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Scotland Arts Funding Briefing for Musicians and MSPs

MSPs will be debating arts funding in the Scottish Parliament this week. Here’s what you and your MSP need to know.

Published: 24 October 2023 | 1:08 PM Updated: 24 October 2023 | 5:01 PM
Aerial view of main chamber of Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
The MU welcomes this commitment to boost funding for the arts and culture sector but seeks clarity on the detail which underpins this headline. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Following the First Minister Humza Yousaf’s announcement of an additional £100m arts funding for Scotland, Scottish Labour has secured a debate on supporting the nation’s culture sector.

Here’s a run through key facts, figures and union talking points that you may find useful in your own conversations about arts funding with friends, colleagues and decision-makers.

Are you an MU member based in Scotland? Share this page with your MSP.

Commitment to arts funding

In his speech at the SNP Conference the First Minister said: “I can announce today that over the next five years we will more than double our investment in Scotland’s arts and culture.”

He also said: “This means that by the end of the five years, our investment will be £100m higher than it is today.”

The Musicians’ Union welcomes this commitment to boost funding for the arts and culture sector but seeks clarity on the detail which underpins this headline.

A fair share for musicians and young people

The First Minister states both that “over the next five years we will more than double investment in Scotland’s arts and culture” and “by the end of the five years, our investment will be £100m higher….”

The MU seeks clarity around which budget lines have been included in the calculation that gets to £100m, and assurance that key pieces of Scotland’s arts and culture sector will see their fair share of this new funding.

This has to include Creative Scotland, Regularly Funded Organisations, National Performing Companies and Youth Music Initiative schemes, and local council culture budgets. Which, if any, of these budgets are to be doubled?

Supporting an industry in crisis now

Is the increase in funding to take effect “over the next five years” or “at the end of the five years”?

A five-year timeframe puts the end of this project after the next Scottish Parliament election, yet arts funding is in crisis now.

It is important that the Scottish Government set out a timeline for the increases the First Minister has committed to which reflects the current crisis in the sector.

Funding must be front-loaded or Scotland risks losing more musicians and others in the wider arts and culture workforce, as well as organisations across the sector. The arts and culture sector needs the certainty and confidence this funding would bring now.

Embedding Fair Work commitments in the sector

Alongside this funding commitment, we would look to the Scottish Government to also set out how they plan to work with the arts and culture sector to ensure that Fair Work is embedded across the sector.

Background on Scottish arts funding

The last decade has seen an arts funding crisis across the UK, with particular impacts in Scotland:

  • In its briefing Trends in Funding for Culture, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre set out the perfect storm facing arts and culture organisations and workers. Increasing costs, slow recovery of audience figures following the pandemic and long term funding pressure are having a concerning impact on the sector.
  • The report illustrates real terms falls in funding for Creative Scotland since 2018-19, which is exacerbated by the £6.6m in year cut faced by Creative Scotland last month.
  • This cut was previously announced in February and reversed in the face of pressure from the sector. To see it reimposed was hugely damaging to the sector, and whilst Creative Scotland have mitigated the impact with reserves, these funds were earmarked for another purpose.
  • National Performing Companies funding has remained flat in cash terms since 2016-17, which represents a 20% real terms cut over the past 10 years.
  • Musicians’ Union analysis has shown that Scottish Ballet has the lowest ballet orchestra rate in the UK, Scottish Opera the lowest opera orchestra rate, and RSNO the lowest tutti rate. Only RSNO is a full time, employed orchestra. For the National Performing Companies, there should be an aspiration to do better.
  • Over the last 20 years, funding for the Youth Music Initiative has reduced from £10m per annum to £9m. Over the same period the Musicians’ Union freelance teaching rate, to which YMI point councils, has grown from c.£20 per hour to £40.50 per hour.
  • This insecurity of work, precarious funding and comparably poor pay must be addressed if the Scottish Government is to meet its commitments to Fair Work and the Wellbeing Economy, and the aspirations of A Culture Strategy for Scotland.

Background on the music workforce

Funding cut impacts combine with Brexit, Covid-19 and the increased cost of living to create a crisis situation for musicians, with 49% of musicians now considering leaving music.

According to the first ever UK Musicians’ Census – carried out by Help Musicians and the Musicians’ Union:

  • UK musicians’ average annual income from music work is £20,700 – but nearly half earn under £14,000
  • Over half of musicians need to sustain their career by sourcing other forms of income outside of the industry
  • Nearly half (44%) report a lack of sustainable income is a barrier to their music career.

For more information on arts funding in Scotland or any of the details in this briefing, please contact MU Acting Regional Organiser for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Sam Dunkley.

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