What’s in store for culture in Scotland after the budget cuts

Masters of plate spinning and illusion

The Scottish Government is the master of spin.  The Spending Review and Budget presented yesterday is fulsome in its description of successful achievements. It also kicks off with an analysis of the settlement from Westminster, blaming it for the scale of the cuts, pointing out that the cut amounts to 12.3% in real terms over the next four years. This is fodder for the arguments that Scotland needs more fiscal autonomy to succeed.. It then highlights the achievements of the Government  and focusses on good news.  The figures are arranged for display through several lenses with the clearest being the three year figures in real terms.

Real terms take into account  the impact of inflation. Much of public sector budgets are tied up in rising salaries and in the costs of escalating gas, electricity and transport  and these costs will be met before any other expenditure.  This will hit the arts particularly hard. Unlike social work, for example, the salaried workers are not the ones who deliver the life changing experiences.  Its artists, prop makers, musicians and dancers who are nearly all self-employed freelancers for whom there will be less cash.

There are some good news stories for culture in Scotland, for capital expenditure on the V & A in Dundee and  the preservation of international touring and Expo funds, all of these being obviously valuable in enhancing Scotland’s international reputation.

But behind the smoke and mirrors, the direct cuts to culture are moderately severe and are higher than to most other Government Departments, with the percentage of the overall Government budget allocated to culture reducing from .59% in 201o.11, to  .55% in 2011/12, to 51% in 2013/14 to .50% in 2014/15.

Next year, 2012/13, there is a decrease in the culture budget of £5.4 m, which is 3.6%.

2011/12 2012/13 cash % £m

Creative Scotland and Other Arts





Cultural Collections





National Performing Companies










 Table 12.04 http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/358356/0121130.pdf

In real terms this is 5.9% or £9.1m.

Over the period of the spending review, which is 2011/12 to 2014/15, the culture budget decreases by £22m which is 14.2 % in real terms

Real terms

2011/ 12 to 2014/15













Creative Scotland

and Other Arts

















National Performing

















For Creative Scotland, there is a 2% cut in core revenue while other initiatives favoured by the Government are ringfenced. At £10m pa, the Youth Music Initiative is the the most significant of these.  This means that, after the ringfencing and the commitments already made by Creative Scotland in its corporate plan, the funds designated for strategic commisisoning are likely to take the hit.  This strategic commissioning fund is shown in the corporate plan as being £7m, and replaces the £8m currently allocated to flexibly funded organisations -including many small arts organisations.  If this fund bears the full blow of the 2%, it will be down by about £800,000.

The cuts to local government are £7.1bn over three years.  This bodes darkly for culture.  Culture is neither a statutory obligation on councils and neither are councils asked specifically to support culture as it is noticably absent from the Performance Framework.  Government’s  own justifcation for spending on culture is  for its instrumental benefits to other, often economic, outcomes.

COSLA,  the local authority association,  has responded to the cuts giving a flavour of the challenges the arts and culture will face:

“The hard nosed facts are that in reality Scottish local government is going to be 7% down over the period of this spending review.

“When you add in £1bn worth of demand on the vital services we provide that takes us to 15% down, and that can mean only one thing a significant reduction in local services and local spend, neither of which is good news for local economies throughout Scotland.”

Without a requirement to provide for participation in culture locally through the outcome agreements, the arts and culture are significantly exposed.

The Scottish Government are masters at managing the show and on past performance they are likely to produce a dazzling diversion from the bad news.   Will they pull the rabbit out of the hat in the shape of additional lottery funds for Creative Scotland to spend? Possibly. But that will not be a substitute for local authority cuts.

1 comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: