Angus Robertson, the culture secretary, writes exclusively today for the Herald on Sunday on the future of Scotland's arts funding.
I am a passionate supporter of the culture sector. It plays a fundamental role in our sense of self, our well-being and self-expression, and it helps express who we are internationally.
So I understand the concern expressed by Creative Scotland and the wider culture sector about the difficult decision we’ve had to make regarding its National Lottery shortfall funding this year.
Since 2018, the Scottish Government has provided Creative Scotland with £6.6 million per year in the light of reductions in the income it has received from the National Lottery. This funding was agreed initially for a three-year period and then on a yearly basis based upon an assessment by Creative Scotland of what was needed.
We have continued to provide the funding beyond this three-year period. Over the past five years, the Scottish Government has provided £33m to Creative Scotland to compensate for this shortfall, and had agreed to provide a further £6.6m this year.
Since that time, the Scottish Government has been reviewing its commitments in the light of the changing financial circumstances, such as persistently high inflation and the impact this has had on overall costs and public sector pay settlements – following the economic and financial damage caused by Brexit and the austerity policies pursued by successive UK governments for more than a decade.
Unfortunately, as a result of these rising costs, the Scottish Government is unable to cover the shortfall this year for Creative Scotland. However, I made a commitment to the Creative Scotland Board on September 20 that, if it approved use of its reserves this financial year to avoid passing the impacts of this on to the sector, I would look to provide the funding in 2024-25, subject to the usual Parliamentary procedures.
Creative Scotland has built up substantial funding reserves since 2018, when the Scottish Government began covering the shortfall in its National Lottery funding,
As the national body responsible for funding and supporting our creative industries, I expect Creative Scotland to use all resources at their disposal and I am pleased that they have agreed to use part of their funding reserves to cover the National Lottery shortfall this year, to support the culture sector and help protect jobs at this challenging financial time for us all.
I am committed to the continuing success of the culture sector. In line with wider reform across the public sector we will work with Creative Scotland to ensure funding is passed on to the sector efficiently and effectively.
Despite these challenges, I am confident that much of the sector is recovering and even thriving. Scotland’s international festivals contributed £407m to the Edinburgh’s economy last year, and a further £367m across the country, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses.
Recent analysis commissioned by Screen Scotland also shows investment in film and high-end TV production in Scotland has more than doubled, driving employment and economic growth across the country.
This is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of our creative industries with the support of agencies like Creative Scotland and Screen Scotland.
However, the funding issues we face highlight that it is more important than ever for us to work together. In doing so, I am confident we can build on these successes to grow a more sustainable, diverse and impactful cultural sector.