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Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Culture Sector

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Liam McArthur)

The next item of business is a debate on motion S6M-10917, in the name of Neil Bibby, on supporting Scotland’s culture sector. I invite members who wish to participate in the debate to press their request-to-speak button now or as soon as possible.


Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab)

Scottish Labour has brought forward this debate because we recognise and revere the enormous contribution that the arts and culture sector makes to Scotland’s national life. As Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, the principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, recently put it,

“Artists are the connectors, creators and envoys of Scotland, within our communities and across the world.”

The sector is important to our society and to our economy, too. The creative industry is worth nearly £4.5 billion and it supports 80,000 jobs. The arts and culture sector punches massively above its weight in our economy. Its contribution to brand Scotland and our image around the world cannot be overstated. Our artists, writers, performers, directors, producers, creators and many more who support them should be the pride of Scotland. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

However, the sector is at breaking point after years of underfunding. What has the Scottish Government’s response been to date? At the start of this year, the Scottish Government threatened to cut £6.6 million—equivalent to 10 per cent—from Creative Scotland’s funds in the budget for 2023-24. On 21 February this year, the Scottish National Party did a U-turn, to much fanfare, and cancelled its proposed cut. However, in late September, just seven months later, the cabinet secretary disgracefully did a U-turn on the U-turn and confirmed that the £6.6 million cut was going ahead after all. That was met with a furious response, and no wonder—it was a serious betrayal of trust.

Since then, the cabinet secretary has been unequivocal when he gave me a “gold-plated” assurance on 5 October that the money will be restored next year. People in the sector are now asking what that commitment is worth, when previous promises were broken. I say to the cabinet secretary that a promise is a promise, and it should be kept this year. That is in order for the Government to start to rebuild trust with the sector, avert a looming crisis and prevent job losses and venue closures.

The Government has clearly been feeling the heat on that, thanks to the work of Campaign for the Arts, Culture Counts, the Musicians’ Union, Equity and many others. That pressure is why we had the First Minister’s announcement on arts and culture funding at the SNP conference last week. Earlier today, the cabinet secretary challenged me to welcome that announcement. We do welcome that statement of intent, which is all that it is at this stage, but we welcome it given the parlous state of the sector and on the basis that there is a clear delivery plan. However, we do not welcome broken or baseless promises, and we do not welcome the cut this year, which risks organisations—which have to submit their applications to Creative Scotland today—going to the wall.

Today’s debate is an opportunity for the cabinet secretary to cancel his cut this year, set out details of the announcement and answer a series of questions. I start with the question that he failed to answer earlier. Why is the Government stating that it is doubling the arts and culture budget by £100 million when the existing budget appears to be £175 million?

People in the sector deserve to know what is and is not included. Does the budget include the national performing companies? How will the £100 million be distributed over the next five years? Where is the funding coming from? How much of it will materialise in the coming budget? When will a timeline outlining the decisions on the distribution of funding be published?

I am happy to give way to the cabinet secretary now if he wishes to answer those questions, or perhaps he will answer them when he takes the floor in a moment’s time, because it is essential that the Government provides answers and clarity not just to restore trust but to give certainty.

Will the member take an intervention?

Neil Bibby

I mean no offence in saying this, Mr Brown, but I would be happy to take an intervention from the cabinet secretary, whom I was requesting details from.

Let me tell members why we in the chamber need that clarity. The Parliament has heard time and again pleas from a sector that is crying out for help. VOCAL Scotland has told us that

“publicly funded cultural service provision has been depleted to the most basic level.”

Artlink has said that the current financial settlement is having a devastating effect, and Museums Galleries Scotland has warned of a

“hollowing out of museums services”.

Prospect has said:

“We are at the breaking point”,

and the Federation of Scottish Theatre has said that a

“continued lack of public investment … may result in what could very easily be seen as a wilful demise of the culture sector as we know it.”

Equity, which protested outside this building, has warned that our national reputation is diminished with further cuts to support and funding, and even Creative Scotland has warned that many organisations are at risk of insolvencies and redundancies.

The picture that has been painted is one of increased costs and chronic standstill funding. Many organisations are on their knees. Combined with the pandemic and the cost of living crisis, it is a perfect storm. Stability, security and the ability to plan ahead are vital to the sector.

The Scottish Government is to refresh its culture strategy, but it is clear that there is a huge gulf between the levels of ambition and the levels of investment that are coming from the Government. That is the very definition of setting up the entire sector to fail.

The Government should keep its promise not to cut Creative Scotland’s budget this year and give the sector the funding, certainty, confidence and backing that it needs. Over to you, cabinet secretary.

I move,

That the Parliament values greatly the enormous contribution of the arts and culture sector to Scotland’s national life and economy, noting that the creative industry is estimated to be worth nearly £4.5 billion and 80,000 jobs; recognises what many in the sector have described as a “perfect storm” of crisis in the sector, resulting from years of underfunding as well as the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis; condemns the Scottish Government’s decision to break its promise to the sector not to cut Creative Scotland’s budget by 10%, and notes the furious reaction in response; notes the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture that Creative Scotland’s funding will be restored in 2024-25, but recognises with concern that Creative Scotland has stated that up to a third of its regularly funded organisations are at serious risk of insolvency in the short term, and over half are financially weak, which will require redundancies or other cost savings, and therefore considers that there is an urgent need for funding now; further notes the announcement made by the First Minister on 17 October 2023 to more than double arts and culture funding over the next five years, but believes that, in the current context, financial certainty for the sector is crucial; calls, therefore, on the Scottish Government to reverse the 10% budget cut to Creative Scotland with immediate effect; further calls on the Scottish Government to set out full details for its proposed increase in the arts and culture budget, including timescales for funding increases, and believes that it is essential that this is clarified ahead of the publication of a refreshed Scottish Government Culture Strategy.

I advise members that there is no time in hand and that that will be ruthlessly enforced. I call Angus Robertson, who has up to five minutes.


The Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture (Angus Robertson)

I apologise to you, Presiding Officer, and to members in the chamber that, exceptionally, owing to the change in parliamentary business timings, I will not be present at the close of the debate. I am particularly grateful for Neil Bibby’s understanding of the circumstances. Incidentally, I commend him for securing today’s debate, if not for the motion, which cannot bring itself to welcome a doubling in planned culture spending.

I fully appreciate that this is an incredibly challenging time for the sector. It has had to endure the shocks of Brexit fallout, the pandemic, the energy crisis and the mismanagement of the economy by the United Kingdom Government, which have sent prices spiralling.

From my first day in office, I have been in discussions with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister on how the Scottish Government can best support the sector in navigating this perfect storm. I put on record my appreciation for their understanding and support.

The First Minister’s announcement last week not only responds to those pressures but signals our ambition. The Scottish Government will more than double our investment in Scotland’s art and culture by £100 million over the next five years.

Will the minister give way?

Angus Robertson

I will make a bit of progress first, if the member does not mind.

We have committed to increasing opportunities for participation and creative pursuits in supporting the protection of new works and ensuring that Scotland’s cultural output has platforms at home and abroad. We know that the sector welcomes the news. As an example, David Greig of Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre Company has said:

“This is a seriously important intervention at a crucial moment ... this investment is to the benefit of all Scots as we build on our theatre, film, art, literature and gaming industries ... which ... are world class.”

I could not agree more with him, and I am delighted that the Scottish Government has committed to doubling spending on culture and the arts.

Craig Hoy

Is Mr Robertson aware that the future of the Lammermuir festival in East Lothian is in doubt after Creative Scotland withdrew all funding from the programme this year? When I spoke with Creative Scotland earlier this month, it said that it was facing the double whammy of cuts to its budget and increased requests from arts and music bodies that have been hit hard by the withdrawal of funding from councils, which are subject to swingeing Scottish National Party real-terms cuts.


Is it not the case that what Scotland’s arts and heritage organisations need—

Cabinet secretary.

—is more funding today and not headline-grabbing promises for tomorrow?

Angus Robertson

If the member had been here for questions on the culture portfolio earlier, he would have heard my answer on the matter. I encourage him to read it in the Official Report, having taken so much time from me in the debate.

Colleagues across the chamber will appreciate that there is a complex funding landscape for arts and culture. Funding is provided by the Scottish Government, local government and philanthropy. Even within the Scottish Government, culture is funded through a variety of means, including Creative Scotland, which is our public body for the arts and creative industries, including the screen sector. There are also targeted funds to support key areas, such as youth music and festivals, and direct funding by the Scottish Government of our national performing companies.

Will the minister take an intervention?

Angus Robertson

I have to make some progress, and I have so little time. I am sure that Mr Bibby wants me to answer the questions that he has asked.

Due diligence and consideration are needed to ensure that the increase in funding over the next five years is directed for maximum impact. The priorities for that increased investment will be taken forward in line with the Scottish Government’s upcoming refresh of the culture strategy action plan. I welcome input from all in the sector and invite them to get in touch. For now, I can say that the increase will start from next year, with further detail to be set out in the upcoming budget through established processes.

I appreciate that the sector is concerned about what Scottish funding and support look like this year. I have to put that in the context that, over the past five years, the Scottish Government has provided more than £33 million to Creative Scotland to compensate for the shortfall in National Lottery funding. As a result of rising costs and pressures on budget across the Government, we cannot make up for the on-going shortfall this year. I agreed with the Creative Scotland board that it would use its National Lottery reserves to ensure that all regularly funded organisation payments are met in full, as was provided for in the 2023-24 funding agreement. That will mean that the regularly funded organisations will not receive reduced funding this financial year.

As I mentioned, spending on culture by the Scottish Government extends far beyond Creative Scotland. We are investing £278 million in Scotland’s culture and heritage sector in 2023-24. Projects such as the youth music initiative, which has £9.5 million committed to it this year, have made a huge impact in helping young people across Scotland to access music making and develop their wider skills and learning.

I commend the Scottish Government’s amendment to the chamber. It supports the Scottish Government’s plan to more than double arts and culture funding by £100 million over the next five years. It endorses the Scottish Government’s aim of working with the culture sector to implement a refreshed culture strategy action plan. It believes that the UK Government should match that stated ambition and at least double its investment in arts and culture over the same period. If Parliament supports a doubling in spending on the arts and culture, it will vote for the Government’s amendment.

I move amendment S6M-10917.2, to leave out from first “recognises” to end and insert:

“understands that, in common with other sectors, arts and culture organisations are experiencing significant pressure due to increases in the cost of living as a consequence of Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the actions of the UK Government; welcomes that Creative Scotland has confirmed that it has used its reserves to ensure that funding for regularly funded organisations has been maintained in 2023-24; notes that, over the last five years, the Scottish Government has provided over £33 million to Creative Scotland to compensate for a shortfall in National Lottery funding; supports the Scottish Government’s plan to more than double arts and culture funding by £100 million over the next five years; endorses the Scottish Government’s aim of working with the culture sector to implement the refreshed culture strategy action plan, and believes that the UK Government should match this stated ambition and at least double its investment in arts and culture over the same period.”

I call Alexander Stewart to speak to and move amendment S6M-10917.1. You have up to four minutes, Mr Stewart.


Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

I am delighted to open on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives.

The motion rightly speaks about the importance of the arts and culture sector and the numerous challenges that it faces, which have only been exacerbated by what the SNP Government has been doing. As such, the Conservatives will be happy to support Labour’s motion.

In his recent party conference, the First Minister said a number of warm words about the Scottish culture sector. He spoke about Scotland being rich in culture and the arts, and about how it is important to look far beyond the economic impact. Such words would have been very welcome if only they matched the Scottish Government’s record on the issue, which has been one of continually leaving the sector short of the funding that it is crying out for.

The additional arts and culture funding announcement by the First Minister in his speech is welcome, but let us not forget that it has been only a few weeks since the SNP U-turned on its own U-turn and reimposed a nearly £7 million budget cut. To say that the sector has been left struggling to trust the Government would be a major understatement. Speaking about the issue, the chief executive officer of Creative Scotland said that there was an erosion of faith and trust. People are exhausted trying to keep the show on the road—literally.

There is also a complete lack of clarity about where and when the newly announced funding will be distributed. On that issue, the sector has been left with more questions than answers. The Campaign for the Arts has warned that funding needs to be put in place quickly in order to ensure that jobs will not be lost in the sector.

Given the potential job losses, my amendment speaks about the need for the Government to take a more proactive approach to protecting the arts, music and culture sector in Scotland. As my amendment suggests, 2,000 jobs and 26,000 art opportunities will be at risk if the Scottish Government does not implement such an approach. That could be achieved by the introduction of an arts bill, which would introduce a more sustainable and long-term financial planning model. Scotland’s creative industries contribute £5 billion to the Scottish economy every year, so it is important that the sector can properly plan the finances for its future. The recent fiasco around Creative Scotland’s funding has demonstrated the need for multiyear certainty on budgets. That would give clarity to the organisations and greater security for the employees, for which they are crying out.

If one thing should be taken from today’s debate, it is that the Government’s record on the issue is not one of empowerment; rather, it is one of a non-committal approach and uncertainty. That non-committal approach and uncertainty continue. Sector organisations the length and breadth of the country are struggling to come to terms with what the Government says on the one hand and then what it does on the other. The Government is not supporting the sector; it is leaving the sector to look after itself. If it were not for the Creative Scotland reserves, there would be massive cuts and job losses.

The Scottish Conservatives are committed to listening to the Scottish sector and to ensuring and safeguarding its contribution to society and our economy. It is high time that the Government put the warm words into action and took the same approach. If it did that, we would see something happening in the sector and it would not continue to wither on the vine.

I move amendment 10917.1, to insert at end:

“; notes warnings that, if the £6.6 million cut is not restored next year, 2,000 jobs and 26,000 artist opportunities could be at risk, and calls on the Scottish Government to implement a more proactive approach to protecting the arts, music and culture sector in Scotland through, for example, the introduction of an Arts Bill, which would introduce a more sustainable long-term funding model to provide multi-year certainty around existing budgets.”


Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western) (LD)

I am grateful to the Labour Party for bringing this important and timely debate to the chamber.

The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said:

“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”

On a daily basis, we come up against the crude reality of our time. When times are tough, as they are now, it is easy for Governments to lay the artistic and cultural sectors to one side. In uncertain times, such as those that we are living in, the public services that are crumbling around us often, rightly, take the focus of chambers such as this.

Arts will always play second fiddle to those other pressing concerns, but we dismiss the importance of the arts and cultural sectors at our peril. They have a unique and crucial part to play, as we have heard several times today, in enlightening us, unifying us and supporting our mental health in what are increasingly anxious and fractious times. It is also important to remember that the creative industry is estimated to be worth £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy. It keeps 80,000 of our fellow Scots in work. That is often overlooked.

We would also be remiss to overlook the positive impact that the sector has in attracting tourists to our shores. That is no wonder, given that the beauty of Scotland is advertised best in dramas such as BBC’s “Shetland”. Scotland has a proud cultural heritage and a growing film and television industry that punches well above its weight on the international stage. It is therefore baffling that the Scottish National Party-Green Government has treated the sector so flippantly and with such great disrespect.

Despite the fact that the sector was only just beginning to get back on its feet following the lockdown years, last December, the Government announced a £6.6 million cut to Creative Scotland’s budget, which was a cut of 10 per cent. That has been well rehearsed in the remarks already today. The very understandable uproar that followed that decision prompted the Government to reverse the cut in February this year, but we now have a U-turn on a U-turn, with the reinstating of the initial funding cut.

The First Minister’s latest announcement at the SNP conference was no more than a cynical move aimed at garnering good headlines. That may seem like no more than a joyless round of hokey cokey, but it has had profound consequences for Creative Scotland, which has been forced to use up its cash reserves to cover the shortfall. The chief executive of Creative Scotland, Iain Munro, described the situation as

“like trying to change the engines on an aeroplane while you are flying it.”—[Official Report, Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, 28 September 2023; c 8.]

The offhand way in which the Scottish Government is treating the arts industry is reminiscent of the way in which it has disregarded the business community. The industry needs certainty in order to thrive, grow and safeguard precious jobs. However, on the Government’s watch, the Edinburgh international film festival has been stripped back—it almost ended—and the Edinburgh Filmhouse has closed, with the building sold and more than 100 jobs lost. Now, Screen Scotland is under pressure following the most recent cuts. The Government is guilty of cultural vandalism—nothing more, nothing less.

Large parts of Scotland are being left entirely behind when it comes to culture spending, which is largely geared towards our metropolitan areas. Rural and island communities are not getting their fair share of funding. One example that has been mentioned before relates to Screen Machine, Scotland’s only mobile cinema, which serves the Highlands and Islands. It has been running for 25 years, but it could be set to end next year if it fails to get the funding that it needs for a new custom vehicle. The service currently relies on a French leased truck, but that lease expires in April. The group that runs the service estimates that a brand-new Screen Machine will cost £1.4 million, and it has asked the Scottish Government for 50 per cent of that. I think that we can all agree that such initiatives deserve our support, which is why the Liberal Democrats will support the Labour motion.


Pauline McNeill (Glasgow) (Lab)

I am pleased that Scottish Labour has chosen the culture budget cuts as the topic of its Opposition debate. We need to clear up some of the confusion in the sector about the recent announcements. Some of it has been cleared up today, but not all of it.

As Alex Cole-Hamilton said, the culture sector has played a central role in Scotland’s public life and has created an international reputation of excellence. Indeed, the sector characterises the Scottish nation as a country that is passionate about its music, art and museums, and it accounts for 80,000 jobs and contributes a not insignificant £4.5 billion to the economy.

In February, the Scottish Government heralded its decision not to cut culture funding, but it has still indicated that there will be a 10 per cent cut to Creative Scotland’s budget. The Government has not provided certainty for the workforce, which has been through so much as a result of the pandemic. In fact, for many of us, when we were at home, worrying about our families and our jobs, the culture sector was the sector that we relied on most.

Over the past 10 years, the national performing arts companies have had a 20 per cent real-terms cut in funding. The level of insecurity for workers in the sector is high—higher than it is in most sectors—and the poor pay does not conform to fair work objectives. We are way behind where we ought to be. As Neil Bibby said, Creative Scotland has said that, of the 120 bodies that it regularly funds, up to one third are at risk of insolvency and half are financially weak. That is not a strong position for the sector to be in. Every key organisation has something striking to say. They talk about the hollowing out of services, the wilful demise of the sector and being at breaking point. The position could not be more bleak.

I want to spend some time discussing the confusion that still reigns in the arts sector following the recent announcement. Neil Bibby rightly welcomed the Government’s U-turn—let us begin with that recognition—but we require clarity on the £100 million. In its briefing, the Musicians Union set out pretty well the questions that the Government needs to answer. If the £100 million is meaningful and real, which budget lines have been included in the calculation to get to that £100 million? What does the doubling of the budget mean for the sector? What does it mean for the national performing arts, for example?

It is easy to make speeches at a party conference, but it is harder to provide funding and certainty to organisations. All they want to know is where the money is, when it will come, how the £100 million will be distributed, whether there is a timeline for the money, and when crucial decisions will be made. Can the cabinet secretary give us some indication of that? He is shaking his head, but he could clarify things. I do not think that it is unreasonable for the sector to say, “This is great, but we would like some certainty.” I would be delighted to take an intervention.

You have very little time.

I have just a quick question. Does Pauline McNeill agree that such decisions need to go through the normal budgetary processes—yes or no?

Why do you not give us a yes or no answer on whether that is real money and when we will see some detail? You could have answered my question. You could have used your intervention to do that—

Speak through the chair, please.

—but you chose not to.

I will finish on that point.


Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

The Scottish Government is evidently committed to growing a more sustainable, diverse and impactful culture sector in Scotland. Given that the creative industries are worth billions to Scotland, supporting tens of thousands of jobs, the importance of that commitment has never been greater.

We are fortunate to live in a country with so many talented people and a unique and vibrant culture, which makes Scotland a desirable and diverse place to live, providing opportunity to grow the economy and create skilled jobs and successful businesses.

The Scottish Government’s dedication to funding arts for Scotland’s young people cannot be overlooked. I was pleased that the cabinet secretary talked about the youth music initiative, which ensures that every school pupil in Scotland can access a year of free music tuition by the time they leave primary school, which represents a very sound investment of £9.5 million a year.

Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Several members have now commented that the figure of £100 million appears to have been plucked out of the air. As convener of the Finance and Public Administration Committee, would you like to talk about how you think—

Speak through the chair.

—that that money should be allocated and budgeted and the timescales revealed?

Kenneth Gibson

I think that that would be set out in the draft budget, as is normal. We are talking about a five-year investment, starting from the spring of 2024, which is the next financial year. Regardless of what we do, you will vote against the budget—we know that full well. That is how the budget is done. It will be put into the draft budget, like any other spending line. I would have thought that that would be fairly obvious to someone who has been here for so long.

Creative Scotland strives to ensure that funding delivers the widest possible public benefit across Scotland, but that has not always been the case. Even taking into account the fact that prestigious national companies such as Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet are based in Glasgow and that our capital has an important role, not least through the Edinburgh festival, other areas of Scotland, including Ayrshire, have received a disproportionately low share of Creative Scotland’s funding. It is important to encourage growth in those areas. I ask the cabinet secretary to ensure that funding is allocated fairly across all regions of Scotland, including rural and island regions that often face barriers to accessing the arts. I thank Alex Cole-Hamilton for also raising that point.

Amid the unprecedented pandemic, in which the culture and events sectors were among the worst affected, the Scottish Government delivered £256 million of support to creatives, many of whom were otherwise unable to earn a living during that time. Support that was provided by the £85 million Covid-19 emergency fund prevented 82 per cent of Scottish organisations from cutting jobs or becoming insolvent, which highlights the Government’s dedication to supporting the sector.

The Scottish Government’s plan to more than double arts and culture funding by more than £100 million over the next five years is very welcome, and I am astonished by the Grinch-like comments that we have seen from the Opposition in response. Talk about rejecting a solid increase in funding. It is astonishing.

Reckless economic decisions made by the UK Government undeniably created a perfect storm of long-term budget pressures, reduced income generation and increased operating costs, forcing the Scottish Government to make difficult financial decisions. The Tories have some cheek to talk about arts and culture, which they have completely eviscerated south of the border, so let us have no more crocodile tears in that regard. We all know about the damage that Brexit has done, too.

I support calls on the United Kingdom Government to seek visa-free and work permit-free arrangements for Scots working in European Union countries on a short-term basis. Creatives in Scotland previously benefited from funding from Creative Europe, but the final round of funding of more than €18 million is now lost. In its first year, the UK Government’s shared prosperity fund has offered only a measly £7 million in replacement funding to its global screen fund, which is something that the Tories should maybe raise with their bosses down south.

Had we remained in the EU, our creative industries would have received an additional €184 million. As long as Labour joins the Tories in supporting Brexit, Scottish businesses and workers in the culture sector will suffer financially, given that, across the UK, £200 million in arts and culture funding has been lost.

Please conclude.

Kenneth Gibson

Lastly, I make a plea for Screen Machine. Arran and Cumbrae in my constituency will benefit, as will many in the Highlands and Islands, and I hope that the cabinet secretary will help to deliver additional funding for that.


Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

One of the main characters of one of my favourite TV shows, the much-acclaimed “The Wire”, is the cigar-smoking and curmudgeonly Baltimore detective Bunk Moreland. The actor who plays Moreland, Wendell Pierce, said that culture was a

“form through which we as a society reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, where we hope to be.”

I am fortunate to represent the Highlands and Islands, a region that rivals any in Scotland for the strength of its cultural offering—in fact, it rivals anywhere in the world. As well as being important for those of us who live there, it attracts visitors from across the globe.

There are, of course, well-known events such as Up Helly Aa in Shetland, the St Magnus international festival in Orkney, the many local highland games and, of course, the annual Royal National Mod, which celebrates our Gaelic linguistic and cultural heritage. However, culture and the arts play a part in communities right across the Highlands and Islands, from local events to the smaller museums that celebrate the diversity of my region. Those are supported by passionate and committed organisations and local volunteers, as well as by the work of charities and others.

However, there is real pressure on the sector, not just because of the SNP’s cuts to Creative Scotland. Local government also plays an important role. I am sure that the cabinet secretary, when he was the MP for Moray, will have visited the Falconer museum in Forres. He would not be able to visit it today, because it was closed in April 2020 by Moray Council’s previous SNP administration, because of his SNP Government’s squeeze on local government funding.

In addition, I and Scottish Conservative MSP colleagues have concerns over the planned cuts by the University of the Highlands and Islands to its history department. As a history graduate, I recognise that history is important to both understanding the past and inspiring the future.

Understanding and valuing the past, and learning from the mistakes of the past, are vital. That principle seems to have passed many in the SNP by, but would we expect anything else from a party that, in the past year or so, has mirrored some of the most popular genres of TV culture? The SNP has moved from soap opera to police drama to comedy. Its leadership contest quickly descended from “Succession” to “Game of Thrones”—and now, given its new leader’s endless policy U-turns, including on arts funding, it is more reminiscent of a pantomime. The SNP claims that it is “Stronger for Scotland”. I say, “Oh no it isn’t.”

The arts journalist Brian Ferguson described the funding cuts as

“the biggest betrayal of Scottish culture, artists and performers in modern times”,

and even the most loyal of the SNP’s arts and culture loyalists recognise that the blame falls squarely on SNP ministers in Edinburgh. Iona Fyfe accused the Scottish Government of flip-flopping on arts funding, arguing that workers in the culture sector have already “lost faith” in it.

The Scottish Government’s response to such criticisms is, as is exemplified by its cloth-eared amendment, the usual and sadly predictable blame bingo. “It’s Brexit.” “It’s Covid.” “It’s the UK’s fault.” However, it is not any of those things. The blame lies squarely with SNP ministers in Edinburgh, who always seem to be able to find money down the back of the Bute house sofa when they need something for their own priorities—just not for culture or the arts.

Both the Labour motion and the Scottish Conservative amendment highlight the uncertainty that the SNP’s cuts are creating and the damage that they are doing. There is a real threat to jobs. However, we risk losing much more, because our arts and culture bind together communities across the country, and help us to

“reflect on who we are, where we’ve been, where we hope to be.”


Foysol Choudhury (Lothian) (Lab)

The value of Scotland’s culture sector cannot be denied—in Edinburgh alone, upwards of 3 million people flock to the capital every August for the festival—yet our culture sector is in desperate need of help and support. Scotland is world renowned for its culture and arts, but that legacy is in danger if the culture and arts sector continues to face a lack of funding. Following a difficult few years through the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, continued cuts will cause many key cultural institutions to be lost if we do not step up and solve the problem.

Edinburgh is feeling the brunt of that lack of funding for culture. Last year, we saw the closure of the legendary Filmhouse in Edinburgh, after its parent company went into administration. I was happy to hear the news that the Filmhouse may reopen, due to crowdfunding, and I am hopeful that that great cultural institution will be restored. However, that is still just one example of the bleak future that our cultural institutions may have.

More recently, Creative Scotland turned down Lammermuir Festival’s funding application last month. The festival expected the grant to make up 23 per cent of its budget and now its future hangs in the balance as a result. When I questioned the Scottish Government about providing crucial funding to rural cultural projects such as the festival, the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development reminded me that the allocation of grant funding is Creative Scotland’s responsibility. However, in previous years, Lammermuir Festival has been partly funded through that grant. Scottish Government cuts to Creative Scotland’s budget means that difficult decisions such as the one on the festival’s grant will continue to be made.

I was honoured to sponsor a celebration of the major Indian festival Dussehra last night in the Parliament. Throughout our work to support Scotland’s cultural sector, we must continue to make sure that we encourage and invite diverse cultures in Scotland to work towards a vibrant, more inclusive Scotland. That is why I was pleased to hear the minister’s comments last night about the future funding options.

It is not enough simply to rescue and support our current cultural institutions. We must ensure that Scotland’s cultural sector is protected well into the future. Only a few months ago, Scottish Opera commented on difficulties due to a lack of young people in the industry. Arts and cultural jobs and career paths must be made available and promoted in schools alongside more traditional career pathways. Children must have access to music tuition, dance and arts throughout their educational journey. That way, we can allow our cultural sector to continue to survive.


Keith Brown (Clackmannanshire and Dunblane) (SNP)

I acknowledge that everybody in the chamber supports Scotland’s cultural sector and the fact that it is important to the economy and our lives. That includes in my constituency, where we have not only national cultural highlights such as the Japanese garden at Cowden, which is about a mile from my house, but innumerable creative businesses and two independent cinemas—one in Alloa and another at the Macrobert Arts Centre, which offers a fantastic and wide-ranging cultural and creative programme that goes far beyond simply screening films—as well as many other local creative groups that contribute immensely to public life. I think of the Dunblane museum, for example, and the Leighton library in Dunblane, which was the first purpose-built library in Scotland.

For that reason, I was pleased to hear the First Minister’s announcement last week that the Scottish Government will more than double its investment in Scotland’s arts and culture sector with an additional £100 million of funding over the next five years. That is an immense vote of confidence in our culture sector from the Scottish Government. It is merely a small additional bonus to hear all the whingeing from the Opposition parties, who seem to be far more concerned about such an announcement than they were about the culture sector before the announcement. I thank the Labour Party for taking the time to show its appreciation for the commitment in its motion, which notes

“the announcement made by the First Minister on 17 October 2023 to more than double arts and culture funding over the next five years”.

It was one of many positive announcements from the SNP conference in Aberdeen last week, and I look forward to the Labour Party supporting more of those positive announcements.

I mentioned that there are many creative organisations in the culture sector across my constituency. In our politics and society, we can often be guilty of underestimating the value of culture and the arts and focusing purely on the economic value that we know they can contribute. It was always true, but it became particularly notable during the difficult pandemic, that regardless of any economic input to or output from the culture sector, culture and the arts are an essential part of the human experience. It is essential that we recognise that as a Parliament.

Although funding is extremely important for it, I note that there are bigger-picture constitutional considerations when it comes to Scotland’s culture and arts sector. Those are not mentioned in the motion. One of the greatest upsets to Scotland’s culture and arts sector in recent years has been the changes that Brexit has represented for Scottish artists. I know that the Tories hate to mention it or have it mentioned, but the artists know that to be the case, especially those who seek to tour and sell merchandise in the European Union. I am aware that some progress has been made on that, but any agreement that the UK has with the EU or individual member states is absolutely no replacement for the freedom of movement and the free movement of goods that were enjoyed by Scottish artists across the continent prior to Brexit.

If we are serious about supporting Scotland’s culture sector, we should also be serious about addressing those constitutional issues. I note that Angus Robertson’s amendment to the motion rightly makes that clear. I cannot think why the Brexit parties do not want to mention the issue at all, given how important it is to the sector.

Another way in which Scotland promotes our distinct culture and arts offering is through the Scottish Government’s international presence. Although I note that the Labour Party has been supportive of Scotland’s international ambitions in the past, the recent muscular unionism that has been on display from the Labour Party indicates that it would fall in line behind the Tories to quell Scotland’s international voice if it was given the chance to do so. I therefore argue that it is very telling that the Labour Party has chosen to omit any mention of any constitutional issue from its motion.

While the SNP Government is taking action to support Scotland’s culture sector by doubling funding over the next five years—I very much welcome the Government’s announcement—it is clear that the current constitutional arrangement does Scotland’s culture and arts sector an immense disservice, and I urge all members to consider that when they make decisions on how best to support Scotland’s culture and arts sector in the future.

I support the Government’s amendment.


Jamie Greene (West Scotland) (Con)

This morning, I saw a social media meme on Facebook—it is clear that my phone listens to everything that I say in my office these days—that simply said:

“Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”

What does that mean? That will be the theme of my short contribution. I hope that this debate makes the Government’s front-bench members somewhat uncomfortable, not because of anything that members have said so far in the debate but by virtue of the fact that it has spurred so much contact from so many individuals and organisations in the cultural sector, asking us to speak up for culture in Scotland. That leads me to believe that this debate is entirely necessary.

My region is not blessed with some of the blockbuster-sized and blockbuster-budgeted events such as the fringe or the majestic V&A, but our local culture and art are just as important as, if not even more important than, what happens in our capital and in the central belt cities. It is true that Murrayfield and the Hydro can attract Taylor Swift, but it is Greenock that attracts the Taylor Swift tribute act, which is a bestseller. “Matilda the Musical” will be gracing the presence of the Playhouse in Edinburgh, but it is the Matilda production by young people at the Prominence Academy of Performing Arts in Inverclyde that I am prouder to attract. Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is putting on a wonderful Halloween trail display, but it is Greenock’s Galoshans festival that inspires people in my community and neighbourhood to dress up and have fun.

It is said that all politics is local, but I would say that all culture is local, too. That is the theme of my contribution today. The sad reality is that nearly half of the organisations that are regularly funded by Creative Scotland are now deemed to be in a financially weak position. That will be no surprise to the minister, because Creative Scotland’s core cash budget fell by £13 million between 2010 and 2022, according to the Scottish Parliament information centre’s analytical figures on the budget. It is those that are struggling most, such as local theatre groups, youth theatres, creative arts groups and drama groups, that are doing what they can in spite of the fierce financial pressures that they face.

I say to the Government that to have overtly or even inadvertently presided over the demise of local culture is a legacy that any minister would want to—and must—avoid. Let us bear in mind that many of the projects in question are funded through local authorities, and we all know about the precarious state of local authority funding. I do not want to get into that argument today, but goodness knows what impact the council tax freeze that the First Minister has announced will have on local authorities’ budgets, and especially their culture budgets. Whether we like it or not, it is often culture that is the first thing to be dropped when we are in tough financial times.

I said that art comforts the disturbed. I am not necessarily talking about those who are disturbed or deranged, but the value of art and music and culture cannot be measured in pounds and pence. They have a much deeper value. Calls have been made for 1 per cent of the Scottish Government’s budget to be spent on culture and the arts. I understand that that seems a big ask in numerical terms, but the return on that investment would surely be much higher. For a sector that contributes 4 per cent of Scotland’s gross domestic product, the ROI on the money that is put into it seems to be immense.

I am afraid that Governments the world over are guilty of the same fatal error whereby culture always seems to suffer first and suffer the most in tough financial times. Funding a youth theatre group or a community orchestra is nowhere near as sexy or headline grabbing as using the same money to fund a pay rise for nurses or teachers. However, it is not just cash that is needed; it is certainty, and long-term certainty at that. That certainty will bring about the sort of self-confidence that saw Glasgow put in a bid for the Eurovision song contest. That is the sort of self-confidence that we need to see from the sector, and that starts here, with this Government.


Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I thank Labour for using its time to debate the plight of the cultural sector in Scotland.

It is a privilege to sit on the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee and be given the opportunity to learn from an incredible array of cultural organisations and artists every week. What is clear to me is that many of those bodies are real anchor organisations in their own communities. They are the spaces where artists get opportunities for paid creative work that would otherwise simply not exist and where pipelines of talent are nurtured from the grass roots up, and they are places where mental health and wellbeing can be nurtured and communities can come together to educate and organise.

During the depths of the Covid crisis, it was often cultural organisations such as Creative Stirling that helped communities to look after each other. Whether it was through opening safe spaces when others were closing them down or through delivering core services such as food ladders, those organisations were central to supporting and galvanising action. Scotland’s cultural sector is not just an economic generator. It is about life, creativity and community.

I had hoped that, in this debate, we could all agree that Covid’s impact on the economy, coupled with Brexit and the cost of living crisis, has helped to create a perfect storm for the cultural sector. The funding outlook was already challenging, but in this environment a small change in public funding can have a disproportionate impact on delivery. Some organisations are already stuck with what has been called doughnut funding, whereby project delivery costs are funded but the core running costs are missing.

I understand why many in the cultural sector have been concerned about recent changes to Creative Scotland’s funding from the Scottish Government and what that might mean for funded organisations. However, the cabinet secretary has confirmed that £6.6 million will be paid to Creative Scotland in the upcoming financial year, which means that the reserves used in this financial year will be replenished by the Scottish Government.

Of course, that does not mean that everything is fixed. The long-term future for cultural funding remains challenging. The funding settlement that has been given to the Scottish Government from Westminster does not keep pace with inflation and it is forcing difficult choices. We must find a way forward that provides the financial security and certainty that our cultural sector deserves, so I am pleased that the First Minister has made the commitment to double cultural funding. Like many members, I look forward to examining the detail of that in the forthcoming budget.

We now need to take the opportunity to radically rethink the way in which the sector is funded in order to secure a future for it and its workers. We need a long-term strategy for culture that pivots away from stop-start funding towards multiyear budgets and values the wider benefits that culture brings, including through preventative spending and creative use of the transient visitor levy at local level. We need a strategy that co-produces with the cultural sector and reflects calls from artists’ unions for fair work conditionality on arts funding to value, protect and grow the workforce while attracting even more talent, and a strategy that encourages the big culture sector to support its grass roots, whether that is through a levy on stadium tickets or through screen companies giving back to communities that host big-budget productions.

Cultural organisations have shown the incredible value that they deliver. It is time for the Government to help to reset its relationship with the sector, build on trust and allow it to thrive.


Clare Adamson (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)

I am going to say that this is a very reasonable motion—up to a point. It is very reasonable that, across the chamber, we are collectively recognising, through many local examples, the great contribution that arts and culture bring to Scotland’s life.

It is reasonable to note the £4.5 billion of value to our economy and the 80,000 jobs that the arts and culture sector supports. It is reasonable to mention the “perfect storm”—a phrase from our committee evidence. It is reasonable to recognise Covid and its impact on our cultural sector. It is reasonable to mention Brexit and its impact on our touring artists. It is reasonable to talk about the cost of living crisis and the fuel costs that have affected our place-based cultural organisations. Covid, Brexit and the cost of living crisis have played their part.

Support from the Scottish Government was highlighted by Mr Gibson, and the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee also highlighted that in our budget scrutiny work. However—here is where reason leaves the Labour argument—if members come to the chamber demanding that money be restored to that budget, where should that money come from?

Neil Bibby

The Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Europe gave a clear promise in February to restore £6.6 million and then did a U-turn. It is the Scottish Government’s problem. You need to deliver on your promises.

Through the chair.

Clare Adamson

The cabinet secretary came to our committee and explained what the pressures have been in-year on the Scottish Government’s budget. He explained the settlements for pay across different portfolio areas. He talked about increased costs as a result of Liz Truss’s trashing of our economy and the impact that that has had on all organisations. I remind members that we are the only place in the UK that did not have a junior doctors strike, because we were able to settle that dispute.

We had a Labour Party debate this afternoon on the skills coming from our colleges. We heard calls to have more modern apprenticeships, to settle the college pay disputes and to invest more money, but we live on a fixed budget. It is not reasonable to say that that money should be put back into the portfolio this year without saying where the money will come from, because the money that the Scottish Government has is being spent across portfolios for the benefit of the Scottish people.

We also heard the cabinet secretary say that he has made an argument about major events. People have asked, “Where are the budget areas?” but nobody talked about major events. The UCI world cycling championships came under the culture budget this year. The cabinet secretary made the argument that, when there are budgetary pressures, such as from major events in Scotland, they should be spread across portfolios and not fall on what is, as has been said, the Scottish Government portfolio with the smallest budget.

We should support our arts, and we do support our arts. In fact, the Scottish Government has given £33 million over five years to fill the gap from lottery funding, which was a commitment that was made for three years. This year, Creative Scotland has been asked to use its reserves at no detriment to any regularly funded organisation. I will work with any member on the question of where the money is coming from if they have a reasonable argument for supporting our culture.


Maurice Golden (North East Scotland) (Con)

I agree with the sentiments made by a number of colleagues that it is extremely disappointing to see the Scottish National Party Government continue its deprioritisation of culture through its deep and enduring real-terms cuts in funding to the sector. Creative Scotland is faced with the “perfect storm” of recovering from the pandemic, the cost of living crisis and wage inflation, and one third of the bodies that it funds are at risk of insolvency, as pointed out by Pauline McNeill and Foysol Choudhury.

The SNP has turned the screw on the sector by reimposing a 10 per cent reduction in Creative Scotland’s budget. If Creative Scotland had not found that money from its now-depleted reserves, it would have amounted to a 40 per cent reduction in its upcoming quarterly payments to regularly funded organisations. Those organisations, as highlighted in Neil Bibby’s motion and during the debate, are already at breaking point.

Neil Bibby pointed out that a promise is a promise and it must be kept, and Alex Cole-Hamilton stated that we dismiss the importance of arts and culture at our peril. In an entertaining and insightful speech, Jamie Halcro Johnston said that culture helps us reflect on who we are, where we have been and where we hope to be. Jamie Greene spoke about his region and the importance of local arts and culture, including a Taylor Swift tribute act in Greenock. I only wish that I still represented the west of Scotland; I might pop along.

I echo the point that has been made by many today that, within weeks of the announcement to break a promise and slash Creative Scotland’s budget, the First Minister stood in front of his conference and made another promise to double the culture budget within five years; the SNP will not be in government in five years.

Keith Brown

Would Maurice Golden acknowledge that 13 years of austerity economics has had any impact on public services in Scotland? Also, can he point to one instance in the past 16 years when the Tory party has proposed an amendment seeking more funding for culture?

Maurice Golden

When I was covering the culture budget, I made many proposals—including an arts bill that would secure long-term funding for Scottish arts and culture—and I fundamentally agree with that.

If the First Minister is serious about supporting the sector, then rather than making new promises he could start by not breaking existing ones. We have heard this quote numerous times, but it is worth repeating. The CEO of Creative Scotland said in response to the cut:

“It will deepen the concern within the sector about support for culture. It is an erosion of faith and trust.”

The First Minister should reflect on that because, with the culture sector’s faith and trust in the Scottish Government lost, does he think that anyone will believe him when he announces long-term support while almost simultaneously reneging on budget promises on a whim?

We on the Conservative benches are fully supportive of the Labour motion today. Our culture sector is too important. The economic benefits are massive in terms of creating jobs and promoting tourism, but there are less tangible benefits in addition to those.

As my colleague Alexander Stewart pointed out in his speech and amendment today, warm words from the First Minister are not enough; we need firm commitments including a sustainable long-term funding model that would provide multiyear certainty to the sector.


The Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development (Christina McKelvie)

First, I thank my colleagues from across the chamber for their contributions today. Among it all, there has been some joy and much to be proud of, and I am very pleased that we have had the opportunity to discuss the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to culture.

Jamie Greene asked us to be uncomfortable. I am sure that the Brexit parties here today are uncomfortable. Well—I hope that they are. Much of the perfect storm that the sector is weathering was, in fact, created by UK Government policy, and I have heard directly from stakeholders across Scotland about the challenges that are posed by Brexit. That was also highlighted in conversations that Keith Brown has had.

Leaving the EU has taken away important structures that supported the Scottish culture sector’s international relationships. The Creative Europe programme, for example—which was mentioned by Kenny Gibson—was a valuable resource for Scotland’s culture sector. It provided funding but it also—which is most important—supported the development of connections with peers across the EU. That scheme cannot be replaced through domestic alternatives.

Moreover, our ability to respond to the impacts—never mind the cost crisis—is limited by the inactivity of the UK Government and the financial restrictions of devolution.

The Scottish Tories suggest in their amendment that we should support their arts bill, which is a promise from the Conservative manifesto of 2021 that—like many other bill proposals from the Tories—we are yet to see. I think that they said: “A promise is a promise.”

I reassure Parliament that our long-term recovery plans will look to address challenges collaboratively and strategically in order to secure a more stable and sustainable future for the culture sector and the people whose livelihoods and wellbeing rely on it. That is why I welcome the First Minister’s announcement. That work is already under way and, as the cabinet secretary said, we are working with the sector on our approach and are happy to work with anyone on it.

Tomorrow, I will meet trade union representatives to hear their thoughts on arts and culture funding. Our conversations will continue. I am more than happy to discuss the fair funding measures that Kenny Gibson and other MSPs have called for today. Additionally, I am pleased that the culture conveners are again meeting in response to actions that have been developed under our culture strategy. That is welcome, as we seek collectively to address the pressing issues that we face.

Jamie Greene mentioned Inverclyde and the area that he represents. I recently had the great honour of visiting the Inverclyde Culture Collective and seeing how our local authorities, our culture sector and, more importantly, our communities are working with the collective to create wonderful opportunities. It is a great example.

I co-chair the culture conveners group with COSLA’s spokesperson for community and wellbeing, Councillor Maureen Chalmers, and we are working with the group on how local and national organisations can work together to support and promote culture. I hope that other members will do the same. The work includes exploring and discussing provision of culture services and the impact of the cost of living crisis, the pandemic and Brexit, as well as an accessible recovery, all of which were highlighted eloquently by Clare Adamson.

It is clear that to harness that potential fully we need to collaborate strategically across central and local government, using all the lessons, levers and comparative advantage—

Will the minister take an intervention?

The minister is about to conclude.

Christina McKelvie

A number of MSPs have asked about Screen Machine. I can update Kenny Gibson, Alex Cole-Hamilton and others on that. The Scottish Government is engaging with Screen Scotland to explore all avenues for supporting the future of Screen Machine. The cabinet secretary met Screen Scotland on 5 October to hear directly about the support that Screen Machine needs, so we are continuing that work.

As I saw at the wonderful Dussehra event that was hosted by Foysol Choudhury last night, we are a nation that cherishes culture for its empowering, strengthening and transformative power, as is underlined in “A Culture Strategy for Scotland”. In the coming months, we will publish a refreshed culture strategy action plan, which has been developed through close engagement with the sector and will respond to the challenges.

I want to make a point about Creative Scotland.

Do so very briefly, please, minister.

I am coming to an end. Clare Adamson reminded us that we provided Creative Scotland with more than £33 million over five years.

Will the minister take an intervention on that point?

The minister is concluding.

That was to compensate for reduced lottery funding. We now face difficult decisions about Government funding. The time is right for Creative Scotland to draw on those—

I must ask you to conclude, minister. Thank you.

I call Sarah Boyack to wind up. You have up to five minutes.


Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

In closing the debate for Scottish Labour, I feel as if I have gone back in time, because this is exactly the same debate as the one we had last year about the proposed cuts to the Creative Scotland budget that would have had a huge impact on a sector that was facing a perfect storm.

Our motion is absolutely clear, so it is so good to hear members across the chamber accepting that the creative sector makes a huge contribution to the Scottish economy, because culture is part of who we are as a country. The Edinburgh festivals have an impact in my region. They also have a global reach and create jobs and opportunities for people to access culture on their doorsteps, but many people who live in our area still find it hard to afford to go to the festivals. We have to make our culture affordable across the country.

Scottish Labour has worked hard with the sector, because the challenge of uncertain annual funding has had huge impacts on it. Putting on cultural events needs long-term planning and commitment to be successful—not in-year budget cuts and vague promises. Last year, the evidence sessions at the Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee were powerful. John Leighton summed it up by saying that the challenge was to

“keep the lights on and doors open”.—[Official Report, Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, 29 September 2022; c 25.]

It is therefore absolutely heartbreaking to hear the evidence that has been given at committee this year and which Neil Bibby quoted in his speech. The evidence is powerful, because the sector is facing the same challenges and has been worried that it will get more cuts. Organisations such as Culture Counts and the trade unions have done a fantastic job of standing up for their members and our communities by making the case for investing in culture.

It is important that the SNP Government does not just talk about culture. Warm words will not cut it; we need to see the evidence. That is why we have asked again and again when the £100 million will be allocated and how it will be spent. We have had two years in which cuts have been proposed in the budget, and we have potential U-turns. That is the last thing that our culture sector needs.

Can I answer that question for you?

If you are going to give us the detail as to exactly how you are going to spend it even in this year’s budget, that would be a step forward.

Speak through the chair, please, minister.

Christina McKelvie

Thank you very much for taking the intervention—I know that time is tight, so I will be quick.

The draft budget will be proposed to Parliament on 19 December, so I would welcome your involvement in that.

Sarah Boyack

Again, that does not clarify the issue of this year’s budget, at all. The creative organisations are waiting, and are praying that they will get the resources.

In Edinburgh—as Alex Cole-Hamilton and Foysol Choudhury mentioned—we have a fundraising campaign by the Filmhouse team. They have two weeks—[Interruption.]

Ms Boyack, could you give me a moment?

I ask colleagues to cease conversations while Ms Boyack is speaking.

Please continue, Ms Boyack.

Sarah Boyack

Thank you, Presiding Officer—I should not have to shout.

The Filmhouse team has two weeks to go to meet the fundraising target that it has set. It has done phenomenally well, but again, the problem is uncertainty.

Comments have been made today about the Scottish Government proposing to use Creative Scotland’s reserves. That is a huge reversal of the Government’s approach. The whole point of reserves is that they are meant to be there for crisis situations. It is an irony—is it not?—that a crisis is exactly what the Scottish Government has itself created.

We know that we have a cost of living crisis, and about the challenges that have followed the Brexit vote. The Scottish Government needs to address those challenges—it does not need to do U-turns year after year and make cuts to Creative Scotland’s budgets.

Only this week, National Museums Scotland—a nationally funded organisation—warned that it is having “a struggle for survival”. The national performing companies have been mentioned several times today. Their budget has been frozen since the financial year 2016-17. That is how bad things are.

We note the £100 million that has been suggested, but we have not been told in either of the Government speeches how that figure has been arrived at, how the funding will happen, how it will be distributed and how we will see decent funding for our local authorities. In that regard, we hear that discussions are on-going but, as we saw recently, the Verity house agreement is not exactly respected in detail.

How do we know that every school in Scotland is going to have the music, arts and dancing tuition that every young person should be able to access? We need the funding; if the Scottish Government was serious about the matter, we would have heard about that today. As ever, though, there is no certainty. It is particularly disappointing that we did not get that clarified.

I would be very interested to hear the detail of Alexander Stewart’s proposed arts bill. As members have commented, we have been hearing about the bill for some time, so we would like to see the detail.

In closing, I note that I hope that colleagues on all sides of the chamber will do the right thing and call on the Scottish Government to reverse the proposed 10 per cent budget cut for Creative Scotland with immediate effect, and to set out in detail how it intends to increase the arts and culture budget. The timescales are critical for organisations that must invest in staff. As Pauline McNeill said, fair terms and conditions and longer contracts mean a longer-term financial commitment—

Please conclude.

Companies that are putting on shows in two years need to know that they will have the money. Let us come together and support the Labour motion, and let us have a refreshed strategy—

Thank you, Ms Boyack.

—that is actually funded properly.

That concludes the debate on supporting Scotland’s culture sector.