Suspension of Disbelief?Rain drops hanging from a cobweb from ecstacitist' flick'r photostream

The headlines about the Scottish government’s support for the arts, culture and creative industries in a budget to deal with £1.3bn cuts next year appear less lurid than in England. For a start, the language used in the budget is warm and appreciative about the importance of the arts culture and creative industries to Scotland’ s success and, having already been through the abolishment of the Scottish Arts Council, we have been been spared the public flogging of the Arts Council of England.  Efficiencies have already been made in establishing Creative Scotland and hence its core funding of £35m has been ringfenced. The V & A in Dundee will go ahead. Arts & Business funding is secured. So all good news at face value. But there are other stories yet to unfold which could may describe a bleaker picture. The cultural budget cuts look like this:

‘Creative Scotland and other arts’ overall budget decreases from  £59m to £53m. While its ‘core budget’ of £35m is protected, CS, like SAC and Scottish Screen before it, habituall depended upon a series of additional funding programmes which allowed it to undertake extra initatives. Most  of these will be gone, although the reinstatement of Lottery funds to the original good causes may well result in money for jam if not bread and butter.

Overall the cut to the culture budget is 10%.  This is higher than the 6.4% John Swinney quotes as being the cut passed on to non-ringfenced services. While the national performing companies, who are overseen by civil servants within the Culture Division, not by arms length agencies, are cut by a mere 5%, the rest of the sector is hit proportionately more. The cultural collections – National Galleries, National Museums and National Library are cut by a swingeing 12%

And there is room for many a twist and turn in the way that support from local authorities will pan out. The Scottish Government currently has a deal with local authorities, whereby authorities decide for themselves how to allocate cash best to meet the Government’s priorities in return for a fixed settlement. John Swinney spelt out today that a new deal was on the table – local authorities can agree to meet specific targets for early years’ intervention, smaller class sizes and so on in return for a 2% decrease in funding – or take a 6.4% decrease.  As we have seen in England, reductions in local authority funding may have the most serious implications for the arts and culture, with Moray Council considering following Somerset Council’s suit in cutting all arts funding.  As in England, there is no statutory obligation on Scottish local authorities to fund or provide culture.

And of course, the budget is only for one year. With an election in May, it is unsurprising that the SNP did not want to give away their three year plan to dig us out of the larger hole.  But its the next instalments that will determine the support for Scotland’s culture.

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