Funding shake-up will put Glasgow museums on a par with Edinburgh

A SHAKE-UP of funding arrangements for Scotland's museums and galleries that would see Glasgow's collections put on a more equal footing with Edinburgh's is expected within weeks.

• Kelvingrove

Officials in Glasgow say they are growing increasingly optimistic of securing major funding for attractions such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Burrell Collection for the first time.

The city is also expected to be offered the chance to display more of the treasures rarely featured by the capital's main attractions.

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Culture minister Fiona Hyslop is said to be "fully behind" the need to overhaul the way museums and galleries are supported, after her predecessor Mike Russell began the moves last summer.

He said last year that "the unique situation of Glasgow's impressive collections" had to be addressed by the government.

It currently does not provide any direct funding support to the city – in contrast, National Museums Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland, based in the capital, will receive 47 million between them from the government in this financial year.

One museums source in Glasgow said: "All of the burden for running and maintaining attractions like Kelvingrove falls on the taxpayer of Glasgow, yet its collections are widely recognised as being of international importance. The government has acknowledged that there has to be a change in these arrangements."

Insiders at Glasgow City Council and the trust that runs its cultural attractions say they expect the government to finally recognise the importance of the likes of Kelvingrove, the most popular visitor attraction in Scotland.

Liz Cameron, chairwoman of Culture and Sport Glasgow, said: "The government has allocated an additional 750,000 for specific projects in museums, which Glasgow is bidding for. This demonstrates a serious intention to examine the whole area of the importance of museums and galleries to the Scottish economy."

Five of Glasgow's museums now close on Mondays in an effort to save money, while the trust is making 3.4m worth of cuts.

The proposed shake-up, discussed yesterday at a summit of museum and gallery operators, is expected to see attractions ordered to share resources.

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But more major works of art going on tour around the country – as is happening with the Titian masterpiece Diana and Actaeon and the Lewis Chessmen – are also expected to be recommended by a taskforce charged with boosting a sector worth more than 800m to the economy.

An extra 750,000 was released last month by the government to support collections of national importance, with 33 attractions eligible for the funding. It has already ruled out any repeat of the deal that saw 12.5m go towards the 50m deal to secure Diana and Actaeon for the nation.

The government has refused to ringfence funding for the national organisations, with minutes of previous meetings of its museums and galleries think tank declaring there were "no givens".

John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland and one of the 12 members of the think tank, said: "Although the previous minister was quite clear in saying we were working on an open landscape, I don't think there is any question of dismantling the current landscape of the museums and galleries sector. As far as I'm concerned, that's not part of the taskforce's remit."

A government spokesman said: "Although the museums think tank was instigated by Mr Russell, the new minister is fully behind it, and it is expected to produce recommendations in the spring."