State funding for the arts is often seen as less important than money given to other areas of business, like shipbuilding, for example. However, while the latter sector was worth £262 million to the Scottish economy in 2020, according to the latest Scottish Government figures, our creative industries contributed more than £5 billion and employed more than 70,000 people. In brass-tacks terms alone, the arts are extremely important, and then there’s the way they enrich people’s lives, buoying our spirits and mental health.
However, this does not seem to be reflected in the corridors of power at Holyrood. Yesterday Iain Munro, chief executive of Creative Scotland, which distributes funding to arts organisations, warned MSPs of a looming crisis following extraordinary chopping and changing over funding by the Scottish Government.
Last December, the Scottish Government announced a £6.6 million cut to Creative Scotland’s budget. Following uproar, this decision was reversed in February. However, it’s now emerged the cut has been reinstated, with its second U-turn bringing the government full circle, back to where it started.
The consequences for Creative Scotland have been profound, forcing it to use cash reserves to make up for the shortfall. Mr Munro described this as “trying to change the engines on an airplane while you are flying it”. He warned this emergency measure was a “one-off” and that any future cuts would have to be passed on to a sector in which “at least a third” of the organisations are “financially fragile”. Hundreds of jobs are at risk.
The ongoing fiasco over attempts to build two CalMac ferries at the state-owned Ferguson Marine shipyard began with the good intention of saving Clyde shipbuilding and the cynical intention of good headlines for the SNP. It has turned into an unmitigated disaster with the recent revelation that it might be cheaper to scrap one vessel and start again.
The two ferries are set to cost more than £350 million, three-and-a-half times the original estimate. Now the arts industry is plunged into crisis over a fraction of that sum. Incompetent government has real-world consequences and, if voters fail to notice, they may pay a heavy price.