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Government u-turn on cut to culture funding welcomed

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The Campaign for the Arts, Culture Counts and the STUC had all pleaded with ministers ahead of the budget

Campaigners have welcomed a Scottish Government u-turn following a threatened £7million cut to culture funding was withdrawn. 

Earlier this week a coalition of arts organisations across Scotland made a last-minute plea to interim Finance Secretary John Swinney to reverse a proposed 10% cut to Creative Scotland budgets. 

Charities were among the groups warning that the move could risk 8,500 jobs across the country and leave many organisations under threat. 

Creative Scotland faced having to use £7m from its £17m national lottery reserves to preserve “standstill” funding agreements for 120 companies, venues and organisations - including charities - over the year.

A petition, launched by charity Campaign for the Arts and charity-backed network Culture Counts - who represent arts, heritage and creative industries organisations was signed by thousands, before a letter from STUC general secretary warned thousands could be left without work. 

However, proposing the Scottish Government’s budget in Holyrood on Tuesday, Mr Swinney unveiled the u-turn. 

He told MSPs: “We had asked Creative Scotland to sustain investment next year by utilising £6.6m from their accumulated lottery reserves in place of a further year of additional grant funding for general lower lottery income.

“I am now in a position not to require that and will provide an uplift of £6.6m for 2023-24 to ensure Creative Scotland’s reserve funding can supplement rather than replace grant funding.

“That means there is a substantial increase in the Scottish Government’s funding for culture and major events in the next financial year, at a time when the country requires the inspiration that the culture and arts sector can provide for all of us.

“I have judged that this is the absolute limit of additional funding that I can provide.”

Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan told STV news: “If the proposed cuts to Creative Scotland’s budget had gone ahead, it would have had a potentially devastating impact on the arts in Scotland, leading to hundreds of job losses and even organisation closures.

“Today’s news of a change of heart from the Scottish Government is a welcome relief, however even with this budget restored, it still leaves the theatre sector facing a standstill in funding at a time of rising costs in a sector that is yet to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.”

Robert Wilson, chair of Creative Scotland, added: “Alongside the Board and Staff, I am very pleased to see this announcement about the Scottish Government’s budget. 

“It follows a great deal of work from Creative Scotland in setting out the impact and implications of the proposed budget reduction, and the enormously valuable advocacy work from people and organisations across Scotland’s culture sector and beyond. 

“The Board will now consider what this means for our budget and our funding in 2023/24 and we will announce more on this as soon as possible.”