There are fears of a “hollowing out” of Scottish culture and the prospect of a “wave of insolvencies” after £7 million was stripped away from the national arts organisation for the forthcoming financial year.
The cut was imposed months after Creative Scotland chief executive Iain Munro warned the Scottish Parliament that one in four arts companies could be at risk of going under over the winter.
The Federation of Scottish Theatre, which also represents dance and opera companies, said there would be “serious implications” of the decision to make cuts during an “appalling cost crisis” following years of what it described as “long-term under-investment” and the impacts of the pandemic.
Crisis talks are to be held by Creative Scotland’s board over the hit to its current £63m budget, which it described as “extremely disappointing.”
It has warned that the cut will impact “most significantly” on more than 120 organisations on long-term funding deals, which it was hoping to maintain until the spring of 2025.
Andy Arnold, artistic director at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, said: “The decision to cut Creative Scotland’s budget by more than 10 per cent has put us all on edge.
“Such a cut passed on to the RFOs (regularly funded organisations) would be catastrophic for the Tron’s programme next year and we are in a healthier financial situation than most.
"It could literally mean curtains for some of our major cultural organisations.
“As it is, the continued standstill funding – now delayed yet another year turning a three-year plan into seven and something in the region of a 25 per cent cut in real terms – makes our ability to plan and produce work increasingly difficult. Now we’re desperately hoping that we can remain on standstill for another year as the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“The Scottish Government makes great play of our cultural heritage and the importance of promoting culture as part of what Scotland stands for. The cuts they are making to the Creative Scotland budget – £7 million – is negligible in terms of redressing the economic and social issues the country faces, but astronomical in its destructive impact on our cultural industry.”
David Greig, artistic director at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, said: “It's hard to overestimate the level of the challenge facing the arts in Scotland.
"We've weathered a devastating pandemic followed by the worst financial crisis in 50 years, loss of labour, rising costs, enormous unplanned for heating bills, audiences down 10 - 20% across the board. Now a 10% cut to Creative Scotland.
“And before all this, in 2019, the theatre building producers were already on a knife edge after 15 years of standstill funding. There was and is no resilience in the system. We've been running on fumes for years.
“I say 'fumes', what I mean is the poor wages, long hours, anxiety, imagination, loyalty, creativity and energy of an incredible workforce both on staff and freelance.
“The whole of Scottish society is facing a very very tough few years. Arts are no different. But, if we want there to be a professional Scottish theatre culture in 2032, then we're going to have to all come together.”
The FST said: “We are dismayed by decisions outlined in the budget, including a reduction in funding to Creative Scotland of over 10 per cent.
“This follows long-term under-investment, impacts of the COVID pandemic and is happening during an appalling cost crisis.
“The effect on the fragile performing arts ecosystem, including struggling organisations and employees at every scale, and an essential yet exhausted and depleted freelance workforce, will be devastating and potentially irreversible.”
The Culture Counts network, which campaigns on behalf of the arts, heritage and creative industries, said: “The budget holds only concerning news for the Scottish culture sector.
“Funding decisions made by the Government will devastate an already extremely vulnerable sector currently experiencing the perfect storm of adverse conditions caused by the pandemic and ongoing cost crisis.
“The budget statement contained commendable focus on protecting businesses and individuals most vulnerable to the worst effects of the current economic climate.
"We are particularly concerned that this protection will not extend to organisations and freelancers working at a grassroots level, who operate with lower margins and lower wages whilst carrying out the sector’s vital work with communities.
“This budget will severely compound the challenges faced by the whole sector.
"Creative Scotland’s statement immediately following the budget reports a significant impact on its ability to maintain even standstill funding levels for its portfolio of 120 regularly funded organisations.
“For many, standstill funding may not be enough. The country could face the wave of insolvencies predicted by Creative Scotland’s chief executive.”
The Scottish Artists Union said: “We’re deeply concerned that freelance artists and makers are already facing multiple challenges caused by rising inflation, unaffordable studio rents, increased material costs, reduced consumer spending and negative consequences from Brexit.
“Cultural workers, especially freelancers, already experience precarious working conditions and low pay. How can Scotland deliver its culture strategy without a healthy cultural workforce?”
The Scottish Contemporary Art Network said: “We’re concerned that Scotland’s Budget will hit the most vulnerable workers in the cultural sector hard.
“A cut to Creative Scotland’s budget risks artists, grassroots and diversity. It risks Scotland’s most low-paid cultural workers in the midst of a costs crisis.
"Whilst Creative Scotland will attempt to mitigate this to support the infrastructure, the long-term erosion of funding is now a hollowing out.”
The overall pot for culture and major events has only been cut by 0.6 per cent – down £1.3m to £207m – in the Scottish Budget.
However, the budget for major events has increased by a third to £24 million, with the government highlighting support for the men’s and women’s Scottish Open golf events, the UCI World Cycling Championships and the World Indoor Athletics Championships.
Extra funding has been also allocated to national arts organisations to help them meet the cost of pay rises and other soaring costs.
Both the National Museums and National Galleries have seen their core funding increase by 9.5 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively, to £26m and £18m. Overall funding for Scotland’s national performance companies, including Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, went up by 0.3 per cent, to £23m.