4 December 2017back

North East culture organisations add voice to national campaign against funding cuts

Culture organisations from across the North East have joined more than 120 individuals representing organisations spanning the arts, heritage and business communities throughout Scotland in co-signing a letter that urges the Scottish Government to protect funding for the cultural sector in next year’s Scottish budget, due to be presented to the Scottish Parliament on Thursday the 14th December.

The letter has been organised by independent charity Arts & Business Scotland and highlights key benefits the cultural sector brings to Scotland’s economy in terms of jobs and financial added value and to wider society in areas including education, justice and community cohesion.

Scotland’s creative industries are estimated to contribute £4.6 billion annually to the Scottish economy, supporting 84,000 jobs. Meanwhile, with tourism worth around £11 billion to the Scottish economy each year, VisitScotland’s annual visitor survey shows that a third of tourists visiting Scotland are inspired to do so by the country’s culture and heritage.

The letter also emphasises the substantial benefits of collaboration between the cultural sector and Scotland’s business community with creativity rapidly moving up the international list of key skills for business. Published at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2016, the Future of Jobs report shows that, in a list of the top ten most important skills for businesses, creativity is set to move from tenth place in 2015 to third place by 2020, making the case in favour of closer collaboration between business and culture stronger than ever.

The letter goes on to point out that, at £325 million, total spending on culture, tourism and external affairs represents less than 1% of the current Scottish budget for 2017-18. On this basis and given the huge added value the cultural sector brings to Scotland’s economy, society and business community, signatories to the letter argue that public investment in culture offers outstanding value for money.

With other sources of cultural funding including Lottery funding and local authority spending under ongoing pressure, the letter concludes by making the case that Scottish Government revenue funding for culture may need to increase simply to maintain the status quo within the Scottish cultural sector. It suggests that a modest increase in public funding for the sector would enable Scotland’s core cultural infrastructure to survive and thrive.

Commenting on the letter, Arts & Business Scotland Chief Executive David Watt said:

“This letter demonstrates the strength of concern amongst our members that future funding for culture is at real risk as part of this year’s Scottish budget negotiations – and the devastating impact a cut in funding would have for arts and heritage organisations throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

“Aside from this, I think we are able to make a compelling case that the cultural sector is actually already punching significantly above its weight when it comes to addressing a wide range of Scottish Government priorities. Scotland’s culture and heritage is a key selling point when it comes to marketing Scotland as a global tourist destination, thereby supporting a tourism industry that is worth £11 billion annually to the Scottish economy. Our creative industries contribute £4.6 billion annually to the Scottish economy and support 84,000 jobs. With a range of businesses co-signing this letter, it’s clear that Scotland’s business community recognises the significant added value the cultural sector has to offer as well – be that in terms of exchanging skills and ideas, improving the health and wellbeing of our workforce or attracting global business talent by helping to make Scotland an attractive place to live and work.”

David Watt concluded:

“Set in that context, it’s clear that the small percentage of the Scottish budget invested each year in the cultural sector offers outstanding value for money. As a minimum, that funding must be protected as part of next year’s Scottish budget settlement. But beyond that, with other categories of cultural funding under sustained pressure, a modest increase in Scottish Government funding for culture would enable Scotland’s core cultural infrastructure to survive and thrive.”

A range of cultural organisations from across the North East are supporting Arts & Business Scotland’s campaign.

Sally Thomson, Director of the Grampian Hospital Art Trust, said:

“The Creative Health Report July 2017 states that “It is time to recognise the powerful contribution that the arts can make to health and wellbeing”. The impact of further cuts on cultural project funding would affect GHAT's arts projects in hospitals.  These allow people to experience quality art and that enhances their wellbeing.”

Kresanna Aigner, Programme Director at Findhorn Bay Arts Ltd, said:

"Findhorn Bay Arts is a producer of award winning cultural events and activities rooted in the communities of Moray. We strive to create high quality and accessible creative experiences with a programme that encompasses many different art forms that engages with Moray audiences and entices visitors to the region. We are based in a region that has experienced 100% local authority cuts to the arts. This, alongside the significantly reduced National Lottery investment, is putting increasing strain on the sector. The creative sector in Moray is working hard to find new ways of partnership working in order to retain arts activity and to deliver against regional and national strategies. Further Scottish Government cuts to the arts would be devastating for the arts sector in Scotland and to the sector who deliver for the people of Moray.”

Lorraine Grant, Director of the Barn in Banchory, said:

“As the sole multi-arts organisation in a large rural area, the Barn plays a vital role in supporting rural audiences to access high quality artists and arts experiences as well as supporting creative professionals across Scotland to make and share new work. Any cut in public funding not only endangers the reach and quality of our programme but puts 12 jobs at risk and impacts on the livelihoods of scores of national artists and performers with whom we work. For the thousands of local residents who rely on our facility as both a social, educational and creative space, and our 60 volunteers (many of whom helped to establish the Barn 24 years ago and continue to support its operation), we face the potential prospect of reducing their access to what they describe as a cultural lifeline.”

Emyr Bell, Executive Director of North East Arts Touring, commented:

“We promote theatre performances and cinema screenings in rural venues across the North East via a network of Volunteer Promoters. A reduction in our funding would mean we would not be able to invest in volunteer support and development. Rural communities would also suffer socially and economically due to a reduction in accessible events.”

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