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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, February 11, 2021

Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee 11 February 2021

Agenda: Budget 2021-22, European Union-United Kingdom Trade and Co-operation Agreement


Contents


Budget 2021-22

The Convener (Joan McAlpine)

Good morning, and welcome to the fifth meeting in 2021 of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.

Our first agenda item is evidence on the Scottish Government’s budget for 2021-22. I welcome our witnesses. Fiona Hyslop is the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture. From the Scottish Government, we have David Seers, who is the head of sponsorship and funding at the culture and historic environment division, and Jennifer Watson, who is the team leader for resource and capital investment. Linda Sinclair is the director of corporate services and accountable officer at National Records of Scotland.

Before we move to questions, the cabinet secretary will make an opening statement.

The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture (Fiona Hyslop)

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the budget for culture and major events with the committee, and to outline the Scottish Government’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on the culture—[Inaudible.]

The Convener

We seem to be having some difficulties with the cabinet secretary’s sound. I apologise. We will suspend until we can get her back.

08:46 Meeting suspended.  

08:53 On resuming—  

The Convener

Welcome back. I apologise for the suspension. We lost our connection to the cabinet secretary, who is to give evidence on the Scottish Government’s budget for 2021-22.

Cabinet secretary, I invite you again to make a brief statement.

Fiona Hyslop

I apologise convener. I do not know how much of my statement you heard. Did you get most of it?

The Convener

We did not get any of it.

Fiona Hyslop

I will start again.

Members will understand that our work on the budget is taking place in challenging times. I express my sympathy and support for the culture sector, and I welcome the opportunity to discuss the culture and major events budget with the committee. Culture and creativity make extensive contributions to Scotland, so we must recognise the challenges that the sector has faced. That is what our budget seeks to do.

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on people and organisations across the culture sector. This has been a difficult time for the sector and for those who work in it. Over the past 11 months, they have worked to refocus their resources and to operate digitally to produce online content that reaches audiences virtually. That has been of huge benefit.

We have been doing everything that we can to help the culture sector to recover, including allocating more than £125 million of additional funding since the start of the pandemic. In recognition of the continuing impact of Covid-19 restrictions on individuals who work in the sector, I am pleased to announce that we will provide an additional £9 million to support freelancers through the creative freelancers hardship fund. I am also allocating a further £8.5 million to support events businesses. Further details will be published later today.

We continue to look at all possible options to protect the sector, its workforce and its volunteers as it navigates the crisis. In the light of Covid-19, it is entirely appropriate that next year’s budget is focused on maintaining our existing support for culture, including our commitment to screen funding and youth arts. Provision of additional emergency funding support in response to the pandemic in the next financial year will depend on what resources are at our disposal from any additional Covid consequentials. We are waiting for clarity on that from the United Kingdom Government before we consider it further.

The pandemic is happening in the wider context of our having left the European Union. The full impacts of that on our culture and creative sectors are still being determined. EU funding programmes, such as creative Europe funding, provided vital funding and facilitated cross-border cultural collaboration. The UK Government has so far failed to fully replace the lost funding, and it has not compensated for the loss of cross-border collaboration. It failed to negotiate a deal that benefits Scotland and its culture and creative sectors. As the committee knows, international touring is vital to many creative professionals. The end of free movement of people to and from the EU makes touring more difficult and can limit the international reach of Scotland’s creative sector.

I hope that these introductory comments have been helpful. My officials and I are working hard to support the culture sector where we can in order to ensure that it is ready to recover. It is vital that it comes through the pandemic ready to flourish and to bring some much-needed joy to us all.

The Convener

Thank you, cabinet secretary. As you say, we are 11 months into the pandemic. What lessons have been learned from the response to the support that has been offered to the heritage, creative and culture sectors over that time? How might you use what has been learned to shape your approach to support from now on? To what degree has the emergency funding been reactive? Is it possible to use emergency funding for strategic purposes?

Fiona Hyslop

Many individuals and organisations were in crisis management from early doors in the pandemic. For example, theatres voluntarily agreed to close even before the legal lockdown, and were among the first businesses to close in the early part of last year. Sources of income for individual artists can be perilous in such situations—work can stop completely. In its previous inquiry, the committee indicated that support for individual artists was something that we needed to improve on.

If I say this, people who have not received much funding will raise concerns, but Creative Scotland moved right at the start to put together bridging bursaries. There was a lot of rapid reaction and response in the sector; it moved very swiftly in a lot of areas. It was interesting to see, from the beginning, the generosity of spirit, with people asking for only what they needed. We did not know how long they would have to survive for, but they needed some kind of support and income. There was a period during which we were very concerned about the anchor institutions, both as employers and in terms of producing creative content. Some of our major theatres, for example, faced having to make many of their staff redundant.

We moved swiftly. Even before we had the Barnett consequentials for culture, I set up the £10 million performing arts venues fund. Bearing in mind the need for support for individual artists, we tied funding for institutions to their continued support for artists, either to create new work or in other ways. The support for venues was tied, for example, to support for freelancers.

09:00  

Similarly, we moved swiftly at the beginning of the year to tell all the national companies, festivals and others that had funding from us that they could keep their funding if they continued to pay contracts, even for work that was not done. The aim of that was to keep resilience in the system, because resilience is key.

I will focus on three aspects of what has been learned. The first is to do with theatres, which have taken a more collaborative and co-operative approach with their communities, with freelancers and with one another. That will be important in the future—we should have that resilience. I have always wanted more work to be seen by more people across more theatres. That approach is likely to continue, which is a good thing.

The second aspect relates to the creative communities programme, which we had already established with the justice directorate. That relates to a theme that the committee is interested in, of working with justice, health and other portfolios to bring people together to use the power of culture in those areas. We have enhanced funding for that programme during the year, because we realised its importance. There are a few pilot programmes, but we are looking to support that approach a bit more.

The culture collective programme came out of a recommendation from the advisory group on economic recovery. With my economy responsibilities, I moved swiftly to set up that group in April, and it reported in June. One of the recommendations was that we provide an opportunity for individuals to work with communities using the power of art and the capacity for creativity in communities. The recommendation was to support that work with artists and thereby to provide work for artists and help with resilience in the community. In finalising the allocations, I have been looking to support that culture collective even further. I hope that those things will last beyond the pandemic, because the connection between communities, individuals and the creative sector is important.

I praise Creative Scotland. It has been criticised in years gone by, but it has moved very rapidly, got the funds out quickly and engaged with lots of sectors. The response from the sector to Creative Scotland’s efforts has been good. Individuals have worked extremely hard to support the sector. That is as we would expect, but they have done really well.

I am sorry that my answer is so long, convener. I will finish with another lesson that affects the budget. We have been encouraging people to grow their income from elsewhere and to diversify their income streams, but the organisations that have been hit the hardest are those that generate funding not from the public sector but from commercial activities.

One such organisation that is within my responsibility is Historic Environment Scotland. Like many others, it suffered complete collapse of its income. Part of the budget will support Historic Environment Scotland. We have previously supported the National Trust for Scotland because supporting jobs has been at the centre of what we have been doing and we did not want the NTS to make many people redundant when it did not need to. I challenged NTS on that and, as a condition of emergency funding, it ensured that the jobs of as many individuals as possible were saved.

Lots of lessons have been learned. The situation has been tough, and people have been stressed and frustrated. It has been difficult for people to move from the period of survival to considering what things matter and what they will do in the future. I hope that the budget for next year will provide stability and a bit of assurance, so that the year can be used as a bridge to whatever comes next. There will be no going back to where we were, but we can plan for what comes next.

The Convener

That is useful. I understand from your letter that the focus on the money going to artists and cultural freelancers is probably not replicated in the rest of the United Kingdom. There has been more emphasis on that in Scotland. Do you have figures to back that up? If so, it would be interesting to see them.

I totally acknowledge what you said about your instructions to Creative Scotland to ensure that the money goes out to freelancers. We have received feedback that that is generally working well. However, what happens when a regularly funded organisation does not pass the money on? What recourse is there if people are concerned about that? How does Creative Scotland check that that is happening?

Fiona Hyslop

Obviously, that is a question for Creative Scotland. RFO funding is about stability, which is why will are providing for an additional year. Last year would have been when people would have put in applications for the regular funding streams from Creative Scotland, but that has simply not been realistic or possible. The budget extends that provision for a further year in order to provide security—

The Convener

I fully understand why that funding has been rolled over; obviously, there have not been opportunities for many live events and so on. How do we ensure that organisations pass on their budgets to artists, as they have been told to do?

Fiona Hyslop

That is an operational matter for Creative Scotland. As the cabinet secretary with responsibility for the economy, I would not interfere with the operational management of regularly funded organisations. If committee members, for example, bring any concerns to my attention, I will certainly want to look into them.

I appreciate that a lot of the funding for many organisations is for fixed costs, such as for staff. I am not saying that organisations have not had to make redundancies—some have—but had we not done what we did, some organisations would have closed. We have supported individual theatres, regularly funded organisations—which you have mentioned—and lots of institutions that are employers.

It is clear that the relationship with freelancers depends on what contracts were already in place. That was one of the instructions that I made clear to the organisations—the national companies, in particular—for which I have responsibility. Obviously, there were a lot of bookings in the spring and summer that we wanted to be honoured, so putting cash in the system was vital for individuals.

I am more than happy to ask Creative Scotland to look at any concerns that members have if they have examples of contracted freelancers who not been paid. Obviously, I do not know about individual contracts and situations, but that was the principle of what we tried to do. As far as I am aware, that has happened, by and large.

On the comparison with the rest of the UK, we understand our sector, we are closer to it and we can be more targeted within it. That reflects what devolution is meant to be about. There is a much bigger scheme and a much bigger funding pot. Things are done in different ways in other parts of the United Kingdom. The close relationship and understanding of the needs of different sectors in distributing funding have helped Scotland over this period. This is not just about Creative Scotland; it is also about Museums Galleries Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland, for example.

The approach has allowed us to be far more targeted. I think that we have done more for individual artists than other parts of the United Kingdom have because we have the Scottish Parliament and the committee. I hope that I, as cabinet secretary, have a good close relationship with the sector through which to understand what its needs are. We think that we cannot possibly have a future for the arts unless there is a pipeline and resilience, with artists still being able to create work and not have a year in which they have no funding to support that great work.

The Convener

Okay. Thank you very much. We need to move on now, because we lost a little time. I ask for succinct questions and answers.

Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab)

I will move on to consequentials and funding in the next financial year. As the cabinet secretary said, the budget for 2021-22, as set out, is largely similar to the 2020-21 budget, but we are obviously living in very different and challenging times. As you recognise, the cultural sector was among the first to close and it is expected to be among the last to open. To be honest, it is optimistic to think that it might open at any time before the autumn, so it faces a very difficult period.

I think that £147 million in your budget has been identified as consequentials. How certain is that figure? What consideration has been given to where that money should be invested? The figure covers your whole portfolio. Given that there was £125 million for culture last year, what proportion of the £147 million is culture expected to receive?

Fiona Hyslop

We understand that there will be enough provision to support the consequentials as set out in the budget, not just for my portfolio but right across the different parts of the Government. In my portfolio, the bulk will be for dealing with employability issues. We had anticipated that we would be hit with the consequences of unemployment in the third quarter of 2020. You will remember that furlough was going to drop off—there were so many different cut-off dates—but it has been extended until the end of April, as it probably should have been from the start. Therefore, we do not anticipate high levels of unemployment until the second to third quarter of this year, which is why we need to ensure that there is funding to provide support in that regard. The young persons guarantee, the national transition training fund and employability will therefore account for the bulk of that funding.

In discussions with the finance secretary, I have managed to secure £22 million for culture, £2 million of which is for our culture collections, which are facing known pressures because of a lack of income. The bulk of that support—£20 million—will be for Historic Environment Scotland. I talked about the dramatic loss of income; we wanted to support Historic Environment Scotland, which has extensive staffing responsibilities—it has employees throughout Scotland. In the budget, you will see a line that shows an anticipated £41 million for Historic Environment Scotland; actually it is only £21 million, and the additional income will come from the consequentials that we have earmarked. That is so that we can try to keep the agency on as even a keel as possible. It has managed to reduce its expenditure by £8 million and we are trying to bridge the gap. I have also had to use £13 million from elsewhere in my portfolio to bridge the gap for next year, to try to keep Historic Environment Scotland on an even keel.

You asked what will happen next. I have tried to put as much into events as I can. We are working with the advisory group on what opening up might look like, but obviously people cannot plan yet and a lot of events will come further down the line. Indeed, even if events could operate legally, the question is whether they would survive financially—their viability is questionable. If we lose the supply chain for events companies, the capacity even to put on events will become a challenge. The most recent funding will try to bridge into the start of next year, to help people, certainly in the early part of the year.

We have not heard anything more about what the UK Government will do about consequentials in a variety of areas, including culture and events. If you are asking about the autumn and beyond, the answer is that we will have to wait and see. As I said in my opening remarks, we need clarity from the UK Government about the consequentials. Remember that we are all looking at the Scottish Government budget without knowing what will be in the UK Government budget. However, we have enough certainty to be able to do some planning.

Claire Baker

I welcome the support for events and for Historic Environment Scotland; they have lost significant income. I think that you recognised that the support that was put in for this year will end at the end of the financial year, which is the end of March. When we reach April, the additional support packages that were in place to get the sector through the crisis will come to an end.

I accept your point about the need to wait for UK Government announcements on consequentials, but in the meantime, how are you identifying pressure points? The Scottish Contemporary Arts Network gave evidence to the committee a couple of weeks ago and our witness told us that many SCAN members have managed to get through this year for various reasons, but the pinch point for the sector will come in March or April. There is a feeling that things will get difficult and people will become more vulnerable when we get into April, and there is huge uncertainty about the financial support that will be available in the next financial year. I accept that it is difficult for you to plan, but are you mapping out where support is needed and what kind of support you will need to provide?

Fiona Hyslop

If you look at the freelancers and obviously many of the—[Interruption.]

I do not know whether you can still hear me, convener, but I am having difficulties hearing Claire. Claire, can you still hear me okay?

Claire Baker

I can, cabinet secretary, yes.

The Convener

I can hear you fine, cabinet secretary.

09:15  

Fiona Hyslop

That is good. Sorry—I am just getting a bit anxious after the connectivity issues. Many of the SCAN members, for example, will be freelance artists, who will be able to apply to the next round of the fund that I have just announced, because, in effect, this is probably the third round of our freelancers fund.

The timing of it is deliberately as I have set out because the last round of the freelancers fund has just finished—it closed on 1 February. I am therefore hoping that this funding will be able to be distributed in March, which would again provide that bridge that you are talking about. Similarly, with the second round of the—

Claire Baker

Sorry to interrupt, it is just that the SCAN members raised the position of the galleries of the contemporary art sector, particularly—[Inaudible.]

Fiona Hyslop

I will take that point away and speak to Creative Scotland. It will no doubt have been liaising with them—some of them will be RFOs; some of them might not be. As part of its funding, Creative Scotland also has an open fund to help different projects.

I started to give an example of the second round of the grassroots music venues stabilisation fund. Again, that was set up to help. It set some alarm bells ringing because we had agreed with the grass-roots venues fund and the Music Venue Trust that the fund would help venues through to June and people were making assumptions about the route map. It was just recognising that we are unlikely to get back until that period. I have tried, where possible, to use the consequentials to help to provide a bridge into next year.

I will certainly be happy to look at the studio situation that you raise in particular. I have seen correspondence from them on that but, as the convener said, a lot of our focus has been on the artists. However, there are fixed costs and if you are retail and you are closed, that is another issue. Studios have been allowed to open for work because we know the importance of being able to work to the wellbeing of artists. That is one of the reasons why studios were able to work, even in the higher levels. However, from a commercial point of view, if you are closed because you are retail, you can then apply to the regular business funds because you are legally required, as a retail outlet, to be closed. However, I am happy to look at the SCAN issues a bit further.

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

Claire Baker has covered some of the areas that I intended to cover. On the back of that, where are there still funding gaps, either in the sector or for individuals in the sector? What areas of concern have you identified or have been identified to you? Also, how much of the funding that has come into your budget streams and your areas of responsibility has already gone out and been allocated to those individuals and organisations that need it?

Fiona Hyslop

The vast majority of the funding has been paid out. Obviously, what I have just announced today has not, for the reasons that we have just set out, because we have just closed our freelancers fund. We are actually in the middle of events funding. I hope that I will be able to top that up, because I expect that there will be more demand. That relates to your first point, about where I see the pressures. I think that they will be around events and festivals, because the numbers that they need to be able to reopen are obviously challenging during a pandemic; that is my concern.

One thing that is really important—I have raised it with Oliver Dowden and I am supporting the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in its calls to the UK Treasury on this—is to have some kind of underwriting system, because some events will be able to take place, potentially behind closed doors. They might get some support—for example, they could get filming income from television and some of them could hold events with a little bit of subsidy in the early part of the summer, if we can do that legally with a revision of the strategic framework. I have asked for some kind of underwriting to support that and we are trying to work with DCMS to get the UK Government to agree. It has done a similar kind of underwriting for film and television, and that has helped to ensure that activity can take place.

I was recently in correspondence with the chief executive officer of STV, who said that that has been very helpful to them in their planning. There is a big initial outlay for events and for film and television. We want to have sufficient confidence that events can go ahead. Germany has developed insurance for events for the second half of this year, and that is the sort of scheme that we have brought to the UK Government’s attention. We would not be able to do that within our competency—that would be required from the UK Government.

You asked me where the stresses are and where the support might need to be. There could be monetisation of festivals through digital technology, but the issue is the extent to which that could cover what they need—it is a challenge. Frankly, that is the challenge for events, and that matters, because such events are disproportionately important to Scotland. We are looking at travel between different areas of Scotland as well as from England, as a market, and from Ireland, because of the common travel area, and that will depend on discussions about whether there will be hard quarantines across different areas because of virus variants. We are looking at what that means for the summer market for events. I do not have all the answers, but we are considering that.

I apologise if you are hearing beeps—that might have been my son getting his breakfast. I am sorry. We are home schooling, and you cannot do your school work on an empty stomach.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

I will certainly not comment on that.

There are some extremely important festivals and events in cities, but festivals and events are also vital for rural areas. If that support is reliant on the UK Government, it would be useful to be kept updated on those developments.

Looking to the future, the lack of clarity about funding and regulation—when businesses can open and what is required of them—is one of the issues that the tourism sector has faced. How can the cabinet secretary ensure that organisations in the cultural sector that come under her portfolio are supported in future, including with the additional costs of reopening, and kept informed about when they will be able to open and what they need to do in order to open? There is a great deal of frustration in the tourism sector, and in business in general, about the fact that businesses have made huge investments in making themselves, as they see it, Covid safe, and then restrictions come in—which we all recognise are needed in many cases—and all that money is completely gone because they have been forced to close, when they feel that they have done the groundwork to make themselves safe. How can you address those points?

Fiona Hyslop

Those are important points. The underwriting issue relates to major events, not smaller events. EventScotland is running a scheme with small grants for small festivals to give them some resilience. I will ensure that EventScotland shares that with you. Looking forward and trying to provide insight into what might be possible in future, we have been working closely with public health. Public health officials have been working with the events industry advisory group, which I helped to establish in October, to work out what will be possible. Major events in particular are heavily regulated with regard to security and what they do. Obviously, the issue for events in a pandemic is that people would be coming together. We are not at the point of being able to have the volume of people that you need to make events function, but we need to anticipate what will be required. We are working closely with them to share information and to think about what events are coming up and what we can anticipate.

There will be windows of time during which people need to decide whether they go ahead, precisely for the reasons that you gave. On the local level, for example, the Linlithgow marches, which is the most important festival in our town, takes place in June, and the organisers have taken the decision this week that it will not be able to go ahead, because they had to make an early decision. That is extremely disappointing for everybody. I know that people in the town understand that, but, for those events that can operate in a regulated way, which many major events do, we need to ensure that we can work with them and find a route forward. However, as of today, I cannot say when that might be, which is difficult, because we are coming close to D days for decisions on whether to plan and go ahead.

That is probably one of the most frustrating things, because we need a bit of hope as well, and festivals, whether big or small, can bring that. I do not know whether committee members managed to catch any of “Celtic Connections”, which sold 27,000 tickets online, reached audiences in 60 different countries and brought a bit of joy and brightness in January. There is nothing quite like “live”, however, which is what we have to try to get back to.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

Events are one thing, and they tend to be one-off or annual events, but museums, galleries and theatres in the sector do not know yet when they will be able to open. Obviously, you cannot say that—none of us knows exactly when things will get back to being relatively normal—but what clarity can they get from you about funding and support? Obviously, that is vital; as you highlighted, they have bills to pay, maintenance to do and so on.

Fiona Hyslop

Some funding that perhaps has not had the highest profile has been done through Museum Galleries Scotland to help independent museums and galleries. Again, as we have seen with the outlay of other funds, Museum Galleries Scotland has been able to top that up at different points. Some of it is for additional aspects and some of it is to ensure that, when they reopen, they can do so in a way that is as Covid secure as it can be. We should remember that a lot of museums and galleries were able to open for a period last summer.

Museum Galleries Scotland was also helpful in sharing advice with the sector and I pay tribute to it for playing a good role as an advice conduit for different areas. Obviously, though, the issue is about how places reopen. It is not just about the economy—although the creative sector is part of our economy—it is also about wellbeing. The question is, what will we do differently in opening up after lockdown this time? We have a good consciousness of the need for people to enjoy culture and recreation and to go to places where there might be a bit of solitude—if we can make sure that it is done in a safe way—and also solace in the beauty of art. We have to get back to that somehow.

Jamie Halcro Johnston

Thank you.

Ross Greer (West Scotland) (Green)

Good morning, cabinet secretary. I have a couple of questions about support for the screen sector, starting with the independent cinema fund from last year. That was a rapidly deployed fund in that it was announced in September, decisions were made by the end of October and, I believe, the funding was issued shortly after that.

The production sector appears to need less Covid-specific support now than it did a couple of months ago, because a lot of productions are back up and running. We do not know when cinemas will be able to reopen but, even if they are allowed to reopen, there is a question about the financial viability of doing so, given that a lot of the major releases that make them financially viable are being delayed until the autumn and even into the winter. I have a couple of questions to wrap into one. Can you, in the first instance, confirm what the uptake of the cinema resilience fund was like? Did demand outstrip what was budgeted for? In addition, what are the long-term intentions for support for cinema? That was a one-off intervention in October, but it might not be financially viable for many independent cinemas in Scotland to reopen until as far ahead as October.

Fiona Hyslop

The vast majority of the independent cinema recovery resilience fund was paid out in awards of over £150,000 and it was paid in instalments to spread it out. It was particularly to help what has been a good development in Scotland. For example, you will have seen the revitalisation of the independent cinemas in Campbeltown and Aberfeldy and so on. The awards were not for the big city centre cinemas.

As I recall, the independent cinemas were able to reopen—I will correct this if I am wrong—in level 2 areas. Given their fixed costs, I suppose that the question is whether they will be able to continue. We think that the support that we have provided has been pretty generous, so it can help them through the next period. However, a lot of what happens will depend on cinemas opening up, and I cannot sit here and say what that will look like. As Ross Greer said, the production sector has been a bit more resilient, and we have managed to have it opened up and carefully controlled in accordance with the regulations.

09:30  

I have been involved in establishing the principle of workplace guidance for every single sector across the country. That includes events and culture, and—importantly—film and TV; I have been working with the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union and looking at the UK guidance to ensure that those activities can take place. However, the issue is how we can get, and work with, audiences. I would love to be able to say what will happen and when, and when businesses will be able to be profitable again. I know that we are keeping a close eye on that.

I do not have a figure to hand for the number of cinemas that have been supported, unless one of my colleagues online can supply it. By and large, those were community and independent cinemas in towns.

I am not sure that I have covered everything. If I have not, I will try to follow up any remaining points with Ross Greer.

Ross Greer

That is useful. I appreciate that I asked for specific numbers that might not immediately be to hand. If any of the officials happens to have those figures, they can indicate that in the chat box, and I am sure that the convener will bring them in. Otherwise, it would be great if you could follow that up in writing, cabinet secretary.

Fiona Hyslop

Yes.

Ross Greer

My second question is on the skills agenda. The submission from Creative Scotland mentions that Screen Scotland will be launching a new skills strategy in April. Skills Development Scotland’s budget has gone up marginally in the draft budget, from £225 million to £230 million, and Screen Scotland’s funding is stable, which is very positive.

You will be aware that the committee has a long-standing interest in the memorandum of understanding regarding Screen Scotland and its relationship with the other agencies that are involved in supporting the sector. As we have heard, a lot of progress has been made on studio capacity. With the shift to a focus on skills, there will be intense demand for Skills Development Scotland’s funding as we rebuild every sector of our economy. What role will you play in ensuring that there is adequate funding, through SDS, for what sounds like a very ambitious skills agenda from Screen Scotland?

Fiona Hyslop

I have always had an interest in how we ensure that there is a pipeline of activity and a focus on skills in the creative industries.

To go back to the convener’s first remarks, the pandemic has helped people to have closer relationships and partnerships, and there is evidence of that in this area. One of the bright spots in the very gloomy outlook has been the increased activity in screen and TV. A lot of people are watching more on screen, and there is a high demand for that output. There has been an expansion of studio space—we now have the Bath Street studio and the investment in the Kelvin hall, and there is more regular activity in the Pyramids, which is in my constituency. There is an increasing demand for skills, and that has to be met. We need a pipeline there, because the creative industries are one of the three sectors that might be able to resist the joint impacts of Brexit and Covid.

The other benefit has been that, as I am also economy secretary, I have some influence in that respect as well. The creative industries have always faced a challenge in ensuring that they get a seat at the table in terms of the wider economic recovery. I assure the committee that, in my joint role as cabinet secretary for both the economy and culture, I have been pursuing that issue. There is typically a lot of active interest in Edinburgh, for example in developing skills—at Edinburgh College, for instance—but it should not be only about the cities. We always did quite a lot in that regard in the creative industries, but we need to do more within that.

As Ross Greer is probably aware, the “Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan 2020-2025” was recently developed. The creative industries will be part of our series of publications on how we plan jobs for the future, but a lot of things are already happening now. That is one of the positive aspects of what has happened. That work will not be published until April, as there is a bit more to do in that regard. Nevertheless, that is a good area on which to focus. If the committee is planning for what its successor committee might want to look at, skills in the creative sector would be a strong area to consider. There are more jobs and opportunities there, but we need to ensure that people can transfer to the creative sector, and that young people in particular see that there are genuine career opportunities there.

The Convener

David Seers has indicated that he wants to comment.

David Seers (Scottish Government)

Good morning. In response to Mr Greer’s request for figures on the cinema funding, I note that a total of 30 independent cinemas and two touring cinema operators were awarded funding. Between them, they have 103 cinema screens across Scotland, which represents about 28 per cent of the total number of screens.

Ross Greer

Do you have to hand the total amount that was awarded? I think that £3.5 million was allocated in the budget. Did the awards use up the full budget?

David Seers

Yes—they used up the full allocation.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

Good morning. Alex McGowan of the Citizens Theatre has said that it will take quite some time for audiences to have the confidence to return to venues, galleries and museums. I have no doubt that it will be the same for music venues, and I note that Ross Greer has just asked about cinemas. One of the reasons for that will be the impact of social distancing on our theatres, cinemas and so on.

What kind of long-term support will the Scottish Government consider providing for venues? I have a concern that if, as Nick Stewart has said, social distancing means that a venue whose usual capacity is 100 can take only 12 people, there will be a tendency for prices to be increased significantly. If a venue can get only 12 people through the door instead of 100, it will not be able to charge eight times more in order to get the usual revenue, but it will try to increase its prices somewhat. There is an issue about people being priced out of attending venues that they may have attended before the pandemic. What is the Scottish Government’s thinking about addressing that issue in the long term?

Fiona Hyslop

To give some context, I note that some people who usually run activities indoors will look to run them outdoors. Summer festivals are an example of that. It has been reported that the fringe and the Edinburgh international festival may do more things outside.

I think that Kenneth Gibson’s question is about the viability of venues. We moved swiftly on that in our response to Covid last year, but a lot of it comes down to the nature of spaces and the transmissibility of the virus. In recent weeks, we have had a variant of the virus that we know is much more transmissible, and we have to think about the future effects of that. We are getting more information about the virus and about whether the vaccines can reduce transmission, hospitalisation and so on.

You cannot ask me, as a non-clinician, to forecast what will happen. However, we have looked at what could be possible when things are opened up again. Previously, we looked at the levels and at four categories—outdoors seated, outdoors standing, indoors seated and indoors standing—recognising that there are different health risks in each case. You should remember that, when the Highlands were at level 1, the Ironworks venue had concerts with audiences of 100.

I cannot write a blank cheque and say that we will subsidise all venues during 2021-22 when we do not have any additional funding and we do not know what additional consequentials might come to the culture and events sector. However, you should bear in mind how I have behaved previously as culture secretary and the way in which I have prioritised venues. I get it. I cannot give you a complete answer, but what you have talked about is exactly what I am spending my time doing.

I am talking to different events and venues about how we can do things better. One approach is to consider the ratio of space, which is what Northern Ireland does for weddings, for example. That might be a possibility. The cap for a venue in level 1 was 100 but, as I said, the Ironworks had concerts with audiences of that size when the Highlands were at level 1.

Kenneth Gibson

My question is about how long-term planning is being done. You emphasised the fact that we have a more transmissible variant, so it is clear that we will not soon return to what happened previously. The situation will continue for some time and there could be more variants. I am not convinced that outdoor events would be particularly great in Scotland. I went to an outdoor performance of “La Bohème” and bits of me were dropping off after a few minutes, despite umpteen layers of clothing. I am not convinced that that will be much of an answer.

With all the funding caveats that you have mentioned, how can we secure the future of our venues and the people who work in them over a longer period of time? What is the Scottish Government’s strategic thinking on that? I realise that you will have to do a bit of bobbing and weaving, given that you do not know about consequentials, new variants and so on, but are any solid foundations going in that will enable you to say, “We want to make sure that by this time next year we will still have X number of venues operating in Scotland.” How can we ensure that, regardless of whether there are more variants or whatever else happens? Does the Scottish Government have a kind of bedrock position on venues? We do not want to end up with them closing permanently later in the year or early next year because of the lack of consequentials or whatever.

Fiona Hyslop

Judge us by what we have done and what we will be able to do. I am not saying that there is no risk to any venue. We have worked hard and managed not only to secure venues but to stop redundancies at venues to keep things moving. A reasonable way forward would be a recognition that furlough could usefully be extended further into 2021, as other countries have done. Businesses and organisations do not want to be closed; they want to be open. Furlough is not a disincentive to reopening, so I would encourage the UK Government to extend it, particularly in the tourism, leisure and entertainment sectors, where there is, as Kenny Gibson identified, a longer tail—certainly back to profitability.

The budget before you proposes rates relief for retail, leisure and hospitality. That could be extended through the year. If we can support employees’ wages and the fixed costs, that takes away some of the pressure. Then the funding gap is about the difference in viability. A lot of venues are commercial organisations, but many are charities. One challenge, which is the same for both the charitable theatre in your constituency and a commercial music venue down the road from it, is whether they would be viable if there was the capability to subsidise them. Currently, I cannot point to somewhere in the budget that would provide the subsidy for those areas, but it is an area that I would like to prioritise.

There is a way of knitting together support to ensure that venues survive. However, given what we have gone through in the past year, it is quite remarkable that we have managed to save venues—not just large institutions but small grass-roots music venues. The Music Venue Trust says that the funding that we have provided, working with it, will be helpful until June, so that is some bridge into next year.

Kenneth Gibson

You have done a fantastic job—£104 million in 7,377 awards is not to be sniffed at. I congratulate you and your officials on the hard work that has been done on that. It is not all gloom and doom. For example, the supernatural thriller series “The Rig”, which will be filmed in Leith, is an investment of £11 million or £12 million, and the Kelvin hall is being redeveloped, too. We have to emphasise the positive developments. You will appreciate that the committee is trying to see how we can get more from the cultural sector.

One last area is the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is talking about a gap of between £25 million and £29 million. I know that a lot of work has been done to bridge that gap, but what more can be done to support that sector in the year ahead?

Fiona Hyslop

I am not familiar with that. You have talked about a gap. I think that the lottery is doing okay when it comes to income. Were you talking about the collapse in income for heritage organisations?

09:45  

Kenneth Gibson

Yes—the gap between their reduced income and what they need to spend money on, I suppose. The heritage fund has estimated that that is between £25 million and £29 million, at the moment. My question was about how we can ensure that the money that would come from the lottery can to a degree be supported by the Scottish Government.

Fiona Hyslop

We do not anticipate reductions in lottery income. In fact, if anything, we think that the trend might be one of improvement because, in the circumstances that people are facing, they may want more opportunity to win the lottery.

However, I think that the challenge that the lottery is addressing is what Kenneth Gibson is talking about. We understand that, and that is why some of the funding that I have provided in the past has helped in that context. We have had £3.8 million for protecting jobs and to reopen properties—for example, the world heritage site at New Lanark. Just in the past few weeks, in addition to working with the heritage fund, Historic Environment Scotland has announced funding to help different organisations in the heritage space. For example, the Queen’s hall in Edinburgh is being supported substantially to improve circulation in the building, which is a challenge.

In many ways, it is a standstill budget; the biggest movement in it is to support Historic Environment Scotland, whose grant fund I want to be able to continue to support. That is a challenge. I have managed to keep £6 million of capital in the budget for Historic Environment Scotland. That is a fairly recent development. It will help to bridge the gap for investments in towns and villages in which work is carried out on buildings—that is also about jobs in different areas. By closing that income gap for Historic Environment Scotland, I have managed to keep our anchor body—as a non-departmental public body, it is in the lead—in funds and able to help other organisations to keep their funding. It funds not just itself but other organisations. That stability is part of things.

It is about lack of income. A lot of places get an income stream from people visiting palaces, castles and so on. Nobody, whether in business or in culture, is having that lost income replaced. That cannot happen. It is about survivability, and what is enough to keep people going. That area has probably not had as much attention during the pandemic as the heritage side of things, but Kenneth Gibson is right to raise it, as it is the life-blood of many communities and towns and of the tourism offer. I hope that a lot of places can be visited without going indoors.

I will look further at what the heritage fund says about shortfall, but I think that we are making that up in Scotland in different ways, for example by maintaining and not reducing the budget of Historic Environment Scotland.

Kenneth Gibson

The collapse of international tourism has not helped. Thanks very much, cabinet secretary.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I have only one fairly brief question, and it is on support for community-based organisations. There has been a fair bit of questioning on the subject, but I want to stretch it just a little. I am interested in how the Scottish Government is working with local government, as many organisations are supported through local government or jointly with national Government institutions. How is that being managed to make sure that as many—[Inaudible.]—able to sustain themselves through to a point at which some sort of new normality is achieved?

Fiona Hyslop

The committee will be aware of the extensive support for local government to support a variety of areas. A lot of it is community based. Aberdeen Performing Arts—which is not local; I would say that it is a national institution in terms of its range and level of activity—got funding from the Scottish Government’s culture support for the performing arts, and it got additional funding on account of its being a major institution. It also got community funding from the local government support fund, as did more local organisations.

A lot of the support for culture has come not just from me but from the third sector resilience fund, which lends to communities as well. I referred to the EventScotland fund. Its payments are smaller—some are £1,500—but, if you are a small festival or organisation, that is what you need to meet your fixed costs and get through to the next year. That additional funding is available from EventScotland.

You will know that the West Lothian Highland Games is an example of a local community organisation. I do not make funding decisions, as you will appreciate, but that is the sort of level at which we are encouraging people to get funding to continue.

The other thing to do with local government that the committee might be interested in is that there has been a lot of concern about arms’-length external organisations. Your predecessor committee looked at the pros and cons of ALEOs. They are meant to be private but, when they have a collapse in income, they go to the public sector for funding. That is a real issue that I raised with the committee several years ago. There are pros and cons with ALEOs: they might get rates relief and other types of relief, but the public sector will still end up being the first port of call for support.

In her statement, Kate Forbes announced even further funding for local government for ALEOs. They call it the lost income scheme, but I do not like that phrase, because it is about survival now. Across the sector, nobody is getting lost income replaced, but that is what the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the sector have been calling that ALEO support. It is support for things such as community galleries and other cultural bodies that are in ALEOs. Additional funding is being provided for that. It will end up being something like £249 million to help local government with their ALEOs, a lot of which are in culture and in local communities.

I hope that that answers some of those points.

Dean Lockhart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con)

Good morning, cabinet secretary, and thanks for joining us. I want to get your views on local newspapers. The committee has taken evidence on the impact of the pandemic on local newspapers, a number of which are clearly struggling to survive during this very difficult time. I want to get your views on whether the Scottish Government will reconsider its position on rates relief for local newspaper offices and extend it beyond 31 March, as has been done for other sectors, especially in the light of yesterday’s vote on the matter in Parliament.

Fiona Hyslop

The newspaper sector is very important, and I have discussed its importance previously with the committee. I am particularly interested in public interest journalism generally—not just at the national level, but at the local level. You might have read the Cairncross report, which is an important contribution. I met Professor Frances Cairncross to discuss it some years ago. Some of the suggestions around public interest journalism support would require discussion with the United Kingdom Government. I have met a number of the UK Government’s secretaries of state for culture—I have lost track of them, because some of those meetings were some time back—to encourage them to set up some of the institutions that have been talked about. Those would be independent institutions to support public interest journalism, which is not just in print media—the issue is about the future of the media generally.

There must be a healthy relationship and distance between Government and journalism, particularly in a democracy. I feel strongly about that, which is why I established, some time ago, a public interest journalism working group to look at those issues. We have to face up to the reality that people consume their media in different ways. However, we need accountability.

One concern that Frances Cairncross had was about how to scrutinise not just decisions of national Government but local decision making and the importance of local newspapers. Back in the summer, when the newspaper industry approached us with its concerns, the suggestion, which was taken up, was that we provide advertising in relation to Covid over and above what we were planning to do. Basically, that was a subsidy to support the sector because of its collapsed income from other areas. At the time, I had thought, not inappropriately, that the focus should be on supporting journalists and journalism, but there was greater interest in support for the companies and the organisations in other ways.

Rates relief would be a smaller amount than the advertising support that was provided. In the vote in Parliament yesterday, the Government supported the principle. However, I am not in control of the budget and how things are carried out—that is for the Cabinet Secretary for Finance. Obviously, I will ensure that she is aware of the member’s interest in the issue. We absolutely want to support local newspapers, but there is a question about whether we do it just through rates relief or in other ways.

There is a wider debate about the future of journalism. The advertising support that we provided was substantial and helped to bridge that difficult period. The support from the Scottish Government kept many local newspapers going through that very difficult period. Obviously, the issue of rates relief is a live one. It is a budget issue, so it currently lies with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

Dean Lockhart

I would appreciate it if you could take that up with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance. My understanding is that the extension of rates relief might cost in the region of £1 million, but, as you know, every single measure helps at the moment.

I will move on to my next question, although you might not have an answer to it. What is the latest expectation on whether fans will be able to attend the Euro finals in the summer? How is the Scottish Government planning for that? Obviously, that is an important issue. The finals are some way off, and I appreciate that you might not have a direct answer, but what considerations are involved and what planning is the Scottish Government doing on that?

Fiona Hyslop

Clearly, the issue is also one for UEFA and our planning partners, of which the—[Inaudible.]—important, as are the police. Do we want to have the fans, or some fans, at the Euros? Yes. Do we know now whether that is possible? No. However, we will soon come to a point at which that has to be worked out, given the logistics involved. Because it is an international tournament, a lot of discussions have to take place. There is hope, but I will temper that with a sense of reality. There is a general understanding that we might be a bit slower coming out of the current situation, despite the fantastic news about 1 million vaccinations being achieved yesterday.

Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP)

On the good news side, the great tapestry building is almost complete, and I see that some small businesses will—I hope, once we get through the current situation—be opening to sell various crafts. We have an anchor business in the centre of Galashiels.

On that theme, I want to move on to the common ridings that happen across my constituency, including in Peebles, Galashiels and Penicuik, to name but three. Those are important not only for local history but for the local economy. People travel from abroad to return for the events. There is everything that goes on to do with the horses, such as stabling, blacksmiths and horse-riding lessons, and bed and breakfasts and hotels get business during the common ridings. Maybe I have missed it, but I do not know whether there has been any support to enable the voluntary organisations to continue to tick over and support all the other things that are connected to them, such as the stables, which still have the cost of keeping animals but have no revenue coming in, because we have lost all of that.

10:00  

Fiona Hyslop

As I have said in answers to other members, EventScotland had a fund for small voluntary organisations, to keep them ticking over and to meet fixed costs, although it was not a huge amount of money. I am not sure whether that fund is still live or closed, so I will get EventScotland to provide that information. Depending on the size of the organisations, they might have been able to apply for the culture organisations and venues recovery fund, which was launched in the summer. I do not know though, as I am not familiar with that issue.

Going back to the question from Jamie Halcro Johnston about what I worry most about, it is events and the support that is needed to make them viable, because there is a point at which organisations have to make a decision. In my home town, as I have already mentioned, the Linlithgow marches had to make a decision. That event is similar to the ridings in that people come from all over the world for it. There are a couple of carriages, but people do not ride on horses, unlike in the Borders ridings, which probably take place over a longer period of time, as Christine Grahame said that people travel over a number of days from different places internationally. I encourage those organisations to talk to EventScotland if they have not already done so.

The possibility of those events taking place will depend on their management and how they operate. Although they take place outdoors and might be more spaced out, there are a lot of crowds involved, which is another issue, especially for a voluntary organisation, because the professional events management companies can manage risk in a way that is different from people being on the streets as part of a community response. I am happy to ask EventScotland to look into that area to see what is possible, because I am not familiar with the timing or the dates of those events. With regard to what will be possible and when, that will tie in with the roll-out of the strategic framework.

Christine Grahame

The first one is in Penicuik in May, and the events go through till about September. My concern is that, apart from that, it is very unpleasant not to have those events taking place. They are very important for the community, because all the little businesses round about depend on those events bringing them revenue during the year.

In particular, there is the issue of the horses. Hundreds of horses are used in the Gala riding. They have to be stabled over winter, but the stables will have no income coming in, because all the lessons and the bookings that were going to be taken across the south of Scotland will not be taking place. Is there some way of supporting those businesses? Their business is restricted because those events are not taking place.

Fiona Hyslop

There are a number of issues there. Is Covid cruel? Yes, on a very personal basis for many families. It has caused much hardship and distress, and people are grieving. However, there is also an impact on business.

It is hard to quantify what we can do to support business when we do not know about the roll-out. Christine Grahame makes a very important point: events are not just a one-off entertainment; they can be the lifeblood of local places and organisations, which is why we have provided an increase in the discretionary fund for local councils. The discretionary fund was intended to help those who do not have designated funding—for example, there is no national common ridings fund. The discretionary fund has now been increased to £120 million for councils, which will allow them to work out the key companies and organisations in the area that require to be supported.

Scottish Borders Council will be sitting with a substantial increase in its discretionary fund, and I would have thought that the common ridings would be considered discrete or special to the Borders; therefore, that might be a route forward for companies that are suppliers to, or that are otherwise involved in, them. However, I cannot speak for local authorities. My point is that I do not decide such matters; the councils do, which is why the funding is discretionary. Nevertheless, that might be the best route forward if I am to help Ms Grahame with her constituency case.

It is great to hear about the new location for the great tapestry of Scotland. The member will know that I have been instrumental in helping to establish that and in securing the funding for it. Because of the pandemic, I have not yet been able to visit the building, but I am very much looking forward to seeing it when it is open. It will be an anchor site that will help to bring people into the area.

Christine Grahame

I will send you a photograph—it is right next to my office.

Fiona Hyslop

Please do.

The Convener

Before we move on to questions from Beatrice Wishart, since you have raised the issue of discretionary funding, cabinet secretary, I would like to make a point about that. What does one do if a council has not brought such funding forward? For example, I believe that discretionary funding through a council in my area will be going live next week, but we have been telling organisations since November that such funding is there for people who have fallen through the gaps. What can you do to force councils to distribute it? You have given them the money, but what have they been doing with it if they have not brought it forward?

Fiona Hyslop

I will try to respond as factually as I can. There was an issue when the funding was provided in that councils could not agree among themselves on its distribution. Councils in level 4 areas thought that they should get more discretionary funding than those in level 3 areas. You will understand where we were with the pandemic back in November. However, we are now all in level 4, so that is clearly a moot point.

Such funding previously involved much smaller amounts. As you will remember, one of the challenges that we have had—I raised it in a quad call with the UK Government earlier—is that, although additional funding through consequentials is welcome, when we keep receiving that funding incrementally and periodically it is difficult to plan ahead.

At that time, the fund was much smaller and was really intended to help companies that could not be dealt with through national funds or by the framework. As we moved forward, the big challenge that we had was in helping companies that were not legally required to close but whose income had collapsed because of such closures. Then, increased funding was provided and, as you might be aware, a whole load of schemes were established. The taxi drivers scheme could have been funded out of the original funding, but it would have eaten it all up, so it was established when additional funding was provided through consequentials. A whole variety of schemes have been established and are now live. In January, almost £250 million went out of the door for businesses.

To be fair to councils, I think that they first wanted to understand what other schemes might be established so that they would not be duplicating those. Democracy also comes into it. Councils are independent of the Government, and some of them did not want to open up such schemes until they had had their regular full council meetings, but the cycle for those can be quite long.

I am just setting out the facts as to why that situation might have happened. The smart councils got ahead and got the money out as quickly as they could, because they know which are the key businesses in their areas. However, the whole point of their having discretionary funding is that the Government does not tell them what to do and that they should decide that for themselves. I am trying to be as fair as I can be in explaining why I think it has taken some councils so long to distribute the funding.

The Convener

Thank you very much. I apologise to Beatrice Wishart for butting in there.

Beatrice Wishart (Shetland Islands) (LD)

Good morning—[Inaudible.]—with Christine Grahame’s earlier theme of community spirit, I observe that, this year, Shetland is very much missing its fire festival season and seeing the fiery galleys in the middle of such a bleak winter.

I want to ask about wellbeing and mental health, particularly of children and young people, and about their access to music. You have indicated that we will have a standstill budget. Can you tell us what the thinking was behind the funding position of the youth music initiative?

Fiona Hyslop

I have championed the youth music initiative throughout my time as culture secretary. It has been successful and has helped to increase the demand for music—particularly instrumental music—in schools.

You may have heard me say this before, but, when I first became an MSP, the only pupils in school orchestras were those who were taking qualifications such as higher music. Shetland has always had a culture of taking up music. We now see people across Scotland playing in orchestras or bands without taking music qualifications—and the proportion who are taking those qualifications is far higher in Scotland than in the UK. However, that has been detrimentally impacted by the decision of some councils to charge for instrumental tuition. That is a backward step, and I see its effects in my local area.

During the pandemic, there has been a change in how music teaching is delivered. It has been frustrating for people not to be able to play together, and there has been a move to online delivery. I have seen that with Sistema Scotland, and I recently spoke to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland about its music education partnership group. It will stand us in good stead to have individual tuition that can take place virtually if that is required. I want that to continue.

There is scope to develop the successful YMI in other arts forums. Most of the Government help is for primary schools, but we have also managed to support outside organisations. Another good development has been the youth arts partnership, which has received funding this year from consequentials. That will enable work with schools to support the wellbeing aspect of the arts.

The pandemic has made us aware of the power of listening to and playing music, and we must support school music as pupils return to school. I appreciate the committee’s support for the youth music initiative. I have tried to resist the pressure to reduce that budget.

I am not sure whether I have fully addressed your question. Let me know if I have not done so.

Beatrice Wishart

I was just looking for support. I believe that music should be open to everyone, but it can sometimes be an easy thing to knock out of a budget.

You mentioned the Royal Conservatoire. Hundreds of graduates from there and from other arts institutions have been trained to provide technical support for performances. Lockdown restrictions have hit them hard. What has the Government done to find out how many of them have been able to begin careers in the culture sector this year? Is there a risk that they will turn their backs on culture to begin careers elsewhere? The same question could be asked about Glasgow School of Art, where students missed out on their graduation exhibition. How many such graduates have had job offers? If we have lost people from that sector, how will that affect the culture budget in the long term?

Fiona Hyslop

I do not have that information. It might be easier to find that out from Richard Lochhead, who is the minister responsible for further and higher education. You could liaise with him about that.

The young person’s guarantee, which is another part of my area of responsibility, is not only for 16 and 17-year-olds who are leaving school; it is also for those who are older. We know that recent graduates will face challenges, and that is also why opportunities for tuition are important. Music graduates from the RCS may have a career in music or may want to play in a band. That links back to the subject of venues, performances and festivals. Graduates can also supplement their income by tutoring individuals.

The youth music initiative is important not just for young people; it provides a supply of jobs for music instructors, too. I have regular conversations with representatives of the Royal Conservatoire, and I will speak to them about it. At recent meetings, they have discussed wellbeing and how they have been supporting their students, but there is an issue around recent graduates, and not just in the year gone by—I suspect that there will be challenges for those who are graduating this year, too.

10:15  

Scotland is very well placed. We are a country with a very strong music sector, and we cannot and must not allow the pandemic to send us off course. If anything, it girds our loins a bit more to protect and maintain what is there. I am more than happy to work with the committee on this area in the future—indeed, with the future committee, whatever it might decide to do in discussion with future ministers.

Beatrice Wishart

Thank you. That was a helpful answer.

I asked the Minister for Europe and International Development a question about access for musicians who want to work in Europe. There are complicated new arrangements, border checks and additional costs. I suggested that it might be helpful if the Government produced guidance for musicians and other performers who want to navigate the new processes at home and abroad. What is your view on that?

Fiona Hyslop

That is a huge issue, and it is one of the real tragedies of Brexit—of which there are many. We had anticipated that issue. Some time ago, I set up and hosted an event at the Dovecot Studios with the culture sector, involving representatives of festivals, musicians and artists, to discuss what might happen, and we provided evidence from that to the UK Government.

People from other Administrations were involved at that point, too. We were speaking with the Arts Council of Wales and Arts Council England, and we are currently helping to provide some limited funding, working with the Welsh, in particular, to help with guidance for people coming in. It is not just about us sending people to Europe; it is also about people coming in. That help has been established, and we will try to extend that into the area that you are talking about in a collaborative way.

More immediately, I have raised the matter with the relevant ministers. We can see Britain being bypassed for goods and other things because of the trade issues, but, on the idea that we will be bypassed when it comes to our music and musicians, who cannot reach out, learn, connect or collaborate, I would emphasise that much of music is about connecting with others and about artists working with others from other countries. That is part of the lifeblood of music and what makes it so great.

I have written to the UK Government and have secured a meeting with the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration on that precise issue to ensure that he readily understands the needs of our artists and musicians in relation to their being able to tour in Europe. I hope that I will be able to report back to the committee positively, if the minister takes my advice and works hard to ensure that the UK undoes what has been a detrimental act in not securing the best negotiation for the onward travel and touring of Scottish musicians.

Beatrice Wishart

Thank you for that helpful answer.

The Convener

I am sure that the committee would be very interested in hearing any updates on that issue, which we have raised ourselves on a number of occasions.

There is one matter that I wish to ask you about before we wind up this session, cabinet secretary. In your letter to the committee, you said that the delay to the census had resulted in an increase of 18 per cent or £21.6 million in its projected costs. Can you provide more information on how the deferral has added so significantly to the costs of the project? Also, has there been any underspend at National Records of Scotland due to the delay to the census?

Fiona Hyslop

There was an underspend due to the delay. The major expense for any census is in the year leading up to the actual census, and that is why there is an increase of £21.6 million for this year. I think that the underspend last year was about £13 million, but I will correct that figure if it is not accurate.

There is expenditure for a number of items—print logistics and paper capture, and an external delivery partner—and an increase in resource for staffing costs. Staffing costs have increased because it is the year that there would be additional funding; there are also other coding issues. The headcount will be maintained for an extra year, which accounts for £6.9 million, which is a substantial amount.

I think that we wrote to you in January, convener, explaining what the increases in costs would be. A colleague from NRS is available in this meeting, if you want her to explain more about the increased costs, and we can also recirculate the funding proposals. We will save money this year, as we did last year, but it is costing more in the long run, and that will bring the lifetime costs of the programme up to £138.6 million.

The Convener

Thanks. Given the constraints on our time, I will not bring in your official. If you have anything further to share with the committee and could do so in writing, we would appreciate that.

Fiona Hyslop

The committee will, no doubt, have seen the letter that I sent to you about the increased costs in January, but we can provide an updated one, if there are any changes, or one that replicates what we sent previously.

The Convener

I do not expect you to replicate it. If there are any changes or more detail to add, I would appreciate that information.

I thank the cabinet secretary and her officials for attending and for their evidence today, which we will consider in private session later. I will suspend the meeting to allow the witnesses to leave and the panel members for the next agenda item to join us.

10:21 Meeting suspended.  

10:23 On resuming—