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Update from our CEO, Iain Munro

Photo of Iain Munro by Neil Hanna

I’m writing to provide an update on the current funding situation, both in terms of some Covid-19 emergency funds that we are managing on behalf of the Scottish Government, and in terms of providing as much clarity as possible, at this point in time, on RFO funding arrangements. We are all operating in a continuously shifting environment so I will be as clear as possible based on what we know now or can reasonably anticipate at this time.

I fully appreciate the stressful situation that everyone working in the arts, screen and creative industries is having to deal with, the ongoing need for emergency assistance, and the pressures being caused by uncertainty about the longer term. Every effort is being made to lessen the impacts of Covid-19 as much as possible and to deliver emergency support within the resources available to us. In the last six months since the start of lockdown restrictions, this has included:

  • The introduction of the Bridging Bursary programme, which delivered £4.3m of emergency support to more than 2,200 people working in Scotland’s creative sector, this includes a dedicated bursary programme for the Screen sector, which delivered £1.4m support to 665 individuals.
  • Adapting £8.5m of existing funds to continue to support the development of creative practice and the creation of new work through the Open Fund
  • The launch of a £12.5m fund to provide relief to performing arts venues in Scotland
  • The Digital Pivot programme, to help organisations and individuals in the creative sector make best use of digital platforms during the pandemic
  • Participation in the £20m Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund for small creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of other COVID-19 business grants
  • Launch of a £2.2m Grassroots Music Venues Sustainability Fund

Specifically for Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs), we continue to be flexible and honour the current year funding arrangements to 31 March 2021. Then, as already communicated, we have made a commitment to a fourth year from 1 April 2021. While it is planned to provide Regular Funding in the fourth year at a level equal to the average of the first 3 years, this will not be confirmed until the Scottish Government announces Creative Scotland’s funding in the 2021/22 budget. The date of this announcement has not been set and is expected to be in late 2020 or early 2021. 2021/22 Regular Funding will be subject to the agreement of a funding contract based on a mutually agreed plan of activity.

In addition to the above measures, the First Minister announced on 28 August a further £59m of emergency funding for culture and heritage to address the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including £31.5m for culture through Creative Scotland. We are now working fast on the development and delivery of a range of emergency funds:

  • £3.5m Independent Cinema Recovery and Resilience Fund - announced last week
  • £15m Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund - the guidance and criteria will be published tomorrow, 10 September and then open for applications on 17 September
  • £5m Creative Freelancer Hardship Funds - we will be issuing a call-out on 11 September for partner organisations to work with us in its distribution to ensure we reach the widest range of people most effectively
  • £5m Sustaining Creative Practice Fund - £3.5m to be delivered through our existing Open Fund, and £1.5m for a new Culture Collective programme to connect freelancers and communities across Scotland
  • £3m Youth Arts Fund to ensure creative opportunities for children and young people continue to exist across Scotland despite the Covid-19 pandemic - details will be published next week.

We expect there will be a lot of interest and significant demand, including from RFO’s, for the Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund. Its primary aim is to protect jobs and to support the sustainability of organisations threatened by insolvency in the short to medium term and will include support for galleries, theatre and dance companies, large music venues, comedy venues, nightclubs, production facilities and artists workspaces experiencing critical financial problems that threaten insolvency or significant job losses due to the impact of Covid-19.

It is important to note that we are delivering these funds on behalf of the Scottish Government and are required to address the parameters set by them. In some cases, we are temporarily being asked to provide emergency support to sectors that we have not previously supported - an illustration of the unprecedented times we are living in and the extent of public support being sought to address the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The emergency funding being made available represents a significant and very welcome allocation of funds from both the UK and Scottish Governments, underlining the value of culture and creativity amongst our political leaders. However, the distressing reality is that the scale and severity of the challenges are so great that it is clear that, even with the emergency funding being offered, the survival of every cultural organisation and every job cannot be assured and the pandemic will, inevitably, have an impact that none of us would wish.

Looking to the longer term, prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had undertaken a great deal of work as regards a review of our current funding model with a view to establishing a new approach. The Covid-19 emergency and its devastating impact on the creative and culture sector in Scotland, and on society as a whole, has meant that all of our resources and attention has been diverted to helping people and organisations in the sector address this ongoing crisis.

Delivering the new emergency funds will be our top priority for the next few months however, we will revisit the review of our funding approach as soon as possible, recognising this will need to be done in the light of the changed circumstances we face, not least in terms of future public finances.

How we reset creativity and culture in Scotland in response to Covid-19 needs to be a collective effort and we have been discussing this with colleagues from sector representative bodies the Scottish Contemporary Art Network, the Federation of Scottish Theatre, Publishing Scotland, Arts and Business Scotland, Craft Scotland, Cultural Alliance, Culture Counts, Festivals Edinburgh, Literature Alliance and the Scottish Music Industry Association. We are working with them to establish a range of forums in the latter part of this year to bring the creative and culture sector together with wider partners to discuss the longer term challenges and what we need to do together to adapt to a new future. More on this will be communicated shortly.

In the meantime, an important piece of research that I’d like to bring to your attention is the Audience Intention work that we have been undertaking. This is research amongst the general public with the aim of understanding attitudes towards engagement with culture – for example attending cultural events and venues – and how these are changing in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This research is being conducted in four waves and the results from the first wave have been published on our website today. The research tells us that 81% of the Scottish population are still interested in attending cultural events, however, it also highlights areas where audiences have increased concern due to Covid, information that is very useful as the culture sector plans on re-opening to the public.

The challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic are only too real and are not going to go away quickly or easily but please do be assured that Creative Scotland will continue to play its part in strongly advocating for the sector and to ensure that as much support as possible flows to artists, freelancers and organisations as quickly and as comprehensively as possible.

We will continue to issue information and updates as soon as we have them across our various channels, so please follow us on social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook; check back to our website regularly; and keep an eye out for regular updates from myself and my colleagues. We are also providing a comprehensive update on a monthly basis to the Culture Committee at the Scottish Parliament, read the latest update here.

Best wishes,

Iain Munro