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Updated Statement: RFO

Yesterday’s U-turn on the Regular Funded Organisations (RFO) funding decisions are good news for the small number of companies granted a reprieve, and continued disappointment for many others including Transmission Gallery

The anger, embarrassment and disbelief being expressed about this series of events is completely understandable. 
 
It is clear there is an almost unanimous agreement from artists, organisations and Creative Scotland themselves that the current funding models urgently need overhauled. SCAN, through its members, has been raising the issue for several years. Creative Scotland have said that they are listening very carefully and will make things better in the future. Why did they not listen earlier? We can’t ever be in this position again.
 
SCAN will now focus on the next steps and will work even harder to demand that the needs of our members are listened to. There are so many dedicated and committed experts, practitioners from all fields across the arts who could offer advice and support, sit on peer review panels and help Creative Scotland from making the same mistakes again. They must open their doors, work with organisations like SCAN and commit to a more collaborative and transparent approach that puts the needs of artists at the heart of what they do. 
 
Questions about Creative Scotland’s own capacity to deliver, governance and culture also need to be addressed. Creative Scotland employ some excellent people who possess an intimate knowledge of their respective sectors. Why have they been unable to put this knowledge to use and enact changes? 
 
SCAN co-authored a Manifesto for the Visual Arts in December 2017 in partnership with Scottish Artists Union and Engage Scotland. The Manifesto attempts to coalesce the values and aspirations of our members, colleagues and peers, and put forward a collegiate vision and policy demands.
 
One of our key demands is to ‘work within a cultural environment that is collaborative rather than competitive, and resist the pressure of continual growth, a burden that expects us to do more with less’. 
 
The RFO model and the most recent decisions are divisive and demoralising and they continue to ask those on standstill to do more for less. We are aware of the commentary around the funding of sector agencies and umbrella organisations within the RFO portfolio. We will not shy away from robust analysis of this funding approach.
 
SCAN was set up by the sector for the sector; we know our members value our work. We know Creative Scotland values our work and we have built a strong and supportive relationship with them over several years. Our strength as an organisation is that our membership represents the individual through to the large arts organisation, all part of an important network that delivers social, cultural, economic and artistic impact. Our overall vision is that vital role, impact and benefits of contemporary visual arts are widely recognised as central to society.
 
The removal of Transmission from the RFO portfolio is a major blow to both the visual arts sector and the committee members whose voluntary labour and vision have delivered one of the most culturally diverse contemporary programmes in recent years. 
 
The far-reaching support for Transmission shows how integral artist-led organisations are to their communities. Acknowledging their ‘central importance’ to the sector, Creative Scotland stated in the 2016 Visual Arts Review:
 
‘Artist-run initiatives make a significant contribution to the distinctive culture of the visual arts in Scotland, generating a critical mass of energy, enquiry, experimentation and expertise.’ 
 
Creative Scotland has confirmed plans to create a new fund, better suited to supporting artist-led practice. However, this proposed lifeline is not yet in place. SCAN will continue to support Transmission’s committee as they navigate these stressful times.
 
Notwithstanding the cut to Transmission, the wider visual arts portfolio remained largely unchanged with standstill funding. Members accept that we are in a period of severe financial contraction and that difficult decisions must be made. In real terms, standstill means a cut. This issue must be properly acknowledged. Much franker discussions about the future viability of the current visual arts portfolio need to be held. It will not sustain, and what space can there be for new organisations and approaches within this climate? 
 
This is now the moment for the Scottish Government as well Creative Scotland to look coherently at all the funding systems including local government, and radically rethink how to best support the arts sector as a whole. Plans for this must be brought forward with urgency.
 
SCAN will be working with our members to formalise our concerns about the funding process and put forward key demands to inform Creative Scotland’s next steps. 

Posted by: Susan Mc Ateer

Date: 7 February 2018