15,000 supporters within days.
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Creative Scotland has had nearly £7 million in funding restored after union leaders issued an 11th-hour demand and warned the move would put 8,500 arts workers at risk. Ministers had been accused of using culture jobs as “cannon fodder” to make savings in their Budget plans amid claims the planned cut was a “wholly lamentable political choice”.

However, Deputy First Minister John Swinney, the acting finance secretary, announced an amendment to the Government’s Budget plans in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

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The restoration of Creative Scotland's funding means the overall budget for culture and major events in the coming financial year will be £212m, up from £207m this year.

The 10 per cent funding cut for Creative Scotland emerged in December despite months of warnings about the risk of arts companies reliant on public funding going under due to a perfect storm of reduced audiences in the wake of the pandemic, rising costs and the impact of the economic climate.

Chief executive Iain Munro warned last month the body may have to cut in half the number of companies and organisations it provided long-term funding for without a rethink.

However, the Government had insisted that Creative Scotland instead use some its national lottery reserves to make up the shortfall. An emergency campaign launched less than a week ago warned the Government that Scotland’s arts sector was at risk of slipping into "significant decline" without urgent action.

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Robert Wilson, chair of Creative Scotland’s board, said: “Alongside the board and staff, I am very pleased to see this announcement about the Scottish Government’s Budget. It follows a great deal of work from Creative Scotland in setting out the impact and implications of the proposed budget reduction, and the enormously valuable advocacy work from people and organisations across Scotland’s culture sector and beyond.

John Swinney has u-turned on a proposed 10 per cent budget cut for Creative Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA WireJohn Swinney has u-turned on a proposed 10 per cent budget cut for Creative Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
John Swinney has u-turned on a proposed 10 per cent budget cut for Creative Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

“The board will now consider what this means for our budget and our funding in 2023/24 and we will announce more on this as soon as possible.”

Mr Swinney said: “We had asked Creative Scotland to sustain investment next year by utilising £6.6m from their accumulated lottery reserves in place of a further year of additional grant funding for general lower lottery income.

“I am now in a position not to require that and will provide an uplift of £6.6m for 2023/24 to ensure Creative Scotland’s reserve funding can supplement rather than replace grant funding.

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“That means there is a substantial increase in the Scottish Government’s funding for culture and major events in the next financial year, at a time when the country requires the inspiration that the culture and arts sector can provide for all of us. I have judged that this is the absolute limit of additional funding that I can provide.”

Promoted by the UK-wide Campaign for the Arts alliance and Culture Counts, Scotland’s network of arts, heritage and creative industries organisations, the campaign launched last week called for an urgent “change of direction” from the Government.

Eight unions representing actors, musicians, visual artists, writers, crew and technicians joined forces on Monday to plead for a rethink over Creative Scotland’s proposed cut, saying it would affect some of the country's most “precarious” workers.

Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC union, which had told the Government that its proposed cut for Creative Scotland was “the wrong choice at the wrong time”, said: “This is an excellent victory for our members in the creative arts and all credit goes to them, the Campaign for the Arts, and workers across the sector.

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“We appreciate this move from the Cabinet secretary in listening to our calls, and that of the wider movement, acting decisively and purposefully in restoring funding to Creative Scotland. Unionised workers acting with a powerful collective voice have shown, yet again, that they cannot be ignored. Workers in Scotland will continue to campaign for a thriving arts sector that enriches society and delivers decent secure jobs.”

Campaign for the Arts director Jack Gamble said: "Investment in the arts supports the livelihoods of thousands and the wellbeing of millions. This vital result is down to all those who spoke out and showed their support for culture in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has listened and it has done the right thing. It’s proof that change is possible when we come together to make it happen."

Joseph Peach, advocacy manager at Culture Counts, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government's decision to reverse planned cuts to Creative Scotland, and the Deputy First Minister’s acknowledgement of the contributions culture makes across Scottish society.

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"We're grateful to all those across the country who raised their voice for culture and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government, to support our sector to grow and thrive, for the benefit of communities throughout Scotland.”

Clare Adamson, convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s culture committee, said: “Culture is absolutely key to who we are as a nation, and it’s clear the SNP truly value the impact it has and recognise the importance of supporting the sector in the face of huge challenges.

“This is a hugely welcome investment, especially at a time when the sector is under immense strain due to rising cost-of-living pressures and recovery from the pandemic. I hope this significant increase in funding for culture and major events over the next financial year will be welcomed across the sector.

“Scotland has a rich cultural heritage and it is right that we invest in the breadth of talent across our country’s artistic landscape.”