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Scotland and Northern Ireland Lobbying Update

Scotland & Northern Ireland Regional Organiser, Caroline Sewell, reports on how the region has been, "lobbying hard at local and national level to ensure that the interests of our members remain firmly on the political agenda.”

Published: 23 July 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:31 PM
duo performing on stage
The culture unions want to ensure that they are involved in how this money is distributed in order to ensure that freelance creative workers are not left behind. Photo: Shutterstock

The Scotland and Northern Ireland region have been lobbying hard at local and national level to ensure that the interests of our members remain firmly on the political agenda as we continue to witness with deep concern, that many of our members and the wider creative community appear to have been left behind by the various financial relief packages which have been announced in recent months.

Guidance from the Scottish Government

The Scottish Government has begun to issue a raft of guidance for different sectors, including the creative sector, with a view to getting safely back to work.

The guidance published so far includes Creative Studios, Events, and Tourism and Hospitality. Guidance on Performing Arts and Venues will be published shortly. 

We are glad to have been able to contribute to and have influence in the development of these and continue to feed into these ongoing conversations as the situation develops and lockdown restrictions are eased.

Collaborating with the other creative unions

EC member, Rab Noakes and I have continued to meet with creative union colleagues, STUC and Scottish Government advisors on a regular basis.

This group now comprises of the MU, Equity, Bectu, Writers’ Guild for Great Britain, Scottish Artists Union, Scottish Government Advisors and the STUC. 

These discussions have been positive, productive and helpful and have been geared firmly towards ensuring that the voice of the creative unions is heard and is at the forefront in future sectoral planning. 

Welcome financial support must be distributed

There has been very welcome recent announcements of  financial support for the creative industries including £10m support for performing arts venues, and a further £2.2m announced for grassroots music venues from the Scottish Government – in addition to the £97m package which was announced as part of the UK Governments £1.57bn relief package.

The culture unions want to ensure that they are involved in how this money is distributed in order to ensure that freelance creative workers, many of whom have not been able to benefit from either the Job Retention Scheme or the Self Employed Income Support Scheme are not left behind. Particularly as realistically, they will be unable to return to work in venues, theatres and festivals for some time.

We have written to Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture to request a meeting as soon as possible.

Calling for the reintroduction of busking and outdoor performances

All local authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have received a letter from myself as regards the reintroduction of busking and outdoor performances in order to ensure that local restrictions are lifted or relaxed for the purposes of getting musicians back to work in the safest way possible.

One angle on this which has been helpful to highlight is the encouragement to ‘keep it local’, and drive consumers to local high streets in the wake of the devasting impact Covid-19 has had on local town centres.

The presence of live music makes this a more attractive and inviting option for shoppers, whilst also allows some musicians to get back to work.  I have received a number of very positive responses from Local Authorities with whom we continue to discuss matters, which has been very encouraging. 

Highlight issues in Northern Ireland

I am also having regular meetings with the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland alongside colleagues from Equity.  We have taken the opportunity to highlight our members issues and the concerning numbers who are ineligible for the financial support packages.  

The Northern Ireland Government have recently announced a £4m funding package for the arts sector and will benefit from £33m as part of the UK Government relief package.

We are now lobbying to ensure that once this money is received by the Northern Ireland Executive, it remains within the arts sector and that this money goes some way to helping artists as well as saving important cultural organisations and venues.

We have been working hard to ensure that the MU’s voice is heard and have so far been able to exert real influence on behalf of our members. We will continue to lobby for a safe and economically viable return to work for MU members as soon as government guidance allows.

See more news, events and contact details for our Scotland & Northern Ireland Regional Office.

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