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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Meeting of the Parliament (Hybrid) 03 November 2020

Agenda: Time for Reflection, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Burntisland Fabrications Ltd, Fireworks, Winter Preparedness in Social Care, Arts Funding, Decision Time, Care Homes and Covid-19 (Amnesty International Report)


Contents


Arts Funding

The next item of business is a Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee debate on motion S5M-23194, in the name of John McAlpine, on arts funding. I call Joan McAlpine to speak to and move the motion on behalf of the committee.

16:49  

Excuse me, Presiding Officer, can I be heard? Hello?

Yes, you can be heard. Please carry on.

Okay—thank you.

I welcome the opportunity to debate the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s report “Putting Artists In The Picture: A Sustainable Arts Funding System For Scotland”. The committee’s report was published in December last year, but due to the impact of the pandemic, it has not been possible to debate it until today.

I thank the clerks to the committee for their hard work, the committee members, some of whom have now moved on, and all the witnesses who took the trouble to provide written and oral evidence—in particular, the freelancers who did so in their own time. I also thank Fire Station Creative in Dunfermline and Ayr College, which hosted two useful fact-finding trips, and Andrew Ormston of Drew Wylie Ltd, whom we commissioned to conduct comparative international research that helped to inform our thinking.

The culture sector has been severely affected by the pandemic, and the future is uncertain for many individuals and organisations. That is relevant to our report, even though the report was concluded last December. For example, DG Unlimited—Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of the Arts—which is based in my South Scotland region, wrote to the committee recently reflecting the views of many in saying that

“The impact of COVID-19 on the cultural and creative industries will be long-term. The principle of an ‘elastic economy’ does not apply and the sector will not bounce back overnight once the ‘new normal’ has been established.”

The committee’s inquiry was the first committee inquiry to scrutinise overall funding of the arts since the Scottish Parliament was re-established. The committee launched the inquiry with the aim of investigating how Scotland could strengthen funding of the arts. As evidence from the Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland put it,

“The budget allocated for public investment in the arts ... is proportionally far below what cultural activity’s impact is on the economy and wellbeing of the country.”

In March 2019, the committee launched a call for views that focused on two overarching themes: what a sustainable model for arts funding would look like and how that funding should be made available to artists. The scope of the call for evidence was limited to the art forms that are supported by Creative Scotland, excluding television, film and gaming, because screen had already been the subject of a substantial committee inquiry. The committee received 69 responses from a range of individual artists and organisations, and the issues that were highlighted were scrutinised in detail over seven evidence sessions. We spoke with artists at different stages of their careers, with local authority representatives and with people otherwise working in and with the arts.

Our recommendations from that extensive work covered three main areas: investment in Scotland’s artists, the current funding landscape and resetting local and national policy alignment. The deputy convener will speak later about the importance of a geographical spread of funding and alignment, and about putting the arts at the centre of policy across portfolios. However, to that end, I welcome the fact that our recommendation that the Parliament should in the next session consider legislating for a culture act, as has been done in the Republic of Ireland, is already part of the Culture Counts manifesto for next year.

I will concentrate on the recommendations that are focused on artists and creative freelancers. One of the committee’s main conclusions was that public funding of the arts must ensure that artists are paid fairly. It cannot be right that people who work in administration and management of the arts have secure salaried positions while the creative people on whose shoulders those bureaucracies are built struggle to stay afloat.

The committee recommended that Creative Scotland change how funds are allocated in order to make the processes more artist friendly. Creative Scotland should measure how much of the funding that it awards to an organisation is passed on to artists who are producing artistic work. The Scottish Government should develop a new indicator in the national performance framework to monitor the number of self-employed artists and cultural freelancers who are paid a fair wage.

Neo Productions outlined the challenges that artists face in completing applications. It stated:

“It is not easy (or fair) when you are competing against/being judged at the same level with established organisations that have paid fundraising teams to create their applications.”

The committee recommended considering incorporating peer review in the application processes; having a tiered application process to reduce the burden on applicants who are unlikely to progress to later stages; and the introduction of funding programmes that are aimed at supporting artists and arts organisations at various stages of development. We said that individual artists should never have to compete against network organisations for funding.

The committee also recommended that the Scottish Government take steps to ensure that artists and cultural freelancers are included in feasibility studies on a citizens basic income, so I welcome the inclusion of artists and cultural freelancers in the Scottish Government’s report on the feasibility of citizens basic income pilots, which was published in June this year.

Visual artist Janie Nicoll described the situation that many young people face when choosing a career in the arts. She said:

“artists at all stages of their careers are competing for the same type of funding and it feels as though the fact that some are younger or recently graduated is probably not taken into consideration.”—[Official Report, Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, 6 June 2019; c 12.]

In that regard, the committee made a recommendation that the Scottish Funding Council should ensure that artists in further and higher education be supported to build the business skills that they need in order to build a career.

There was some criticism that all funding is based on projects rather than artists’ track records. We suggested approaches such as use of bursaries and stipends, which are used in other European countries. Other possibilities include doctoral programmes, residencies, mentoring programmes and apprenticeships.

The pandemic has brought home the importance of the arts not only to the cultural economy of our society, but to our society’s wellbeing. There needs to be a cultural recovery, too. I welcome the rapid Creative Scotland and Screen Scotland responses to the pandemic, and their support for individual artists and fair work. For example, they instructed organisations that had already received funding to ensure that freelancers were paid for any cancelled events.

I also welcome the Government’s creative freelancers hardship fund, but it is very clear from the speed of responses to that fund that need is very great indeed. That point is made in the recent submission to the committee by the Scottish Contemporary Art Network—SCAN.

The pandemic has also thrown into perspective our report’s recommendations on cultural venues in the private, public and social enterprise sectors. Indeed, I argue that all the recommendations in the committee’s report are therefore now even more pertinent, and I trust that they will form the basis for consideration of how the cultural recovery can take place.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the findings set out in the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s 5th Report, 2019 (Session 5), Putting Artists In The Picture: A Sustainable Arts Funding System For Scotland (SP Paper 647), which was published on 10 December 2019.

I am sorry that Joan McAlpine could not be seen, but she was definitely heard throughout.

16:58  

I welcome the opportunity to debate the findings of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s report on arts funding, and I congratulate the committee on the broad-ranging evidence that it drew together in producing the report. I gave evidence to the committee last November, when I discussed the Scottish Government’s initial thoughts on the important topics that had been raised.

As I said when I responded formally to the committee in April in the face of the early stages of the Covid pandemic, the economic outlook that will frame our ability to plan future arts funding had already changed just a few weeks into the year. More than six months later, as we debate the committee’s report, how we will provide sustainable arts funding has no clearer short-term outlook. We face enormous economic challenges as a result of the impact of the pandemic and the continuing effect of necessary public health restrictions on the arts.

We also have the uncertainties of next year’s public expenditure decisions. The capacity for funding in the short term will not begin to become clearer until after the United Kingdom Government’s one-year spending review, later this month.

My response to the committee pointed to the Government’s culture strategy and the creation of the national partnership for culture as complementing the committee’s report in providing a strong basis for the future. The vision that the strategy sets out, of a Scotland where everyone has the opportunity to experience the transformative potential of culture, is even more relevant now than it was when it was published, shortly before the pandemic began.

Through the culture strategy, we have already established the new national partnership for culture, to keep the national culture conversation going and to provide a voice for the sector. The partnership has created a measuring change sub-group which is now developing recommendations about monitoring and evaluation of the culture strategy. That takes forward one of the committee’s recommendations.

The strategy also launched new programmes and initiatives, including an innovative creative residency pilot in schools called arts alive, which focuses on areas of multiple deprivation across Scotland.

Yesterday, I was delighted to launch the creative communities programme and to speak to one of the organisations that will be supported under the new programme, Youth Connections. With our support, its intergenerational work through culture will continue to have a major impact on Greenock’s Larkfield community.

The Scottish Government recognises how vital culture is to the future prosperity and wellbeing of people and places across Scotland, which is an important theme in the committee’s report. The concept of place, through which people, location and resources combine to create a sense of identity and purpose, is at the heart of addressing the needs and realising the full potential of communities across Scotland.

Tomorrow sees the launch of a national culture collective pilot programme, which will establish a network of creative practitioners, organisations and communities to work together locally and nationally in response to Covid-19. Having listened to Joan McAlpine, I say that the need for the cultural recovery is very much part of that approach.

The committee raised the importance of funding reaching individual artists and creative people. The emergency Covid funding measures that have we put in place since April are already producing valuable lessons. There has been a range of support for self-employed people and freelancers.

Enhanced support for creative freelancers and organisations has been available through Creative Scotland’s open fund, boosted by £3.5 million from the Scottish Government. The fund is helping to ensure that the sector across Scotland can continue to respond to the current circumstances.

As a very early response, and with our financial support, Creative Scotland’s bridging bursaries for arts and creative and screen were established quickly. From March to May, more than 2,290 awards were made, with a total value of £4.3 million, to people in every local authority area in Scotland. That was direct financial help reaching people who needed it fast. It was also the beginning of greatly increased engagement between Scotland’s arts funding body and the freelance community. I hope that the committee welcomes that.

I pay tribute to Creative Scotland for the speed with which it established and delivered the bursaries and the other funding streams that have been delivered since then. Taking decisions on individual funding awards in the arts world, under intense public scrutiny, is not easy even at the best of times. We should all be grateful to Creative Scotland’s staff for how they have responded to the additional demands and expectations that have been placed on them since March.

We know that freelancers and self-employed people in the creative industries have been especially badly hit. The closure of live events, in particular, has reminded us that the arts and the creative industries rely not just on professional artists but on a long supply chain of professionals including production staff, technical staff and management and promotion staff, to name just a few.

We have provided £5 million for creative freelancers across the creative freelancer hardship funding that is operated by Creative Scotland and Screen Scotland. Both the funds are eligible for applications from a wide range of occupations. The funds have been operated in collaboration with sectoral bodies in Scotland, to make sure that the money reaches those who need it. I can announce today that, in response to demand, an additional £3 million will be added to the creative freelancer hardship funding, which will allow support to reach even more people.

I now turn to the overall package of emergency funding that is available for culture and heritage. I have said from the outset that the £97 million that has been made available to Scotland in consequential funding from the UK Government is welcome. Just days before the announcement of the £97 million, the Scottish Government had announced £10 million of support from our existing budgets in order to support performing arts venues, which brought the total package to £107 million.

I know that colleagues will continue to take a close interest in how that £107 million is being spent. I updated the committee on 29 October and that letter has been published on the committee’s website, if members wish to see the detail. Today sees 30 independent cinemas and two touring operators that serve communities across Scotland receiving £3.55 million in recovery and resilience funding.

Today also sees the announcement that Amazon Prime has revealed plans for a six-part supernatural thriller to be set on a North Sea oil rig, which will be made at the First Stage film studio in Leith. [Interruption.] I am just closing.

My announcement today of a further £3 million for creative freelancer hardship funding is a good example of a flexible response to demands. I am sure that, as we all recognise, the way that Scotland responds to the impact of the pandemic continues to be fast moving. I will make other announcements as it is practical and sensible to do so.

Culture connects us, reflects us and inspires us, and it must be able to experienced widely by all. The Parliament, through the committee report, and the Government, through our culture strategy, can firmly say that we place culture at the heart of Scotland.

17:05  

Given that the committee’s report was published a year ago, the temptation might be to assume that it is no longer valid in the light of the Covid crisis, but that could not be further from the truth, as many of the challenges that the committee identified have been amplified by the crisis. Not least is the precarious situation that is faced by many artists and freelancers—the people who help to shape our vibrant national identity as Scots. The massive scale of the UK Government’s rescue package has, thankfully, saved many of those jobs, but there is now a need to secure them for the long term, so I welcome the committee’s recommendation of an indicator to monitor payment of the living wage to artists and freelancers. Not only can that help to provide more financial stability for those working in those sectors; it will act, we hope, as an assurance that will help to attract people to those careers in the future.

Venues, too, have faced enormous pressure, with the need for both short and long-term support. Capital Theatres, for example, which owns both the King’s Theatre in Glasgow and the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh, is facing a shortfall of almost £2 million as soon as March. Similar stories are repeated across the country in theatres, museums, cinemas and other venues, so I welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement last week of additional support for flagship venues such as the Burrell renaissance project in Glasgow, Dundee’s V&A and, I am pleased to say, Capital Theatres. However, Capital Theatres had to write to the First Minister back in September to highlight the fact that it was being excluded. In fact, it ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund its own support.

Will the member give way?

I was just about to mention the culture secretary, so yes.

I would thank the member for recognising that we have been engaging with Capital Theatres for longer than that. I also point out that it is the King’s theatre in Edinburgh that has received funding as part of that funding package.

In an excellent segue, I say that I believe that the culture secretary is sincere her in desire to help venues, as that intervention clearly shows.

Nevertheless, that example highlights the point that the committee makes about a lack of stable funding and distribution of resources. Pre-crisis, that took the form of fluctuations in lottery support, Creative Scotland’s budget being cut and a destructive geographic spread of resources. In fact, there was no improvement at all in the geographic distribution of regularly funded organisations in 2018.

With the Scottish and UK Governments working together, we can establish a more secure and stable long-term funding model. The UK Government has provided £97 million of arts funding to Scotland during the crisis and the chancellor has just committed a further £700 million to the Scottish budget, so there is now funding to lay the groundwork for that approach.

A good way to start would be by improving the geographic distribution of support to ensure that organisations in all parts of Scotland benefit, such as Aberdeen Performing Arts in Aberdeen, where the local authority’s chief financial officer says that a crystal ball is needed to properly plan ahead right now. Beyond a more equitable distribution of immediate support, the committee’s suggestion of regional arts officers to stimulate funding where applications are currently low could help to ensure on-going funding stability, especially with a revised tiered application model to reduce the burden on applicants.

Better outcomes could also be achieved through strengthening the relationship between the Scottish Government and local authorities, which do much of the heavy lifting in delivering local cultural services. The committee has made an entirely sensible suggestion about a new policy framework to help to deliver outcomes along with guidance on implementing the culture strategy. That is not to say that there should be a uniform approach to cultural services and support across Scotland, as every area will have its own needs, but greater consistency in our approach can help to deliver the outcomes that we want. For example, the committee has suggested separating local authority cultural spend from that on sport and other leisure activities. That would be a sensible change to monitor inputs and outputs for all those sectors and to enable more consistent analysis across Scotland.

To underpin all of that, the committee has recommended bringing forward an arts bill. That is worthy of consideration, as it would be an opportunity to strengthen the sector on a proactive basis instead of simply reacting to events—as has, understandably, happened recently. If the Scottish Government is not minded to do what the committee has asked it to do, it should explain why. Perhaps that can be done in closing the debate. I appreciate that we will not take an arts bill through the Parliament in this session.

We can debate the details but, ultimately, the goal now is for the Scottish Government, the UK Government and every party here to work together. Our fight is not with each other; it is a fight together to save jobs, secure venues and ensure that Scotland’s artistic and cultural life not only survives but thrives in the months and years ahead.

17:11  

I recently read a Facebook post that asked people to imagine a lockdown without musical culture. Living without great music or great art is unthinkable. I wonder whether we really appreciate the creative sector as much as we should and whether we really understand what those who make a living in that sector have been through in the past eight months. I am certain that we do not. Scottish Labour therefore welcomes the opportunity to highlight the plight of the creative sector and an excellent report.

The importance of art and artists cannot be overstated. The arts improve our mental health, our wellbeing and our social lives, and community cohesion, and they boost our local and national economies. In normal times, they provide the basis for our passions and our expressions, and they enhance our lives in unique ways. However, even before the pandemic, arts funding was falling at the national and local levels. That problem was compounded by cuts to local government. Many individual artists were earning less than the Scottish Artists Union’s published rates.

Recent Arts Professional UK research on pay shows that pay and fee rates in Scotland are lower than those in the rest of the UK and that a freelancer in Scotland averages £11,000-odd a year compared with the UK average of £16,000. That is why the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee’s report is pivotal and has come at a critical time. I commend the leadership of the committee’s convener and the committee for an excellent piece of work.

One of the opportunities that the report presents in its recommendations on the back of these dreadful times is to review the way in which we recognise artists and many in the sector who were not receipt of fairness or a fair wage. There is a chance to renew our national mission to support the sector.

As others have said, many have had their livelihoods destroyed by Covid-19. Sole traders in the sector have set up their businesses in wide and varied ways, and funds have been distributed in a discriminating way. Self-employed people who set up as limited companies and pay a single wage to themselves have found it difficult to obtain Government support. I am clear that the sector needs serious attention.

As we have heard from others—the cabinet secretary mentioned this in her opening statement—the music sector, which is, of course, a diverse and important industry for Scotland, is in complete meltdown. Events, roadies, public address system companies, session musicians, recording studios, rehearsal studios, promoters, agents and lighting companies will, sadly, be among the last to return to normality. We must be alive to the dangers in between of losing important people from that industry.

Singers—from the most famous to the less well known—make a modest living from their performances, and they are devastated by the past eight months. Some might never return. That is why we must plan to rebuild the sector, based on values of decent pay, fair work and decent support. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s announcement that £3 million will be added to the hardship fund, which will be needed in these times.

Nicola Benedetti, an award-winning musician who always speaks out on behalf of musicians, said:

“Many musicians are facing retraining, many are talking about leaving the country ... That’s not just a fabrication, that’s a real-life situation that we don’t want to see happen. This is not just about saying we want hand-outs, it’s about everyone talking and finding a way out of this that is safe, but that looks to preserve music and performance long-term.”

I have heard that Claire Baker has secured a members’ business debate next week that is supported by Tom Arthur, the convener of the cross-party group on music. That is important, because I believe that performing music is so important for many people, and for young people in particular. It will also give us an opportunity to discuss a pilot, which was mentioned in a previous debate, that is being promoted by LiveNation and will run this month in Estonia. It will use a testing regime for those attending a live music concert to see whether that works and can be a way forward.

I believe that it is time to reverse the ban on background music in hospitality settings, as we are the only nation that seems to have it. I welcome the First Minister’s announcement on that last week, but I hope that the expert group does not take too long to come to the obvious conclusion that it is time to reverse that ban.

The committee’s recommendations are substantial. In closing, I will mention one: the recommendation that children should have at least one year of music tuition in primary school. It is vital that we do not lose any more children who are desperate for the chance to learn a musical instrument.

It is time to refresh and renew our commitment to funding the arts. The committee’s report has a lot to offer on that.

17:17  

It is a particularly bleak time for the creative arts industry. The workforce faces widespread redundancies and the prospect of being under lockdown for longer than any other sector.

Research by Oxford Economics projects that the creative sector will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy in 2020. The reasons for that are obvious. As the advisory group on economic recovery’s report wrote,

“sectors most dependent on physical presence, travel and discretionary spending by consumers—hospitality, tourism, culture and leisure—have been hit the hardest.”

The Federation of Scottish Theatre offered a submission to the committee in May that called the impact of Covid-19 “immediate and devastating”. The ripple effects are far reaching. Closing a theatre means that professionals in the supply chain working in catering or on audiovisuals are affected too. Even though the creative world looks completely different from how it did when the committee’s report was published in December, it is even more important to have this debate.

According to the Scottish Government’s latest figures, the creative industries sector is made up of around 15,000 businesses employing more than 70,000 people, not including a large freelance workforce.

In my constituency, the sector is vibrant and exciting. The Shetland Arts Development Agency reported that, in 2019-20, there were 4,357 concerts, screenings and exhibition days across the islands, with 185,636 audience attendances. For an island population of 23,000, that is not bad. If the arts need a defence, then those numbers speak for themselves.

Although there has been significant capital investment in museums over the past decade, net spending on museum services across Scotland has fallen by 5.9 per cent since 2010-11. The ability to make further savings while maintaining current services has now reached its limit. In a survey conducted by Museums Galleries Scotland, 70 per cent of arm’s-length external organisations that responded said that they had made all possible savings through operating efficiencies, and that further cuts would require venue closures.

The creative industries add indisputable benefits to communities and individuals—to our “social capital”, as the Benny Higgins report described; to our health and wellbeing; and to our communities’ coherence and development. When we have discussions about how we might rebuild the sector and consider what kind of world we want to see on the other side of the pandemic, nobody wishes for one where those jobs and benefits do not exist. Without robust Government support, however, that could very well happen. Too many people have fallen in the gaps between the various support schemes that have been offered by the UK and Scottish Governments. There has been a clear failure to recognise the value of investing in people such as freelancers. Liberal Democrats have been calling for the UK Government and the Scottish Government to work together to introduce a universal basic income and to give some stability to creative professionals in this time of crisis. Supporting the arts industry to recover is a pressing challenge.

Once we do that, we need to return seriously to the issues that are raised in the committee’s report. Unfortunately, the stressful churn of moving from lifeline application to lifeline application will already be familiar to many in the arts industry. There was already a mountain of paperwork for people to wade through just to survive. Structure and stability are desperately needed, even outwith a pandemic. The committee heard how artists felt like they had to jump through hoops to access funding and that decisions by funding bodies were often opaque and demoralising. That has to change, so that the Government and its agencies do better at supporting our creative professionals, who add so much to the communities that we all live in and to national life.

We move to open debate speeches.

17:21  

As a member of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, I am pleased to be called to speak on our December 2019 report on sustainable arts funding in Scotland.

Before turning to the report, I take the opportunity to pay tribute to Sir Sean Connery, who sadly died on Saturday. He was an immense Scottish cultural icon, a true international superstar and, without question, the best James Bond ever. His commitment to the arts in Scotland is well known, and his contribution via the Scottish International Education Trust has directly impacted the lives of so many in Scotland, including people in the arts.

The committee report is a substantial piece of work, as we have heard. It would simply not be possible to do it justice within my four-minute speaking slot, so I will focus on a few key points.

In addition to receiving 69 written submissions, we held seven oral evidence sessions, conducted two fact-finding missions and produced 28 recommendations addressed to the Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, local authorities and others. The key focus of our inquiry, of course, was on funding. There was support for a cross-portfolio approach, given that the benefits of arts and culture to society at large do not fit within a single portfolio, and people did not want a silo mentality.

The European Union’s creative Europe programme, which provides matched funding, has been mentioned. It is regrettable that, even though membership of the programme is not limited to EU countries, the UK Government has indicated that it is not minded to continue our membership. Whether that is still its position can perhaps be clarified. Mention has also been made of the UK shared prosperity fund, which is intended to be the successor to the European structural and investment funds. Again, there seems to be no clarity as to what that new fund will entail, in particular for the arts and culture sector.

With regard to the distribution of funding, we have heard that the view was strongly expressed that Creative Scotland’s geographical reach needed to be looked at. The report also recognised the need for the Scottish Government and local government to work more closely together on an overarching, strategic approach. Creative Scotland’s decision-making process was also a concern, and we recommended that the organisation move to a peer-review approach, which has been very successful in Ireland.

I welcome the cabinet secretary’s announcement of an additional £3 million for the hardship fund for creative freelancers. I know from direct experience with a constituent that, within hours of the opening of the fund on 26 October, the programme was oversubscribed and had to be paused. The additional money is therefore good news indeed.

During a global pandemic, the focus has to be on getting through the immediate future, but the cabinet secretary has demonstrated her understanding of and commitment to the arts in Scotland. I am confident that she will do all that she can to do right by artists and the arts in Scotland.

17:25  

I thank the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee for its report on a sustainable arts funding system. It sets out a wealth of recommendations that strive to build on and enhance the sector.

Maya Angelou said:

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

It is with that in mind that I pay tribute to our wonderful arts and cultural venue sector. It would normally be thriving right now if it was not for Covid-19. Scotland has a wealth of cultural talent and it is disappointing to see it all so negatively impacted by the times that we are living in.

I am particularly concerned about our young people, given the number of venues and theatres that remain closed for business. We must remember that, although there is no silver bullet, support has been given, with the UK committing £97 million to supporting Scotland’s artistic and cultural heritage, in comparison with the Scottish National Party’s £10 million, which was committed prior to the UK Government’s intervention.

Ultimately, young people are paying the price for the closure of arts venues and the lack of sustainable arts funding. We know that, this year, they have not had the same opportunities to develop their talents in Scotland. With the closure of rehearsal spaces and limits on gatherings, it has been an extremely difficult year.

Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to enjoy the Edinburgh fringe in its entirety this year. I know what a significant cultural and economic loss that was to the arts sector.

Young people are crucial to the survival of the arts sector, and encouraging new talent to come forward should be a top priority, even in a landscape of ambiguity.

I was glad to see that the report includes a recommendation on free music tuition for school pupils. The Scottish Conservatives believe that starting to learn music at a young age both promotes new talent and is scientifically proven to help with other areas of educational development. Free music tuition is already partially provided through the youth music initiative, which exists to ensure that all councils can offer at least one year of free music tuition in primary schools. All councils are committed to that target, but provision could be expanded further to fulfil the recommendation in the committee’s report.

Scotland’s top artists have been outspoken about the matter. World-famous violinist, Nicola Benedetti, said:

“Without learning to play an instrument, who knows what potential talent we might be missing out on? We could have the next Bach, the next Nicola Benedetti, the next anyone in our schools”.

Back in January, English schools received £80 million for music tuition, and the investment will be instrumental in making students musically literate and exposing them to a wide range of styles and traditions. The Scottish Government should seriously consider the importance of free music tuition in schools in the future. Given that so much is at stake because of Covid-19, and given the declining uptake of musical instruments and qualifications, I recommend an urgent review of the impact of restrictions on the delivery of music tuition and, especially, the impact that they might have on closing the Scottish education attainment gap.

I welcome the report. I believe that it goes some way towards addressing the deep-rooted issues that lie at the heart of arts funding and its long-term fragility. We need sustainable funding that delivers long-lasting results in promoting culture and the arts in Scotland. That has only become harder against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic, so we need to see action from both Scotland’s Governments, working constructively together, to ensure that the arts sector will weather the storm.

17:29  

The lockdown period earlier this year was a challenging and lonely time for many of us. People were told to refrain from all kinds of social interaction and stay at home. During that time, many of us were able to find some comfort in the arts, whether it was re-reading our favourite book, listening to some music to relax or watching the latest film releases on a streaming service—when not inundated by messages from constituents, of course.

The arts made those difficult months a little bit easier for most of us. However, for theatre, opera and cinema buffs and the artists who provide the entertainment, or for people who work in our museums, the National Trust and so many other areas of cultural life that we have come to rely on, this period has been awful, with even the world-famous Edinburgh festival cancelled.

Unfortunately, as a society, we do not always value our artists and cultural freelancers enough. Too often, we just take their work for granted. I am therefore glad that the Scottish Government has already committed to support the culture, creative and heritage sectors with more than £107 million of emergency funding. That includes financial support for our flagship cultural venues and, crucially, for smaller organisations and individuals in the culture sector.

Culture has a major impact on the sense of wellbeing of both individuals and communities. That is the case in normal times as much as during the on-going pandemic. Our work in the committee showed that arts funding was already facing significant challenges and uncertainty before the pandemic, including from Brexit and from fluctuations in Creative Scotland’s national lottery income. I am therefore grateful that the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture is committed to monitoring and reviewing national lottery income as part of the totality of Creative Scotland’s budget and will build any projected fluctuations into Government planning assumptions.

I also appreciate that the cabinet secretary has written to the UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to express concerns about the reckless decision to drag Scotland out of the creative Europe programme, even though participation in that programme is entirely open to non-EU member states. Unfortunately, I fear that her pleas will continue to fall on deaf ears.

It is absolutely vital that Scotland’s artists receive a level of funding from the UK Government’s proposed UK shared prosperity fund that is at least similar to what they receive at present. The Scottish Government’s hands are, however, not completely tied and the committee’s work shows that there are actions that can be taken to ensure that the art sector’s recovery plays an instrumental role in building back better after the pandemic.

It is encouraging that the cabinet secretary will also develop cross-Government policy compacts, embedding culture at the centre of policy making. Plans to make the culture and heritage sectors part of the work for Scotland to be a fair work nation by 2025 also give us cause for optimism, and those plans are more important now than ever before. Artists and cultural freelancers must also be included in the range of participants selected for the on-going feasibility studies for universal and unconditional income payments, and I am glad that the cabinet secretary has already indicated that that shall be the case. It is equally encouraging that Creative Scotland has taken steps to urge all organisations that it funds to adopt fair work practices.

However, in order to make Creative Scotland’s distribution of funding fairer and more diverse, a peer review with rotating panels should be included in its application processes, as recommended by the committee. Moreover, the early stages of the application process should be tiered to focus on artistic merit. I am glad that the chief executive of Creative Scotland has already indicated that he agrees with those principles.

Scotland’s arts scene as we knew it pre-Covid will make a full return only if our artists can make a living and see a sustainable future in their line of work. I know that musicians, in particular, are struggling at this time. Although the economic outlook is now very different from that which was predicted before Covid-19, we must invest in Scotland’s fantastic artists, including cultural freelancers. The committee’s report sets out a number of practical and viable solutions as to how that can be done and I look forward to seeing them implemented.

17:33  

The report prepared by the Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Committee is fantastic. I thank the committee members, clerks and all the people who gave evidence for that report, which we are debating today. As everybody has commented, although we are in the middle of a pandemic it is vital to support our artists and cultural sector, not just to get us through the pandemic but to flourish and come together afterwards as a society.

We all know that the arts improve our mental health and wellbeing, improve our social lives and community cohesion, and boost our local and national economies. As colleagues have said, we missed out on the festivals this year and although some of those were able to go online that has left a huge gap in our lives and our economy.

I want to focus on some of the recommendations in the report. We need support for artists not just during the pandemic but going forward. Pauline McNeill raised the reality of the pay that artists receive. The Scottish Artists Union informed the committee that

“three out of four members consistently fail to be paid rates equivalent to the union’s published rates”,

and the Musicians’ Union noted that the availability of paid work is a “critical issue” for its members and that publicly funded projects should be

“remunerated fairly and ideally in line with minimum suggested union rates”.

I am sure that I am not alone in having had several self-employed constituents—actors and artists—get in touch to say that they are really worried about their future and about how they will pay their bills now. I welcome the support for artists and we must publish the information, but it is critical for them to earn a fair wage, so that they have the confidence to stay in the sector. The committee’s recommendation on fair pay is vital.

As other colleagues have said, wider funding for the sector is crucial. It is clear that there has been a real-terms reduction in funding for the arts and that Scotland spends a relatively low proportion of gross domestic product on the arts in comparison with EU countries. We need to fix that. Resources have been provided, but neither the UK Government nor the Scottish Government has provided enough support to recognise the importance of the arts. The report also highlights the need to address potential gaps from the loss of EU structural funds and to ensure stable funding, given the fluctuations in national lottery income.

An important point has been raised. Several members have said that culture budgets in Scotland have been cut. I understand that there will be pressures, but those budgets have not been cut. In the level 3 figures for 2020-21, for example, the total for culture and tourism went up by £1.5 million. The idea of a cut is wrong; that is an important part of the continuing evidence to the committee.

That takes me neatly on to my next point, which is about the committee’s important recommendation that the Scottish Government should be clearer about its upcoming culture strategy spending fund and identify opportunities to support the arts sector from other portfolios. Funding should come not just from an arts portfolio but from opportunities across the Government.

Last night, I was at a meeting with a local regional equality council, at which we talked about how to promote climate change action and get the issue out there. The arts provide one key way for people to engage with that. The committee’s recommendation is vital to acknowledging the challenge that the sector and artists in particular face. We need funding investment.

A critical failure, on which the committee focused, involves local authorities promoting and supporting the arts in our communities. The committee highlights decreasing expenditure by local authorities across culture and related services, along with the relatively small amount that is spent on libraries and cultural and heritage policy in comparison with recreation and sport.

There are tough questions, which have been compounded not only by the brutal cuts that the SNP Government has made to local authority budgets but by an increase in the ring fencing of local authority funding for Scottish Government commitments, which are not totally funded and do not include art and culture. It is critical to address the crisis at local level so that we support our communities.

I strongly support what the report says about music tuition, which needs to be secured and be available for all young people.

You must conclude now, please. You had only four minutes and we are already at four minutes and 50 seconds.

I apologise, Presiding Officer—I thought that I had six minutes.

We are having four-minute speeches.

My last point is that I hope that the cabinet secretary can do more to support Capital Theatres. The King’s theatre project must be secured by January; otherwise, it will not go ahead, and that will jeopardise arts and culture in Edinburgh. I acknowledge the contribution that has been made to Capital Theatres so far, but much more needs to be done.

I hope that the committee’s recommendations will be accepted, because they would help us to keep the sector viable and ensure that it flourishes in the future. I apologise for going over my time, Presiding Officer.

That is all right. I remind Stewart Stevenson, who will be followed by Dean Lockhart, that it is speeches of four minutes.

17:39  

Thank you, Presiding Officer—I have started my stopwatch.

I congratulate our convener on turning Marcel Marceau’s art on its head; the convener engaged us without images, whereas Marcel Marceau did so without speech.

More critically, like others, I affirm the importance of the arts. They take many forms and achieve many things. They can help us to cope, educate us, illuminate truth, create joy and sorrow, and even reveal who we are and change who we are.

My spouse is particularly keen on that last one, as she has the view that I am one of the least artistic and least cultural people she knows. She welcomes my very recent elevation to the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.

My personal art is photography—I take wonderful photographs. Who knows? You might agree.

The havens of art—theatres, museums and music halls—are basically unable to operate in the current environment, as we have been hearing. Clearly, that is the right decision in the face of a health crisis, but we should recognise that art maintains a crucial role in creating community—in creating a shared experience.

How will we deal with the pandemic without art? The psychological challenge that we now face might be healed by an artistic re-emergence after this sad history is over. With many months of not being able to congregate with others, to laugh with others and to be emotionally stirred by those who bring art into our homes and who bring us into theatres, art will continue to have an important role in getting us through all this. It can play a key part in healing the common sorrow that we have felt through the loss of friends and loved ones, and by being out of contact with our many friends. It is more important than we sometimes realise until we experience that loss.

It would be a grave mistake to allow art and the people who create the arts for us to wither on the vine. We need to ensure, for one thing, that we have measurements that enable us to justify some of the things that we will have to do. Specifically, I agree with the committee’s recommendation that we should establish a cultural observatory, which could draw together data to measure the spread and impact of the public funding of the arts across Scotland. If we are to achieve progress and success, we need to be able to measure it—but not to exclude particular parts from the system, because we want risk to be taken, with some things not doing as well as we might hope. If we do not know the baselines, however, we do not know when we have departed from them.

I support the recommendation that culture spend be disaggregated and provided separately, away from tourism. That would help us all to understand what we are spending at all levels of public life; it would enable us to make a proper assessment of what is going on.

We can look abroad. I am wearing my Democrat outfit today—everything is blue apart from the poppy—and, according to the arts and cultural production satellite project, which is based over there, in 2017 the arts sector in New York was worth £120 billion and in California it was worth £320 billion. That covers a range of arts.

As a recently joined member of the committee, I congratulate my predecessors on their efforts, to which I made absolutely no contribution. They were worthy efforts and worthy of debate.

17:43  

I add my thanks to the clerking team, the committee convener and deputy convener and the witnesses who gave evidence to the inquiry. The committee heard from a wide range of witnesses that arts, culture and heritage promotion are absolutely vital parts of our collective lives across Scotland. Evidence was given by 69 organisations, and the committee reported on two key areas: what a sustainable model for arts funding should look like and how that funding should be delivered to individual artists to ensure that they are fairly rewarded for all their work.

The committee made a comprehensive set of 30 recommendations, and the key recommendations included a long-term strategy being developed to protect Creative Scotland’s budget from fluctuations in national lottery income and the Scottish Government bringing forward a new policy framework for a more predictable funding structure for arts in Scotland.

Those longer-term recommendations are to be welcomed, and they remain valid. However, as other members have highlighted, the immediate priority for the sector is the situation that currently faces culture and arts across Scotland, which is increasingly critical, with many artists, performers and venues of all sizes struggling to stay in business.

In the Stirling region that I represent, the Covid pandemic has had a severe impact, with events such as the world-famous international crime-writing festival Bloody Scotland having to be cancelled, with the loss of significant investment and artistic jobs.

Iconic cultural and heritage attractions, such as Stirling castle, the Wallace monument, the Smith art gallery and museum and the Macrobert Arts Centre, have also been severely affected by the crisis, which has impacted negatively on local communities. I am sure that members across the chamber will have similar stories, and we have heard about the impact of Covid-19 on local artists and cultural venues. That is why it is essential that the Scottish Government and the UK Government work together to provide short-term funding to support the sector during the crisis. In that regard, we welcome the UK Government’s package of £1.6 billion that was announced in July, which, as the cabinet secretary said, saw almost £100 million—£97 million—come to Scotland to support the sector. That funding was part of a wider package of measures from the UK Government to support all sectors of the economy, which saw nearly 800,000 jobs in Scotland being protected, many of which, importantly, were in the arts and culture sector.

The importance of the job retention scheme was emphasised in evidence given to the committee by Alex McGowan on behalf of the Citizens Theatre. He said:

“the single biggest help has been the Treasury’s job retention scheme. It ... has materially contributed to our ability to remain a going concern and see out the current financial year.’’—[Official Report, Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, 27 August 2020; c 4.]

With the imposition of further restrictions on the sector and the wider economy, it will be increasingly important that the Scottish and UK Governments work together. To that end, we welcome the UK Government’s confirmation that the furlough scheme will be extended in the event of further lockdowns.

In her opening remarks, the cabinet secretary mentioned the announcement of additional funding for independent cinemas through the independent cinema recovery and resilience fund. That will be a welcome development for independent cinemas across Mid Scotland and Fife.

The value of a strong and dynamic culture and creative sector in Scotland cannot be overestimated. It is important that the Parliament continues to respond to the immediate short-term crisis, and keeps in mind the longer-term need for reform of funding to make sure that artists are fairly rewarded for their hard work. The cross-party nature of today’s debate is a timely and important reminder of the value of the sector to Scotland.

17:47  

I welcome the debate, and the tone that speakers have taken during it. I also welcome the cabinet secretary’s commitment to the hardship fund for artists, who, as many of my colleagues have said, have had particular difficulties during this period.

I will talk about music. A person only knows what something really means to them when it is no longer a part of their life, and music has always been a part of my life. Things are different; there is no live music in venues where people can interact with others and enjoy the music and the bands, although I can still play the guitar badly and I can still croon to Stacey to express my love, rather than just saying, “I love you”. Music is an important part of our lives for those reasons. It shows us the fundamental things in life that are important; at least, it does for me. Artists who are struggling are having difficulty with the situation because they know how important music is.

I have found myself listening to a bit more commercial radio. Incidentally, commercial radio could have been part of the solution by ensuring that they put artists on the airwaves during this difficult time. I have noticed that my musical tastes have taken me back to my youth. People from the west coast of Scotland will know who GBX is, but nobody else on the planet knows who that is. I seem to like a good dance tune these days.

During lockdown, local music venues in Paisley—the Bungalow bar and the Old Swan inn—hosted socially distant nights, when bands could tell people that they were still around and give people the opportunity to see what they were doing. The bands could not monetise those nights, which was part of the problem, but they had the opportunity to show everybody that they were part of the solution.

I can give a perfect example of a Saturday evening. I will not say whether Stacey had been drinking, but she was listening to a gig. I came into the room and she was singing and bopping away. That is difficult for two reasons: first, Stacey has mobility issues, as we all know; secondly, she cannot sing a note. However, it shows you how music can make people happier. We need to ensure that venues like that are still there when we get to the other side of this.

I thank George Adam for livening up the debate.

I have been in the Old Swan many times. Would the member agree that Paisley is one of those places where local bands pride themselves on coming along to play, that it is a thriving part of the community and that it is very sad for a lot of local musicians, as well as for participants, that, during lockdown, they have not been able to play in their passion?

I agree with Pauline McNeill about that. As she will be aware, the Bungalow bar is the spiritual successor to a bar in Paisley of the same name during the punk era in the 1970s. Glasgow banned punk music, but Paisley saw a chance to make some money and encouraged it. All the major bands of that era played in the town of Paisley—in the Bungalow bar.

The Bungalow bar is now a community trust. It gained from the Scottish Government’s recent funding and is thankful for that. We have to make sure that such venues are still there, because they are a very important part of all our lives.

Not all that long ago, I talked about the positive case for cultural regeneration, through Paisley’s bid to be UK city of culture in 2021. I am glad now that we did not get it, because next year looks as if it will be quite difficult for a major event such as that. However, it showed me how we can use culture to regenerate.

Some of that work is on-going in Renfrewshire Council. It will still be difficult and there will be more challenges but, if we are going to come out at the other end of this, we need to take those messages and use culture to regenerate our towns. The only thing that is different is that it is more of a challenge. We have to continue to support the work in Scotland’s cultural sector. It provides so much, and we all have great pride in it.

One day, this will all be over and we will return to those venues and enjoy ourselves—we will get that opportunity. The challenge for us during the crisis is to make sure that we still have those venues to go to when we get to the other side.

We move to closing speeches. I encourage all members to return to the chamber.

17:52  

When George Adam said that he played the guitar, I said to Pauline McNeill that he must have been a Teddy boy; however, it turns out that he was a punk. [Laughter.]

The report is really good; there is so much in it. However, it has come at a time when the whole sector is really struggling.

I associate myself with Annabelle Ewing’s comments about Sean Connery. A few weeks ago, I saw an interview with Brian Cox, who talked about how he came down from Dundee and his auntie took him to the pantomime—at the King’s Theatre, I think he said. We must remember that both actors came from working-class backgrounds. Over the years, part of my desire to support the arts has been because working-class people need the opportunity to access them. In years gone by, that practice was more for the middle classes.

A lot of people are in those industries. Figures from the UK Government say that creative industries contributed £111.7 billion to the UK in 2018. That is the equivalent of £306 million a day. That is what is at risk.

I was delighted to learn from the committee’s report that it visited the Fire Station Creative art gallery in Dunfermline. I was heavily involved in supporting the creative local people who set up that project. If it had just been left to council officials, the project would never have happened. Indeed, the council officials were dead against it. It took local people and local political will to get behind the project and make it happen. The project is brilliant and has delivered a lot for the area. We are talking about real people and the risk to their livelihoods. I should say to the cabinet secretary that the Fire Station Creative has been successful in getting support from the Scottish Government at this time, for which I know it is very grateful.

Opportunities can be created from support, but the key point that I want to make is that there are a lot of people out there who will go to bed tonight really worried about their livelihoods and their mortgages. These people pay mortgages and rents and have to put food on the table for their kids. That is why we need to consider the report and how we can support those industries.

Pauline McNeill mentioned some projects that are looking into how live audiences could be brought back. It looks as though that will be difficult—I know that it is not easy—but we have to find a way, because there is far too much at stake for individuals within the arts. Given the current circumstances that we face as a country, organisations such as the Fire Station Creative in Dunfermline are at real risk.

The figures that demonstrate the investment that I mentioned earlier mask some of the shocking underlying issues in the sector. Fair pay is a big issue, and it is important that we address the terms and conditions that people are expected to accept in the sector. The takeaway message for the Scottish Government is that artists in Scotland must be able to earn a fair wage so that the arts can remain central to our society and way of life.

When the Fire Station Creative opened its door, its artist studios sold out almost instantly. The same happened some years earlier when an innovative project at Burntisland station was put in place to create units. If we are talking about building industries and small and medium-sized enterprises, the arts is an important area in which to do so.

Well done to the committee for its very good report. I hope that it does not just sit on the shelves, but leads to an improved arts sector in Scotland.

17:58  

I am pleased to be closing this afternoon’s debate—now, this evening’s debate—on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives. Much like the report, the debate has been extremely worth while, and there has been broad cross-party consensus.

As many members have said, the arts is a key area of our national identity, and it gives so much back to our society. We would all be poorer without the multitude of artists, companies and venues that work hard in normal times to deliver the arts using the limited resources that they have.

However, as we have heard time and again, these are not normal times; they are unprecedented. Like so many other areas of our economy and society, the arts are in crisis, with many jobs, venues and livelihoods on the brink.

The support that has been given by both Scotland’s Governments has been welcome, but the challenge is great, and we must all acknowledge that it is getting greater. Just as we began to send some hope and optimism that the arts might be able to open up again to the public, we saw another acceleration in the spread of the coronavirus. It is clear that a bleak and difficult winter, with limited commercial opportunities, lies ahead.

We must all work together to do what we can to get through it and to ensure that this important sector is here to restart in full when it is safe and possible to do so. For me, the most important thing, which we have heard from many members, is that we must not lose the skills and knowledge that have been built up here, in Scotland.

In the meantime, there are many good examples of ways that things can be done differently, particularly online, to allow people to continue to enjoy cultural experiences. However, that is not the answer for everything, and it is not a substitute for face-to-face performances. We heard Pauline McNeill and others talk about live music, for example. There is something about live music that cannot easily be replicated online; the same can be said for many other art forms, in which the connection between the audience and the individual is broken when people experience the art form through a screen.

In the context of what I have just said, it is hard to look beyond survival, but if we want to build back better and ensure that the arts sector in Scotland thrives in the future, the committee’s 30 recommendations, which aim to put Scotland’s artists at the heart of Scotland’s arts funding system, would be a good place to start. The report had widespread input, with almost 70 of Scotland’s leading artistic and cultural organisations giving evidence to the inquiry. As we have heard, key recommendations included an indicator to establish how many freelancers and self-employed artists are paid the living wage—something that was welcomed by my colleague Maurice Golden, in his speech.

The development of a long-term strategy to protect arts budgets from fluctuations in national lottery income is really important, because such fluctuations lead to uncertainty. There being no secure source of funding makes it difficult for many smaller arts organisations to plan ahead and to use their resources effectively. In addition, it often leads to people chasing after money and gearing their projects around the funding that is available, rather than doing what they love and what they want to do. That is an issue that could be looked at.

It is important that we get a new arts act that sets out a clear policy framework for funding the arts in Scotland. Like all members, I understand why that is not possible in this session, but it is important that we keep a watching eye on the issue and return to it, and that those of us who are here in the next session look again at the suggestion.

The recommendations in the report attempt to capture widespread concerns that the current funding model is complex, piecemeal and does not always ensure that funding reaches the smaller organisations and individuals that need it most. As someone who represents an area of Scotland outwith the central belt, I often feel that much of the Government spend in the arts does not make it to more rural and remote communities, which often have the greatest need for funding intervention.

The convener of the committee mentioned DG Unlimited. I was struck by its recent submission to the committee that showed the disparity between local authority areas in Scotland. My local authority area, Dumfries and Galloway, sits pretty near the bottom of the table when it comes to local government spending per head on culture. Furthermore, the percentage of funding that the local authority receives from Creative Scotland does not match the size of the local population. I hope that the Government will reflect further on that.

Having said that, I welcome the funding that is coming to two independent cinemas in the region, which I know will be absolutely delighted with that support, because it will help them to get by in an area where some of the big commercial cinema operators are not present.

The picture looked challenging for the arts when the report was published, but it is perilous now. We must all do what we can to salvage the sector and ensure that this important area of Scottish cultural life and identity, of which we are all so proud, is in a position to rebound.

18:04  

I am grateful to colleagues for their thoughtful contributions to the debate on the committee’s report. It is appropriate that I mark the passing of Scotland’s film star Sean Connery—the best Bond ever, whose blockbuster presence in the world of film will live on.

In addition to responding to points that have been made in the debate, I would like to say more about a few of the specific findings of the committee. The committee highlighted the need to reset the relationship between national and local government concerning sustainable arts funding. In my evidence to the committee and in my response in April, I set out my wish to engage constructively on that with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. In the culture strategy, we committed to work with culture conveners from Scottish local government and culture trusts, including through establishing a joint meeting of arts and culture conveners.

I am pleased to say that the first of those meetings happened earlier today. I chaired it jointly with Councillor Kelly Parry of Midlothian Council, who is COSLA’s community wellbeing spokesperson. The agenda featured discussions on how local and national organisations can work together to support the culture sector in the current crisis, and on the role that culture can play in supporting renewal and resilience in our communities. I say to Maurice Golden that the idea of regional arts officers might be something that we could discuss, and to Alex Rowley I say that artists’ studios and art on the high street were also discussed with local government colleagues today.

We have made available to local government, including in recognition of lost income from their arms-length culture and leisure bodies, extensive support totalling £139 million, which includes £49 million that has been passed on in full from UK Government consequentials.

I want to address the issue of budgets, because it is important to understand our starting point. On the national budget, I will give a comparison of the 2020-21 budget versus that for 2019-20. Creative Scotland’s budget was £67.3 million in 2020-21, up from £66 million; the cultural collections budget was £79.2 million, up from £74.6 million; and the national performing companies budget stayed the same.

Many members touched on the view that we should separate culture from sports and leisure in local government funding. It is also lumped in with tourism. One of the challenges is that the tourism budget has gone down but the culture budget has not in relative terms, even though people’s perception is that it has. I am not saying that there will not be problems going forward, but it is important to set the record straight.

On national lottery funding, I am not sure that the Conservatives are aware—they seem to focus on the issue—that we stepped in to fund a deficit because of a collapse in national lottery funding several years ago. Although we understand that the position might be improving in terms of sales, we will need to look at the issue closely.

Sarah Boyack made the point, which gets to the heart of one of the issues in the committee’s recommendations, that we should set a target for arts funding. She is absolutely right that we should be mobilising funding for culture from lots of different budgets and not using just the culture budget. There is a tension, there.

The committee recommended continuing Scotland’s participation in the creative Europe programme, which Annabelle Ewing and Kenny Gibson mentioned. The UK Government’s position—not to seek participation in the programme—remains the same, which is highly disappointing. We have yet to receive a persuasive explanation of why participation has been ruled out.

Domestic programmes cannot have the same reach as creative Europe. That transnational framework has delivered much in terms of collaboration and exchange, so we are considering ways in which the loss of the creative Europe programme might be mitigated as far as possible and are in discussions with the Westminster Government. The national partnership for culture, which started meeting in June 2020, has been tasked with providing advice and guidance on strategic issues, and with considering and advising on how we promote recovery and renewal in culture, which is an important part of its work.

Pauline McNeill talked about what the world would be without music. I do not know about other members, but it means a huge amount to me. Many other members also talked about music. In the early days of the pandemic, every day at one o’clock a young woman in Linlithgow played “The Roke” on the bagpipes, which is my hometown’s tune. Every night after I had finished my work, I played it on Facebook, and that kept me going through some difficult times. Duncan Chisholm is doing his bit for me just now. Oliver Mundell is right that although there is digital access, there is nothing quite like live music. That is what we are all committed to.

The cabinet secretary will have heard me say this a couple of times. She is probably aware that Live Nation (Music) UK Ltd has been talking to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about a pilot in Estonia. Has the cabinet secretary had any involvement in that, or does she have any thoughts on it? It would be useful to know.

I have not had any involvement, but I have engaged with the people who were behind that and who are looking at it. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport is in front of me; there is an issue around testing and how strong and reliable it would be, in that circumstance. We are not closed, but we are obviously concerned about what could be done.

The grass-roots music venue fund has been important; it was referred to by George Adam. Rachael Hamilton talked about the importance of music tuition. What we are seeing is that England is catching up with our youth music initiative for free tuition and support, although on a pro-rata basis we are probably in the stronger position.

However, there is more to be done and, in relation to the emergency funding, I was specific that youth arts must be supported as well. The youth arts engagement that is coming through in the response to the pandemic might be part of the solution to the question how we make sure that we have further engagement, as we go forward.

The committee raised a number of points. The monitoring that I talked about previously will be involved, but we have not agreed to every recommendation from the committee.

The idea of an arts act is interesting. Ireland, which has one, is more centralised than Scotland, so maybe an arts compact with local government might better reflect the nature of our relationship with local government.

The pandemic has clearly disrupted the immediate work that was planned in response to the committee’s report, and Creative Scotland’s important conclusions on its funding review have been deferred, but that might give an opportunity to reflect on the committee’s points.

I am grateful to the committee for the report and for the important points that have been made this afternoon. This is not the end of consideration of the ideas in the report but a staging post in continuing engagement on ideas for the arts in Scotland for the future.

Claire Baker, on behalf of the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, will conclude our debate.

18:11  

It is a pleasure to close the debate on behalf of the committee.

I recognise the importance of members speaking about the pressures that face artists and the cultural sector due to the pandemic, which is significant; Beatrice Wishart described it as “immediate and devastating”. Although the report does not address the immediate difficulties, it seeks to find solutions to some of the longer-term challenges, and I will consider those first.

One of the central themes of the committee’s report on arts funding is the need for an ambitious, long-term financial strategy. The committee supports introducing a baseline target for national arts funding that reflects the value of culture to our society and economy.

The committee’s inquiry highlighted that a sustainable arts funding system is one where all Government portfolios are strategically aligned to fund the arts in a way that supports and delivers national outcomes. The committee also recommended that the Scottish Government should give serious consideration to setting a baseline target for national arts funding, on a cross-portfolio basis, of more than 1 per cent of its overall budget. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s response that, while recognising the impact of the pandemic, that proposal merits further consideration. The evidence that we heard emphasised the strategic importance of arts funding, and a baseline approach could provide protection and a statutory value.

The committee supported the idea of an independent national cultural observatory to address the complexity of data and measure the impact of cultural investment, which is a model that is used across Europe and which could help to demonstrate the value of arts to our society.

A sustainable arts funding system is also one in which the Scottish Government and local authorities work in partnership to support artists in all parts of Scotland, and that is why the committee believed that the relationship between local and national Government must be reset. As the convener said, we ask for consideration of an arts bill to establish a new policy framework in partnership with COSLA and local authorities. However, we will also await further details from this morning’s meeting with local authorities and COSLA that the cabinet secretary talked about; the committee would appreciate the chance to hear more about that at a suitable opportunity.

A sustainable arts funding system must serve all of Scotland, so, as a matter of priority, the geographic distribution of national arts funding needs to be improved. The committee recommended that Creative Scotland take action to ensure that its new funding approach improves on the current geographic spread of regularly funded organisations.

The committee recommended that the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland should re-establish a programme of funding for regionally based arts officers in local authority areas, particularly those where Creative Scotland’s investment is significantly below the Scottish average. Steps must be taken to boost strategic support in local authority areas that require it.

The committee’s report was prepared before the pandemic and highlighted the significant challenges ahead for arts funding; at the time, the looming challenges were Brexit and fluctuations in national lottery income. Clearly, Covid-19 has considerably intensified the challenges that artists and the creative community face.

The committee recommended that the Scottish Government should set out plans to protect Creative Scotland’s funding in the long term before existing commitments to protect Creative Scotland’s budget expire. The committee also recommended continuing Scotland’s participation in the creative Europe programme, notwithstanding the points that Annabelle Ewing made in the debate.

The Covid-19 crisis has made the need for long-term planning ever more urgent, as unprecedented challenges and threats have emerged. The pandemic has brought many of the issues relating to the long-term sustainability of the sector to the fore. I recognise that the national partnership for culture is supporting the implementation of the culture strategy but, given that the circumstances that we are in now are so different from those that we were in in February, there needs to be a serious look at the strategy’s on-going relevance.

Although the debate is about the committee’s recommendations for a sustainable future and our longer-term ambitions, we cannot wish away the current situation for artists and for culture venues and companies. The resurgence and viability of the arts will be crucial to any recovery but, at the moment, recovery seems further and further away as we face more restrictions. The Scottish Artists Union, which made a significant contribution to the committee’s report, has launched its seeing red campaign, which calls for a sustainable future for artists and makers in recognition of the impact of Covid-19, and continues to call for a universal basic income, as its members are struggling to stay afloat at present.

The support for the culture sector during the pandemic has been welcome, but some sectors are falling through the gaps and are facing a very difficult winter in which their survival is in question. Those organisations that have received support still face an uncertain future and are at risk of a cliff edge in March.

Members have talked about reopening the sector. As the tier system is introduced, we should consider introducing pilots. Although much of the debate has focused on Government support for the arts, income and performances are also important. Pauline McNeill and George Adam spoke about the pressure on the music sector. I ask the cabinet secretary to confirm, perhaps in writing to the committee or to me, whether tier 1 restrictions allow performances to start with small seated events, which would include music venues and small theatres. If so, can the Scottish Government provide guidance for how those venues should proceed and will it look again at funding pilot events? The Highlands and Islands area is in tier 1 and provides a good opportunity for pilots from which the rest of Scotland could learn.

One person who I believe left a positive legacy in politics is Jennie Lee. She was the first Minister for the Arts, and it is actually her birthday today. I will close with one of her quotes, which is still relevant to the situation in which we find ourselves. She said:

“In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as remote from everyday life.”

Our everyday life is challenging, and the arts must be supported now and in the future. I support the motion in the name of Joan McAlpine MSP.