Scotland hit by 11% culture funding cut

Although the draft culture budget means less money for local and national museums, there was relief among some in the sector that the cuts were not deeper
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Gareth Harris
Cuts in the draft culture budget announced by the Scottish government in December are a cause for concern for national collections and local authority-funded museums, but some sector professionals were relieved that the funding cuts were not deeper.

Overall, Scotland’s culture budget will fall from £170.2m in 2015-16 to £151.6m in 2016-17. The Cultural Collections budget will decrease by 8.5% to £78.6m in 2016-17.

This budget covers National Museums Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland and National Library grant-in- aid, as well as grant funding for Museums Galleries Scotland, the Scottish Library and Information Council, and three core-funded industrial museums. It also includes capital funding for the Victoria and Albert Museum outpost in Dundee, which is scheduled to open in summer 2018.

Preparing for cuts

Joanne Orr, the chief executive of Museums Galleries Scotland, the national development body for museums, says the organisation’s income has been cut by about 4%.

“The board of Museums Galleries Scotland had been preparing for cuts and will agree on our how the reduction in revenue grant is absorbed,” says Orr.

Within the Cultural Collections budget, there is also a 1% reduction in the revenue funding for National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums Scotland between 2015-16 and 2016-17. The latter’s grant will fall from £20.5m to £20.3m.

Alistair Brown, the policy officer at the Museums Association, says: “The sector has worked hard to deliver cultural, educational and social outcomes in recent years, but these cuts will limit what museums are able to achieve and put jobs at risk, as well as being a real blow to morale across the sector.

“The Museums Association will be working with museums and officials across Scotland to limit the impact of the cuts as much as possible.”

The budget statement stresses that the government will “continue funding for the national collections, maintaining their assets and enabling free access to the main collections for the public”.

The government will also “provide continued support in the region of £4m for non-national museums, galleries and libraries”.

Crucially, Scottish local authority museums are also likely to come under pressure, as revenue spending for local councils was cut by 3.5% for 2016-17.

Ross Irving, the president of the Scottish Museums Federation, says: “The national institutions in Scotland have all been handed a 1% cut, which does not sound significant, but years of frozen budgets and inflation will continue to put significant pressure on spending. “My biggest concern, however, is for the hundreds of museums and galleries in Scotland that are now at the mercy of local authority cuts, which have continued year on year.”

John Leighton, the director-general of National Galleries of Scotland, welcomes the decision to support free admission, saying in a statement: “It remains a challenge to balance budgets against a background of rising demand for our services, as well as the rising costs of protecting and caring for our world-class collections,” Leighton says.

Scottish government funding for the arts development body Creative Scotland has been cut by 3.6% to £32.2m for 2016-17. The body, which received £32.5m in National Lottery funding for 2015-16, says it does not plan to pass on any cuts to its regularly funded organisations in 2016-17.

Feared worse

Arts correspondent Phil Miller wrote in The Herald newspaper that some people within Creative Scotland, which is the biggest funder of the arts in Scotland, feared worse.

Miller added: “It seems, overall, that times will become harder, but the cuts, right now, are not catastrophic. Fiona Hyslop, the culture secretary, fought for her sector. But combined with inevitable cuts in crucial council spending on culture, the future doesn’t look too rosy, either.”

The Scottish government’s final budget is due to be published this month.

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