Covid-19 Assistance for Cutural Organisations (North East Scotland)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what financial assistance it has made available for cultural organisations in the north-east since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown. (S5O-04597)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Cultural organisations in the north-east have received funding from many Scottish Government Covid-19 funds, including Creative Scotland’s open project funding and performing arts venues relief fund; the pivotal enterprise resilience fund; the creative, tourism and hospitality enterprises hardship fund; the third sector resilience fund; and Covid-19 emergency funds administered by Museums Galleries Scotland.

Aberdeen Performing Arts, Castlegate Arts, the Out of the Darkness Theatre Company in Elgin, Deveron Projects in Huntly, and Findhorn Bay Arts are among those that have received funding.

I have also recently announced further funding of £59 million for the culture sector, from which cultural organisations in the north-east will be able to seek assistance.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

It is clear that that funding is too little, too late for the first city in Scotland to have had to contend with a second lockdown.

In the past few weeks, one of Aberdeen’s biggest nightclubs, Nox, has closed its doors. Three other venues have had to launch a crowdfunder in order to survive. Comedy clubs, including Breakneck Comedy, have written to the Scottish National Party Government warning that Scottish comedy is at breaking point. Restaurants and pubs are closing, including, just yesterday, the popular Under the Hammer.

For all the warm words and self-congratulation, when will the SNP Government finally start to take an interest in the north-east, and provide some genuine support that might reverse the trend?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There is a succinct question for you.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The cultural organisations that I speak to are very grateful for the funding that has been announced. Much of it comes from consequentials from the United Kingdom Government, which may have been announced but are yet to be spent.

From today, the £15 million culture organisations and venues recovery fund, which will help support many of the organisations that Liam Kerr has talked about, including the comedy and theatre sectors, is open for applications. I encourage those who want to apply to make sure that they contact Creative Scotland to do so.

That is action; it gets the money to cultural organisations; and people are very grateful for the efforts that have been made.

It is tough; it is difficult for everyone. However, I hope that Liam Kerr will also encourage the UK Government to think about the other sectors—in particular, the events sector—that cannot open any time soon, and to think about providing them with additional funds. That would bring consequentials, so we could do even more than we are already doing to support the north-east.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

Last year, the cabinet secretary visited Creative Stirling, and I am sure that she was impressed with its role as a real incubator of innovation and social enterprise. However, across Scotland, such organisations are struggling to fit with Creative Scotland’s very narrow vision of what the sector can do. How will the cabinet secretary ensure that organisations such as Creative Stirling get the funding that they need to help lead placemaking and the recovery from Covid?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The culture organisations and venues recovery fund is very broad, and deliberately so. I cannot give an answer today as to whether Creative Stirling, which I have visited, is eligible, but I encourage it to consider applying to the fund. The fund has opened to applications today and the guidance was produced last week.

I was extremely impressed with Creative Stirling’s support for freelancers and artists and the vibrancy that it is bringing to the city centre. It is a really good example of what the creative industries and culture can bring. We have announced funding for freelancers and we hope to open that fund to applications soon, which will help individual artists. The Creative Stirling venue, the service that it provides and the energy, innovation and ideas that I experienced when I visited it are all welcome. I want Creative Stirling to survive and thrive.

Photo of Alex Rowley Alex Rowley Labour

On breakfast television, I saw Brian Cox doing an interview in which he said that he had written to the First Minister to make the case for the King’s theatre in Edinburgh, which is an independent theatre. I have tried to make that same case in writing to the cabinet secretary in relation to the Alhambra theatre in Dunfermline, which is also an independent theatre. Some independent theatres do not seem to be included in the money that is being distributed. Can that be looked at?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The King’s theatre is eligible for the performing arts venues fund, and it has applied to that. Brian Cox’s interest was to do with a capital project at the theatre, which we have had discussions about previously. In August, I replied to two letters from Capital Theatres in relation to that issue, and discussions on that are on-going.

However, the £15 million culture organisations and venues recovery fund is exactly for the type of theatre that the member wrote to me about. It is not just about support for regularly funded organisations. We want to try to prevent insolvencies and support freelancers. That fund is open for applications today, and I am sure that the Alhambra theatre, which the member wrote to me about, can consider applying to it.