Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 4:34 pm, 8th October 2020

As Christmas approaches, the prospects for the sectors supported by DCMS are bleak. That I may not get to go to see Motherwell FC in the new year’s Lanarkshire derby, to go to see the “Sleeping Beauty” panto in Derby with my mother-in-law and my kids, or to go with my family to see Scottish Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow is incredibly sad, but it is much more than sad for those whose livelihoods are within these sectors—so much more for the performers without an audience, the musicians who will not be heard, the box office staff, the crew, the lighting and sound engineers, the people running funfairs, local journalists, cleaners, ground staff and those who serve the drinks, the ice cream and the half-time pies. For them, it is devastating, and they deserve the support of this UK Government—support not just for the bricks and mortar of venues, as important as that is, but for those who work in them—and wholeheartedly, not the weasel words of the Chancellor and some of the other Ministers.

Many freelancers and contractors have had absolutely nothing at all from this UK Government, having been left out of the job retention furlough scheme and excluded from the self-employment support scheme. They deserve better. Their contribution is significant: their jobs—their lifelong vocations—are viable and as worthy as those in any of the other sectors that are still struggling. They support a whole other ecosystem in hospitality and tourism, and in the supply chain. Ending the furlough scheme must be rethought because, as David Warburton pointed out, the job support scheme is of very little use to venues that remain closed because of the public health restrictions, which are necessary to protect us all. We know that stopping the furlough scheme at the end of this month has already put millions of jobs on the line, and as Steve McCabe laid out, there is a significant impact in constituencies such as his, and in every constituency up and down these islands. It is a choice of this Government, knowing what we know about this virus now, to throw people out of viable jobs and careers into unemployment, because we also know that there will not be enough jobs to go around for people who lose their jobs now.

My hon. Friend David Linden laid out how the show people who have worked incredibly hard to entertain us over many generations and those who provide food vans and various other support to events will not be able to go back to normal. It is with great sadness that I see that the carnival at the Scottish Event Campus will not be going ahead this Christmas. As well as that, other events and conferences that support the Scottish Event Campus cannot go ahead either.

The Scottish Government have worked incredibly hard to spread funds around through various schemes, such as the pivotal enterprise resilience fund of £122 million; £23 million through the creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund; the performing arts venues relief fund, which is a targeted fund of £12.5 million to support performing arts venues; the grassroots music venues stabilisation fund of £2.2 million to small music venues that cannot open; and the independent cinema recovery and resilience fund of £3.5 million to help small cinemas. I think it would be useful if the UK Government did something for the bigger cinemas, because then people in my constituency would not be losing their jobs from Cineworld closing its doors, along with 5,500 employees across the rest of the UK.

There is also the £15 million cultural organisations and venues recovery fund; the £5 million hardship funds for creative freelancers, recognising the importance of freelancers in that sector and supporting them financially; the £5 million sustaining creative practice fund for young artists to continue developing creative work during covid-19 and promoting us into the recovery thereafter; the £3 million youth arts fund; and the £3.8 million to the National Trust for Scotland and the £21.3 million to Historic Environment Scotland to protect our cultural and heritage venues.

Museums have also been supported through the £4 million recovery and resilience fund managed by Museums Galleries Scotland. As of last week only 160 of Scotland’s 423 museums were currently open. According to the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions, of those attractions that are open, only 28% are operating at an economically sustainable level. Museums have also benefited significantly from furlough, and their skilled employees face an uncertain future as we head into a covid winter.

The tourism sector is facing problems as well, because people are not coming from around the world to visit all of these wonderful venues in our constituencies. As Peter Aldous pointed out, the coach sector has been left out completely. The VAT cut has been welcomed, but it needs to be permanent because we will not be out of this any time soon.

As Ben Bradley set out, many of our local community sports clubs also play an absolutely pivotal role in their community in tackling health inequalities as well as the other work they do, but many of them are under threat due to the pandemic. Sports such as rugby, hockey, shinty, netball and basketball are really struggling, and they need additional support for the future. Venues have not reopened, and there needs to be more clarity in what consequential funding will be made available through culture and leisure trusts. I note this afternoon that COSLA and the Scottish Government have agreed £139 million of a lost income scheme because the scale of losses within the sector is absolutely significant. That will go some way to addressing it, but we are not out of this crisis yet.

Many clubs, particularly in lower non-league football, as we have heard from many Members this afternoon, rely heavily on matchday income to survive, not least because considerably more people per capita in Scotland go to football matches than in any other country in Europe. The Scottish Government are fully aware that it has been an enormously challenging time for the sporting sector and that the pandemic has put a real financial strain on many sporting organisations, but it is important that we get more clarity in the funding that is coming from the UK Government to Scotland, so that we can get money out the door to sporting organisations in Scotland.

Covid has had a massive impact on the charitable and voluntary sector—Julian Knight, the Chair of the Select Committee talked about that in the context of Cancer Research UK. Many organisations and volunteers have stepped up to do more with less money. It would be helpful, on Gift Aid Awareness Day, if the committed to studying the gift aid emergency relief package proposed by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Institute of Fundraising Scotland, the Charities Aid Foundation and a coalition of about 500 voluntary organisations, which would provide a much-needed funding boost and support.

We have heard from colleagues across the House about the impact of covid-19 in the sectors covered by DCMS. We thank the Government—make no mistake about that—for the support that has come from a UK Government who do have the ability to borrow and the full range of fiscal levers at their disposal, but there is a real sense of frustration, as the Minister will have heard, from across the House. As the Chair of the Select Committee pointed out, the measures do not go far enough. The measures seem to assume that we will all be out of this sometime soon. The recovery will be hampered if the culture, media and sport sectors are allowed to go to the wall by the UK Government, and the UK Government must urgently think again and recognise the reality of the situation that we face in the months ahead. If they do not, we will face a desolate future without these sectors, which are economically significant and bring us the joy that makes our lives worth living.