Scottish Maritime Museum

Scottish industrial museums call for more support

Simon Stephens, 02.04.2020
Job Retention Scheme needs to be more flexible
A group of Scottish industrial museums has said that measures introduced to help businesses retain staff during the coronavirus crisis need to be adapted for them to benefit.

A statement from Industrial Museums Scotland (IMS), which represents 11 organisations running a total of 14 sites, said: “The Job Retention Scheme will give museums breathing space, allowing a greater period of time for those in desperate need of cashflow support, giving time to reorganise and to plan for the future.

"However, this is only if the scheme is able to disperse the subsidy quickly. Even so, this may prove only to be a sticking plaster and will by no means solve the problem of how museums are to survive the current crisis in the long-term.”

David Mann is the chair of IMS and the director of the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine, Ayrshire.

He said: “The Job Retention Scheme is welcomed by all museums that we have spoken to – but the devil is in the detail. There are issues with the need to maintain security and care of collections, which mean any staff doing as little as one hour a week are ineligible in the current guidelines.

"In smaller museums, the benefits are less and the need for flexible working is greater, with one person having a host of roles, some of which are no longer required and others that are essential.”

Mann said the scheme needs to be more flexible, to support either shorter working hours or to allow members of staff to volunteer with their organisation to undertake minimal hours, for oversight, collections care, security or other essential jobs, some of which are not part of their normal role.

The IMS is also concerned about the effectiveness of the Third Sector Resilience Fund, a £20m emergency fund for charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations working in Scotland

“Like the Job Retention Scheme, the fund is not the entire solution,” Mann said. “We have encouraged all our members to check if they are eligible – many are not.

“For many organisations, the real crunch will be in 12-16 weeks when a lack of cashflow and no income will mean finances become critical. This, coupled by entering low season, means a lack of funding to survive to the start of next season.”

Mann believes that most museums in the independent sector will require some kind of revenue support for this financial year and possibly the following year as well.

The 14 museums that form IMS employ about 200 people and attract more than 750,000 visitors to their venues each year. They also contribute more than £7m to Scotland’s economy, according to the organisation.

The members of IMS are:

  • Almond Valley Heritage Trust
  • Auchindrain Township
  • Dundee Heritage Trust incorporating Discovery Point and Verdant Works
  • Museum of Lead Mining
  • Museum of Scottish Lighthouses
  • Museum of Scottish Railways part of Scottish Railway Preservation Society
  • National Mining Museum Scotland
  • New Lanark World Heritage Site (associate member)
  • Scottish Fisheries Museum
  • Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine and Dumbarton
  • Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life part of Culture NL

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