Scottish Review of Books halted after Creative Scotland funding bid rejected

The editor of the Scottish Review of Books has condemned Creative Scotland as "dysfunctional" after it rejected a funding application which forced the magazine to suspend print publication.

Friday, 17th May 2019, 4:02 pm
Scottish Review of Books editor Alan Taylor. Picture: SRB

Alan Taylor accused the body of hindering Scottish culture "in the most destructive manner".

His attack is the latest of widespread criticism of the quango, which has led to a Holyrood inquiry being launched into the future of arts funding.

The Edinburgh-based magazine said it would continue online and hoped to find alternative funding to resume print publication.

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The free magazine was published four times a year.

Mr Taylor said its latest annual application for some £45,000 to part fund the cost of around 70,000 free copies of the magazine had been turned down after being approved for the last 15 years.

Copies of the magazine, published four times a year, are distributed via bookshops, libraries and book festivals.

Mr Taylor said: "I am deeply distressed and angered by this latest turn of events and utterly dismayed by Creative Scotland’s decision which was made in camera and with the names of those who took it redacted.

"It really does beggar belief.

"This is a dysfunctional organisation which professes to support Scottish cultural when what it actually does is hinder it in the most destructive manner.

"The irony is that Creative Scotland’s own 'sector review' recommended there should be more support for literary reviews and criticism."

The magazine's board chair Jan Rutherford said it encouraged the very best of critical and creative writing and was the only platform for the long form essay on literature in Scotland.

She said: "The original application was approved by the literature department for funding but did not get through the panel who make the final decisions.

"They invited us to reapply for funding but with conditions attached.

"We all do this voluntarily and could not meet the work requirements to match their conditions.

"In the end, the board unanimously agreed that their ask was just too big and the future funding too uncertain - we would still need to apply every 15 months."

The Scottish Parliament's culture committee published a damning report on Creative Scotland last year, saying its system for allocating long-term funding had fallen “well below” the standard expected of a public body.

It said it was “very concerned” by the handling of regular funding applications from touring theatre and dance companies.

A number of controversial cuts announced at the start of year were overturned by its board in the wake of a revolt from the arts sector, while chief executive Janet Archer resigned in the wake of the criticism.

A Creative Scotland spokesperson said: “Creative Scotland appreciates that reviews and criticism serve a vital function within the literature and publishing ecosystem.

"Our Literature Sector Review of 2015 stated that ‘more literary reviews and criticism should be supported, representing a diversity of content’.

“Scottish Review of Books has been supported on multiple occasions through Creative Scotland's Open Project Fund, and we have worked with the organisation to support the development and delivery of the Emerging Critics programme, which is also supported by our funding.

"The Open Project Fund is highly competitive and a recent application by Scottish Review of Books was unsuccessful in this context.

"Unsuccessful applicants to the fund may reapply, and Creative Scotland is committed to offering support in these circumstances.

"Members of our team have met with Scottish Review of Books to advise on a strengthened resubmission and are available to do so again at any time.”