Highland museums say proposed 50% cut would lead to closures - Museums Association

Highland museums say proposed 50% cut would lead to closures

Up to 19 museums could be affected by Highland Council cuts
Profile image for Geraldine Kendall Adams
Geraldine Kendall Adams
Independent museums are appealing to the Highland Council in Scotland to rethink a proposed budget cut of 50% to its grants for culture from 2016.

The council, which needs to cut its budget by £64m over the next four years, currently has service-level agreements with 19 independent museums, as well as other cultural organisations and sports groups. It distributes £1.5m worth of grants every year to cover their bills and staff costs.

According to its budget proposals, the council plans to cut that amount by £714,000 and change the way it funds those organisations, requiring them to bid against each other for grants. As an initial step towards this model, the council says it will reduce all grants by 10% next year.

The Highland Museums Forum says the cut would force many museums to close if it goes ahead and has submitted a Case for Support document to the council. The document outlines the positive benefits that the museums in the Highlands bring to children, volunteers, local traders and visitors.

“The proposed cut is going to create huge difficulties because we really do rely on those grants to open the doors and pay the bills,” said Alison Boyle, the curator of the Highland Museum of Childhood. “Across the Highlands there would be a lot of closures.”

This would have a “huge impact” on local businesses and the wider community, she said. “In some areas the museum might be the only tourist attraction in the area.”

Boyle said the cut would also lead to the loss of professional staff and expertise at the largely volunteer-run museums, meaning schools and community programmes would also suffer.

The Museums Association’s director Sharon Heal has urged the council to rethink the cut. Heal said: "We know that local authorities are under pressure but I would appeal to the Highland Council to think again about these cuts. There will be a big impact on the delivery of front-line cultural services if the proposed cut goes ahead, leading to possible closures and loss of experienced staff.

“Many of these museums serve as a focal point for local communities as well as being home to collections that tell the stories of our past and they should be supported to continue their invaluable work."

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