Campaigners have urged the government to “do the right thing”.
Arts campaigners have hit back at First Minister Humza Yousaf after he defend the reimposition of £6.6million of funding cuts to Creative Scotland.
Last week it emerged that the Scottish Government had not included the cash in its Autumn Budget Revisions, despite a promise in February to protect the financial support.
John Swinney MSP - then Deputy First Minister - restored the funding following a sustained campaign by Scotland’s arts sector.
But Creative Scotland have now said they will now be forced to use its National Lottery funding reserves to plug the gap.
The Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has defended the Scottish Government’s decision to unexpectedly reimpose the £6.6m of funding cuts to Creative Scotland, citing “the disaster of the mini-budget” and “sky high inflation” as reasons for the move.
Mr Yousaf told the Herald: “Our public finances are the most strained in the devolution era and that is not down to decisions we've made. It's down to the disaster of the mini-budget, sky-high inflation, which has impacted our budget.
“It's impacted the Welsh Government's budget, impacted the UK government's budget, and the Northern Irish government budget too. So we are facing extreme financial constraints in relation to our budget.
“But what's important in relation to this specific issue is that any funded organisation that was due to receive funding, that £6.6m funding, will still receive that funding.
“What we've simply asked Creative Scotland to do is to use their reserves, that £17m of National Lottery reserve that they have, to use a portion of that reserve.
“And what I've made abundantly clear, and Angus Robertson has made it clear, is that subject to Parliament approving the 2024/2025 budget, we will make sure that money is restored in full.
“So no funded organisation is going to be out of pocket. They're going to continue to receive the funding they expected to see this financial year.
“The difference is that they will get that money from a reserve, a portion of a reserve that's coming from Creative Scotland as opposed to from the Scottish Government.”
“I understand the frustration and I completely understand that and hear the voices who have spoken out about this particular saving.
“What I would say is that ultimately, of course, we did not know when we set a budget that there would be the disaster of the UK government's mini-budget.
“We did not know the impact that would have on sky-high inflation and the impact that would have on our budget.
“We've had to find savings from health, from education, from culture, from right across the Scottish Government. We've had to find savings.
“We're trying to do that in a way that minimises the impact. That's why any organisation that was due to receive funding from that £6.6m will still receive that.
“The source of the funding will change it is not going to be able to come from the Scottish Government this year regrettably, but it will come from Creative Scotland's reserves, £17m of reserves, of which we're asking them to use £6.6m and we will restore that subject to Parliament, of course approving the 2024 budget.”
Despite this defence, those working in arts and culture in Scotland have reacted with further dismay, as a petition started to oppose the cuts continues to grow.
Nearly 14,000 people have now backed calls by the Campaign for the Arts for the Scottish Government to keep its “promise to restore arts funding in Scotland”.
A rally was also held outside the Scottish Parliament earlier this week, with over 100 campaigners gathering outside Holyrood.
The campaign’s director, Jack Gamble, said: “The First Minister blames the Westminster mini-budget and rising inflation for this sudden U-turn, but the Scottish Government pledged to maintain funding for Creative Scotland in February, five months after the mini-budget, and since then inflation has actually come down.
“We all accept that there are huge pressures right now – that’s exactly why the sector needs backing, and why Creative Scotland has sensibly been building reserves, including for a ‘transition fund’ to save companies from a financial cliff-edge if they lose regular funding. Even if we can trust that the Scottish Government will reverse this cut next year, they will still have made a significant, £6.6m dent in Creative Scotland’s reserves that will inevitably leave artists and organisations worse off.
“Ministers say that they value the arts, but rather than investing in them and their social and economic potential, they are choosing to implement sudden funding cuts that will make Creative Scotland and the sector more precarious. It’s not too late for the Scottish Government to do the right thing, keep to their word, and restore this funding in the Autumn Budget Revision.”