Unclear government claims: arts in Scotland still at risk

The future of Scotland's cultural sector is still profoundly uncertain, putting millions of people’s access to the arts at risk.
 Sean Munson 

It has been a tumultuous year for arts funding in Scotland.

In February, over 15,000 Campaign for the Arts supporters successfully petitioned the Scottish Government to abandon a £6.6 million cut to the arts. This offered vital protection to Scottish arts organisations, the thousands of livelihoods they support and the millions of opportunities they create.

However, in September, the £6.6m cut was abruptly and unexpectedly re-instated. Another 15,000 people rallied to show their support for Scotland’s art and culture.

The Scottish Government responded with two key promises:

Despite these promises, important questions remain unanswered.

During his address at the SNP conference, First Minister Humza Yousaf pledged that “over the next five years we will more than double our investment in Scotland’s arts and culture”, but went on to say that “by the end of the five years, our investment will be £100m higher than it is today”.1

The total culture budget currently stands at £311.8 million, according to the Scottish Government’s own definition of ‘annual culture funding’.2 So a £100m increase, while very welcome, wouldn’t come close to doubling investment.

In response to an enquiry by the Campaign for the Arts about the funding being ‘more than doubled’, the Scottish Government confirmed:

“The £90 million is made of money allocated to Creative Scotland & Other Arts, National Performing Companies, Royal & Ceremonial, and Culture & Major Events staffing. This does not mean the additional funding will only be spent in these areas.”

(received 17 October 2023)

Assuming ‘the £90 million’ refers to the £90.9 million allocated to these budget lines in the Scottish Government’s ‘Autumn Budget Revision'3it appears that the Scottish Government is pledging to ‘more than double’ only 30% of the overall culture budget.

However, the Scottish Government's stipulation that this "does not mean the additional funding will only be spent in these areas" suggests that the £100 million uplift could be distributed across the entire culture budget. This would be very far from a doubling of investment in art and culture.

What lies ahead?

Arts organisations in Scotland are moving closer to the cliff-edge, risking thousands of livelihoods and millions of people's access to the arts.

A recent report by a cross-party group of MSPs concluded that:

  • The “perfect storm” facing the culture sector “has not abated”, with “the risks to its future becoming more severe”.
  • The £6.6 million cut to Creative Scotland “has damaged an already fragile confidence within the culture sector”.
  • “Very limited progress has been made by the Scottish Government in recent years on implementing models such as cross-portfolio funding and multi-year funding”, and “there is a need for much greater urgency”.

The current situation is critical, with a funding shortfall estimated at £104 million this year alone.4

The Scottish Government's commitment to arts funding needs to start now with a meaningful uplift in the upcoming Scottish Budget.

If you live in Scotland, you have a key opportunity to make a difference before the final draft of the Scottish Budget is published in December.

Do you live in Scotland? Click here to write to your MSPs now.

  1. First Minister Humza Yousaf’s address to #SNP23 Conference, SNP[]
  2. Annual culture funding, Scottish Government[]
  3. Autumn Budget Revision 2023 to 2024: supporting document, Scottish Government[]
  4. Funding For Culture 2024 - Culture Counts' Evidence, Culture Counts[]
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