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Nicola Benedetti: Scottish Arts Sector Faces Crisis Without £100M Funding

Nicola Benedetti: Scottish Arts Sector Faces Crisis Without £100M Funding

Nicola Benedetti has sounded the alarm over a potential crisis in the arts sector that could lead to a “major identity shift” if the Scottish Government does not allocate £100 million in funding. Speaking to Holyrood Magazine, the award-winning violinist highlighted the precarious state of the culture sector in Scotland, attributing it to financial challenges. Benedetti emphasized that arts and culture are crucial to the “wellbeing and health of the nation.”

The context for Benedetti’s concerns stems from a promise made by then-first minister Humza Yousaf at the SNP conference last year. Yousaf had pledged an additional £100 million for Creative Scotland by 2028, calling it a “huge vote of confidence” in the cultural sector.

Creative Scotland, which is the national development body for the arts and creative industries, had its budget cut by £6.6 million in December 2022. This cut was reversed in February 2023, only to be implemented again in September the same year. As of now, there is no clear indication of when the promised funding will be disbursed.

Benedetti, who also serves as the director of the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF), stressed the government’s responsibility in maintaining arts and culture. She argued that if the nation ceases to see arts and culture as one of its civic pillars, it essentially shifts its identity and goalposts. She stated, “We’re shifting what post-Second World War we believed was a society that was increasing in equality and elevating civilisation.” If the government does not prioritize funding for arts and culture, Benedetti warns that it could allow this crucial sector to deteriorate at society’s peril.

The Scottish Government has previously announced an additional £15.8 million, including the reinstated £6.6 million, as a “first step” toward fulfilling the £100 million pledge. This brings the total spend on culture to £196.6 million, with the bulk allocated to Creative Scotland. Additionally, a further uplift of £25 million is promised for the next year. However, arts industry collective Culture Counts estimates that up to 55% of organizations applying for Creative Scotland funding could miss out when the agency makes its long-term funding announcement in October.

Earlier this year, Creative Scotland revealed that 361 organizations had collectively applied for £96 million in funding. Of these, 351 were deemed eligible for the next stage. This number was later reduced to 281 organizations requesting a total of £87.5 million. However, due to the “lack of clarity regarding longer-term funding” from the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland expects to have just £40 million available to distribute.

Iain Munro, the chief executive of Creative Scotland, stated, “As we have emphasised consistently, our budgets remain extremely limited, and we anticipate being able to fund only a proportion of the organisations which have applied.”

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.

Source: Holyrood Magazine, SNP Conference, Creative Scotland