Scotland welcomes budget

Government’s draft budget proposes 4.5% cut to spend on cultural collections, although funding for NMS and MGS will remain the same. Caroline Parry reports
Caroline Parry
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The Scottish government’s draft budget for 2017-18 has received a broadly positive response from museums and galleries, despite further cuts to local authority funding.

The plans, published towards the end of last year, propose a 4.5% cut to spending on cultural collections (which includes funding for Scotland’s national museums, galleries and libraries) to £77m in 2017-18 – the second cut in as many years. But funding for National Museums Scotland (NMS) and non-national museums will be the same.

The news was welcomed by NMS, although a spokeswoman conceded the financial climate remained challenging. “We aim to deal with this by continuing to keep a tight rein on our costs, and expanding and enhancing our earned income,” she says.

Museums Galleries Scotland
, the national development body for the sector, also retained its funding at 2016-17 levels.

It will receive £2.35m, plus £200,000 for capital projects.

Raising awareness

Joanne Orr, the organisation’s chief executive, says the body has been working hard to raise awareness of the wider values of the sector, and protection of its budget endorses that contribution.

“Museums play a vital role in the lives of individuals, families and communities across Scotland,” says Orr. “Their learning and outreach work bridge the inequalities in education and health provision. They bring a positive economic impact and they connect people with their community.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has said it will also continue to support the development of the V&A Museum of Design in Dundee, and the refurbishment of Kelvin Hall in Glasgow with new funding.

However, Creative Scotland, the public body for the arts, screen and creative industries, suffered a 3.6% cut to its budget to £32.1m.
 
The picture is not quite as clear for local non-national museums and galleries, however, with local government budgets falling 3.2% over the next year.
 
Nat Edwards, former assistant director for the south at the National Trust for Scotland, and a Scottish representative for the Museums Association, welcomes the government’s work on trying to maintain culture and heritage spending, but sounds a note of caution on local funding.

“I do have concerns at the local level, where support for museums is sometimes seen as a luxury or else something that doesn’t service the widest community,” he says. “This is where I think we need to be much better at making the case for museums.”

He adds that there are many “good examples” of museums finding new and creative ways of working, and experimenting with new commercial models.
 
But Edwards warns that there is a limit to how much time can be spent on this before it affects a museum’s core mission.

Decision time

“I think it is getting to the point where we have to decide if we want local museums or not, as I think the reason why we have them gets lost in the numbers,” he says, adding that it might be time for a “new wave of public discussion on the benefits of museums”.

Orr says it is too early to comment on what the cuts will mean for local museums. “There are many variances that local authorities will be taking into consideration while navigating these budget changes,” she adds.
 
“Museums Galleries Scotland will be liaising with Vocal [the Association of culture and leisure managers] and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to ensure that museums and galleries will be supported fully in the coming months.”

The final budget will be published this month.

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