The full impact of Scotland’s budget for culture won’t be felt until the next instalments

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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.

  1. Anne, like yourself I’d want to acknowledge that in a difficult environment the Scottish Government has better served our arts & culture sector than is the case in England.

    Andrew Dixon is still relatively new in his post, so we can maybe can allow ourselves to believe that support for the sector is genuinely self-motivated from the Scottish Government – as opposed to being the consequence of some powerful sectional lobbying. As you say, “the language used in the budget is warm and appreciative about the importance of the arts culture and creative industries to Scotland’s success.”

    You make a telling observation on how the sector can no longer bank on what you describe as habitual dependence “upon a series of additional funding programmes”. This time around from Government it may be front-loaded and “what you see is what you get”.

    Much else at the coal-face will indeed depend on the as-yet undecided deal with local authorities. I suggest that the more local players in the arts & culture sector might find much to learn from the wider third sector experience after the rollout of the Community Planning Partnership (CPP) regime.

    An exemplar on this is the achievement of many national charities. At the implementation of CPPs, many national charities were faced with the challenge of re-engineering or inventing a whole range of regional level and city level relationships – whilst the more genuinely ‘community level’ organisations seemingly had a head start.

    In fact, the national charities have, if anything, probably created better inroads into the various CPPs than many of the more locally located players.

    The retention of funding for Arts & Business is indeed welcome, all the more so in comparison to the brutal treatment accorded in England. This does, of course, raise the intriguing question of where next for the direction of Arts & Business in Scotland; especially when you take into account Andrew Dixon’s formidable achievements in the North of England.

    In the arena of public funding for arts & culture there can be only an increasing need for robust and convincing lobbying and applying for eligibility on the basis of merit and efficacy. The arts & culture sector, in thinking on its role immediately contemporary Scotland vis a vis public funding, could do worse than address its contribution to identity (national and local), community and place-making.

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