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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Abolish VAT and help keep creative sector afloat urges arts charity


Many organisations are struggling to survive

One of Scotland’s largest arts charities has called for the abolition of VAT on the maintenance of historic and cultural buildings.

Wasps, which supports 1000 artists in 21 properties, warns that urgent financial intervention is needed to safeguard the nation’s crisis-hit creative sector and meet Net Zero targets.

It said many organisations were struggling to keep afloat in a perfect storm of rising costs, reduced income and defunding.

Chief executive Audrey Carlin said they recognised tenants could no longer afford to shoulder the full burden of increased energy and maintenance costs. She said a rise rent in May covers just 50% of the bill – the rest will be met through cutting costs.

Wasps has helped regenerate a series of landmark buildings, including the 150-year-old Briggait in Glasgow, Granton Station in Edinburgh and Inverness Creative Academy.

Carlin said: “Wasps was founded 47 years ago with the aim of providing affordable spaces where artistic talent could bloom. However, with costs rising and income decreasing, that ambition of affordability has become increasingly challenged.

“What we are calling for is a tailored financial intervention from the UK and Scottish governments to safeguard a sector that contributes £126bn to the economy, employs 2.4million and boosts wellbeing, reducing the burden on health and social care.

“Abolishing or cutting the 20% VAT rate on maintenance works on historic and cultural buildings would directly reduce costs and, in turn, have a positive impact on artists’ livelihoods. This would also recognise the importance of the upkeep and re-use of these national treasures, while contributing to job creation, graduate transition and health and wellbeing in local communities. 

“Wasps has now developed a road map to Net Zero, however we cannot afford to invest in the infrastructure required to reduce our energy costs and consumption without significant grant intervention. “

Carlin said Wasps were not unique in facing financial pressures. Creative Scotland warned that one in three arts organisations faced insolvency while Dundee Contemporary Arts said they faced "previously unimaginable financial precarity".

The Scottish Government has pressed the UK government for change in VAT, which is not a devolved matter. They have also called for new powers over taxation, including a VAT reduction on repairs which they say will “encourage the culture and creative sectors”. 

And this month, in a letter to the DCMS, Culture Minister Kaukab Stewart said: “Energy efficiency measures and retrofit options can present challenges, however it is important that historic and traditional buildings are not seen as a barrier to achieving our targets and that the full benefits they present, particularly in terms of environmental and carbon impact, are recognised.

“A targeted VAT reduction for the repair and maintenance of traditional buildings would send a clear message in response to the climate crisis that emphasises the importance of our heritage.”

Research from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation said a reduction in VAT from 20% to 5% across the UK in buildings repairs could boost the economy by £15billion, create 95,000 jobs and lead to a reduction of 240,000 tonnes of CO2.



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