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SCAN response to Culture Committee report on Arts Funding

by Clare Harris
Image: The Travelling Gallery parked outside the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, as part of the Art in Action campaign

The Scottish Parliament’s Culture Committee called yesterday for an urgent overhaul of Scotland’s arts funding system.

The Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs (CTEEA) Committee published the results of its inquiry into arts funding on Tuesday morning in the report, ‘Putting Artists In The Picture: A Sustainable Arts Funding System For Scotland’.

Key recommendations include:

• A baseline target for national arts funding, on a cross-portfolio basis, above 1% of the Scottish Government’s overall budget

• Fair pay for artists with a more robust approach required from Creative Scotland to address this issue

• A new indicator within the National Performance Framework to monitor the number of self-employed artists and cultural freelancers who are paid a fair wage

• Inclusion of artists and cultural freelancers in ongoing feasibility studies for a basic citizens’ income

• Changes to ensure that individual artists are not competing against network organisations for funding from Creative Scotland.

• Changes to the way Creative Scotland allocates funding, including peer review, a tiered application process and funding programmes, such as bursaries and stipends, aimed at supporting artists and arts organisations at different stages of their development.

• Possible avenues of additional funding that could be leveraged to address external challenges to the Scottish Government budget, such as a percentage for the arts scheme.

• A new policy framework, such as an Arts Act, that would require local authorities to plan for culture and to take account of local and national priorities in doing so.

• The re-establishment of a programme of funding for regionally-based arts officers in local authority areas where Creative Scotland’s investment is significantly below the Scottish average.

• A refreshed approach for maintaining cultural venues across all parts of Scotland, supported by a clear funding approach.

• A new, strategic approach to funding national institutions

The report is welcome, particularly in that it continues to hammer home the importance of an intelligently-funded cultural sector to Scotland. Claire Baker MSP, Deputy Convenor of the CTEEA committee, stated as much last week as she introduced the Art in Action debate in parliament: ‘A healthy cultural infrastructure has a role to play in achieving all of the National Performance Framework outcomes. Culture and creativity are not an add-on; they are part and parcel of how we live our lives.’

Echoing your concerns
We were pleased to see that the issues we raised in our submission to the inquiry have been reflected in this report. These include a strategic approach to funding across local and national government; the importance of the artist in policymaking decisions; funding for arts from across all policy areas; continued support for cultural mobility post-Brexit; fairer pay and conditions for artists; longer funding cycles to allow room for development; separate funding streams for artists and those who support them, and peer-reviewed decision making.

The inquiry’s findings also reflect that concerns around arts funding in this country are well documented, and that potential ways forward are already being widely discussed.

Funding pressures
The issue of standstill funding and real-term cuts is, of course, front and centre. Our submission, along with those from many other cultural organisations including SCAN members CCA and Collective, rightly made this a key concern. The CTEEA committee recommends that the Scottish Government should give serious consideration to setting a baseline target for national arts funding, on a cross-portfolio basis, above 1% of its overall budget.

The report’s recommendations, as flagged in our own and many others’ submissions, include coverage of fair pay for artists, which the inquiry places at the top its agenda. As well as calling for more robust measures to be put in place regarding artists pay in allocation of funds, the report seeks a better indicator of who ‘people working in the arts’, are – an outcome of the National Performance Framework – and how their pay and conditions are being met.

Local and national arts policy
Elsewhere, the report raises key issues around how the forthcoming Culture Strategy should ‘reset’ the relationship between national and local cultural policymaking. It recognises ‘striking’ disparity in levels of cultural funding from one local authority to another. The report recommends that the government work in partnership with COSLA to create a new policy framework between local and national government to support the arts.

It also raises the idea of investing in regional arts officers, as one way to even the spread of investment in the arts across all of Scotland; a 2003 study quoted in the report showed Creative Links officers brought in up to a £4000 return for every £1 invested. In our next phase of Art in Action, we will turn our attention to local authorities, recognising that this is a key area for advocacy.

Other funding models
The introduction of a per cent for art scheme is covered fairly extensively. The idea of the scheme has been broadly welcomed by the Cabinet Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, who said: ‘We are interested in the principle of such a scheme, but we have not done anything about that at this stage. That might change if we can get a period of sustained economic growth.’

Evidence from Orlaith McBride, Director of the Irish Arts Council, highlighted the learnings that Ireland has had in terms of how quality can and should be written in to any such scheme: ‘In the 1980s, 1990s and the 2000s, that would have resulted in, for example, public art sculptures on the side of a dual carriageway. Thankfully, we have moved away from that model to a more engaged understanding of public art.’

What’s next
There is much more to be digested from the report; including a hint at new policy around data gathering and calls for stronger investment around arts education.

Its release, just two days before the General Election, may mean it struggles to gain as much traction as it should, but it certainly sets the agenda for discussions in Holyrood around the release of the Culture Strategy itself, whatever happens after the 12th December.