4 December 2017back

South Scotland culture organisations add voice to national campaign against funding cuts

Culture organisations from across the South of Scotland 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 South of Scotland are supporting Arts & Business Scotland’s campaign.

Alan Smith, Chairman of CatStrand and GCAT Ltd, said:

“Any reduction in funding would lead to a drastic reduction in our Arts Programme and a commensurate diminution of the quality of life for our local residents who are already in a cultural backwater. In addition to our Arts Programme, we operate a shop and café, both of which provide jobs and an additional tourism offer. Without our vibrant Arts programme and the audience this attracts, these ventures would not continue.”

Liz Holmes, Director of the Knockengorroch Community Interest Company, said:

“A cut in public funding would make it even more difficult to present the best world music, heritage and learning opportunities at our annual festival in Galloway while remaining solvent and sustainable.”

Paula Ogilvie, Director of the Borders Book Festival, said:

“We work very hard to find lots of different sources of income but without public funding, Borders Book Festival would be unable to deliver the multi-layered programme of events and activities that we currently offer. It is essential for Scotland to have a vibrant cultural sector. Not only does it have the power to transform lives and help us make more sense of ourselves and the world we live in, it generates a great deal of economic value for the region where cultural activities take place. The Borders Book Festival alone attracted almost 31,000 visitors to the Scottish Borders for this year’s festival in June, representing a £2.3m economic impact to the region.”

Joyce Woodcock, Chair of Upland Arts Development CIC, commented:

“We are a recently developed organisation in a rural area that supports engagement with the arts, supports both the creative and professional development and the economic livelihoods of artists and makers and also is fully committed to developing the next generation of artists in the region. A cut in public funding for culture will radically reduce our ability to deepen engagement and develop excellence across the visual arts and crafts. That is important not only to Scotland’s cultural offer but also in stimulating increased creativity in all sectors and throughout the economy.”

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