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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
07 November 2023
‘Perfect storm’ facing Scotland’s culture sector, according to MSPs

The Scottish Government pledged to increase investment in arts and culture by £100m over the next five years | Alamy

‘Perfect storm’ facing Scotland’s culture sector, according to MSPs

The “perfect storm” of financial pressures facing Scotland’s culture sector “has not abated” over the last year, according to a report from the Scottish Parliament's Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee.

This follows pre-budget scrutiny of the Scottish Government’s culture portfolio spend ahead of the Scottish Budget for 2024/25, which is expected to be brought before parliament in December.  

The committee found last year that existing budgetary challenges facing the sector had become “much more acute”. It describes the situation as a “perfect storm” of long-term budget pressures, reduced income generation, and increased operating costs.  

Twelve months on, the committee has concluded that “this ‘perfect storm’ has not abated, with external and public funding pressures maintaining, and the culture sector remaining under significant financial strain and the risks to its future becoming more severe”.  

The committee acknowledged the “challenging fiscal environment” that the Scottish Government is facing.  

The report said there was an “urgent need” for the government to restore the confidence of the sector, as it continues through a period of significant budgetary pressures.  

The committee is awaiting details of the first minister’s announcement – made in his speech to the SNP party conference – which pledged to increase investment in arts and culture by £100m over the next five years. Further information is expected in the government’s budget.  

Reinstating the cut to Creative Scotland’s grant-in-aid for 2023/24 in the Autumn Budget Revision after it had previously been reversed had “damaged an already fragile confidence within the culture sector”, the committee’s report also found.  

Although it acknowledged the cut would not impact the amount of regular funding from Creative Scotland to organisations, as some of Creative Scotland’s National Lottery reserves will be allocated to offset it. The committee sought clarity on the extent the reserves will have impacted the level of funding available to manage the transition to Creative Scotland’s new Multi-Year Funding Programme.

Another consideration of the report highlighted that there had been “very limited progress” on taking forward innovative funding solutions in response to the challenges facing the culture sector, including government commitments on multi-year funding and cross-portfolio funding models. It called for “much greater urgency and a clear pathway to make tangible progress” on implementing these funding models.  

Commenting on the report, committee convener Clare Adamson said: “The first minister’s recent commitment to increase the Scottish Government’s investment in arts and culture by £100 million over the next five years comes as the committee has been hearing from stakeholders across the culture sector of the significant financial challenges it continues to face.  

“We heard that the ‘perfect storm’ facing the operating environment of the sector has not abated over the last 12 months, with external and public funding pressures maintaining; and that there has been very limited progress made on implementing innovative funding solutions to support the sector.  

“Given this context, there was an urgent need for the Scottish Government to restore the confidence of Scotland’s culture sector.  

“We look forward to receiving further details of the first minister’s commitment to provide additional funding for arts and culture.”

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