Culture and Leisure Trusts

– in the Scottish Parliament on 12th August 2020.

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Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

6. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s response is to reports that more than a third of culture and leisure trusts in Scotland may not be viable beyond six months. (S5F-04273)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

This is a really challenging time for individuals and organisations in the culture and leisure sector. We will continue to do all that we can to support them.

Obviously, it is the responsibility of individual local authorities to allocate funding based on needs and priorities, but we are working closely with partners—including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Museums Galleries Scotland, and the Scottish Library and Information Council—to understand the specific circumstances that are faced in supporting culture and leisure trusts as they seek to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

We have already taken action to support local authorities during the pandemic, through both increased and front-loaded funding for councils. We have also made funding available in other ways to deliver financial support for the creative sector.

Photo of Graham Simpson Graham Simpson Conservative

The chair of Community Leisure UK in Scotland, Robin Strang, issued a warning for the sector in a letter to COSLA’s President, Alison Evison. In it, he said that

70 per cent of his organisation’s members will not be viable within 12 months.

Such trusts in Scotland have more than 1,400 facilities, including 232 libraries, 197 leisure centres, 466 outdoor sports courts and pitches, 39 theatres, 49 parks and 213 community and town halls. Those are vital to the health and wellbeing—physical and mental—of the nation. We cannot afford to let them sink. However, there have already been hundreds of redundancies.

I am sure that the First Minister will agree that this should not be a blame game—it is not. Will she therefore agree to hold crisis talks with COSLA as a matter of urgency, and to come up with a rescue plan?

The First Minister:

As I said in my original answer, we are already working closely with COSLA on that issue and a range of others, and we will continue to do so. I absolutely acknowledge the impact that Graham Simpson has outlined. I do not think that there will be a single one of us in the chamber who does not understand the issues and the impacts from our constituency experiences. This is an important issue.

Like so many other areas in which we are dealing not so much with the impact of the virus itself, but with the impact of the steps that we have had to take to contain it, I am afraid that there are no easy answers in this one. However, we are determined to work with partners—in this case, with COSLA and other representative bodies—to find the best way forward. We will do so as collaboratively, but also as urgently, as possible.