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SCAN and Scotland's Workshops respond to Cultural Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund

SCAN and Scotland’s Workshops have expressed concern for the future of contemporary art in Scotland as the guidance for new emergency cultural funding is announced today, Thursday 10 September.

As Creative Scotland makes public the criteria for the new £15million Cultural Organisations and Recovery Fund, Clare Harris, Director of SCAN highlighted the shortcomings of a package designed to suit everyone but without the resource to properly help anyone. The fund is designed to support a huge range of organisations from art galleries and workshops, to comedy clubs and nightclubs.

She said: ‘Much-loved and valued local art institutions have been desperately awaiting this new round of emergency funding in order to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 on their operations. Clearly, we welcome the Scottish Government’s support – but we don’t believe it is enough.

‘The nature of the fund will see support spread too thinly, across a huge range of activity, and risks leaving our members struggling to survive. Commercial and non-profit organisations will be asked to compete on the same playing field. This isn’t satisfactory for any party.

‘As the pandemic continues and restrictions tighten, we must see further and more ambitious action from Scottish Government to safeguard the visual arts, and culture more widely, for the future wellbeing of us all.’

In their most recent analysis, SCAN estimated that £12.4m would be required by visual art organisations in their membership to prevent job loss and protect wider employment by March 2021. Several SCAN members also form part of Scotland’s Workshops, a collective of visual art production facilities across the country. SCAN’s proposals for a visual art stimulus focused on protecting visual art organisations from immediate and medium-term insolvency, as well as safeguarding and increasing opportunities for commissioning and employment of freelance artists and creative practitioners.

Of the shortcomings highlighted by Scottish Contemporary Art Network and Scotlands Workshops the key concerns are:

- The framework has to meet such a wide range of activity that many organisations risk being left out

- The assessment of not-for-profit organisations alongside for-profit business risks creating long-term damage to the sustainability and viability of the cultural sector

- There is no meaningful strategic context in terms of the wider wellbeing and long-term recovery of the sector

These concerns are voiced against the backdrop of the Art in Action campaign which champions the valuable role visual art plays within communities across Scotland – and to call for stronger recognition of this value when it comes to decision-making. Art in Action sees MSPs across Scotland visit their local art galleries, studios and workshops to celebrate the contribution of art to our communities, economy and wellbeing.

In the medium term, SCAN urge a doubling of the current cultural budget and providing a five-year stabilisation deal for the cultural sector, so that it is able to contribute fully to the national recovery and build a cultural workforce based on the principles of equality and fair work, enabling publicly-funded organisations to pay union rates and support the living wage.

In June, the Economic Advisory Group reported to the Government on actions it believed would assist in the nation’s economic recovery following the immediate Covid-19 crisis. It reported that the culture sector had been hit ‘disproportionately hard by the crisis as a consequence of physical distancing requirements’, and stated: ‘Culture will play a definitive role in the recovery of our wellbeing, and it must be an intrinsic element of how Scotland is represented at home and abroad. The sector must be cultivated and nourished for the greater good.’

Clare Harris added: ‘Contemporary art organisations and venues have relied heavily on the Job Retention Scheme. The combination of this coming to an end, the effect of Covid-19 restrictions on their ability to generate income and the high costs associated with re-opening safely, are a perfect storm which many will find difficult to weather.

‘The context is one of precarity; funding from Creative Scotland has been at standstill level for 10 years, and local authority cuts to culture budgets have been widespread.

‘Among the organisations that need support are popular galleries which are free civic spaces acting as hubs for the community; production hubs where a huge range of creative activity is supported, and artists studios which are vital for the country’s artistic community to make a living. If any of those spaces go, they will be difficult to bring back.’

Date: 10 September 2020