UK Government interventions in Scottish affairs tend to be met with complaints about supposed “power grabs” by the SNP, but the extent of the problems surely allows no such moralistic protests in this case. In December, Shona McCarthy, chief executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, warned the city was in danger of “sleepwalking” into a social, cultural and economic disaster and could lose its “cultural capital” status unless there was a rethink of the way the arts are funded.
Before Covid hit, complaints the Festival had grown too big appeared to be increasing, but while some may have retained the sentiment, most will surely accept that the importance of ensuring its future as the world’s leading arts event must take precedence over other concerns. Scotland’s festivals are worth a total of more than £300 million a year to the economy which makes them a real asset to be nurtured, particularly in tough economic times.
Whether this new funding solves all the Festival’s problems remains to be seen, but the jobs that it supports would be reason alone to make such an investment, with the entertainment and insights provided by the myriad of shows a wonderful added bonus. The Festival is something we are really good at, something to be proud of, with not just national but global significance. In real need of help, it shouldn’t matter where it comes from.