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by Staff reporter
11 December 2023
Eighteen months to save Scotland’s arts before 'global asset' is lost, warns festival head

The Edinburgh festivals bring in millions to the local economy | Alamy

Eighteen months to save Scotland’s arts before 'global asset' is lost, warns festival head

The Scottish Government has 18 months to save the arts or risk damaging Scotland’s reputation, a festival chief has said.

Francesca Hegyi, executive director of Edinburgh International Festival, said politicians lacked a “bold vision” for arts and culture despite it contributing billions to the economy.

Her comments follow the announcement in September that the government was cutting £6.6m funding from arts body Creative Scotland, a cut that was originally mooted last year but reversed after public outcry.

More recently First Minister Humza Yousaf announced £100m in culture funding but there has been little further detail.

Speaking to Holyrood, Hegyi said the arts industry in Scotland has “about 18 months to figure this out before we lose a global asset that we will never get back”.

She added: “The sector has been ignored for 15 or 16 years on the basis it will take care of itself. I don’t know if there’s a connection [to that being the length of time the SNP has been in government] but one thing that makes me sad is that if you look back over the achievements and investments and really bold things the government has done over those years like free university tuition, free prescriptions, travel, it’s made decisions about what it values for society. There hasn’t been that same bold vision for the arts and that makes me sad.”

And she criticised the attitude that appears to view the arts as “nice to have”, saying this “infantilises what we do”.

The Edinburgh International Festival occurs annually in August and together with the city’s other festivals contributes £492m a year to the local economy and a further £620m to wider Scotland.

The Edinburgh festivals collectively receive around £11m in public funding each year, significantly lower than other festivals in Europe.

Hegyi said: “When you look at Europe they get it, absolutely, that’s evidenced by the high levels of investment that go into equivalent types of festivals. It’s in a different league… We are an outlier in our level of funding, but we don’t just want it to be seen as funding, it’s about investing in Scotland’s future.”

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