The Scottish Government values the importance of the arts and local theatres for the many benefits that they can bring, such as nurturing creativity and improving health and wellbeing. The Scottish Government provides support to local theatres through funding to Creative Scotland for its regularly funded organisations, which include world-class theatres. Independent local theatres in Scotland are also eligible to apply to Creative Scotland’s open fund for specific projects or productions. I would urge them to do so.
This year, the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock celebrates its 10th birthday, which is a significant achievement that reflects its status as a much loved cultural institution. It is a continuation of the arts guild in Greenock, which was founded in 1946, and is much loved by people in Inverclyde and across my West Scotland region. Unfortunately, the centre is often seen as the exception rather than the rule, with too many community theatres struggling for survival due to inadequate financial support. The former finance secretary’s decision to reverse a proposed £6.6 million cut to the culture sector in February was a welcome step, but Creative Scotland should not have been threatened with such a significant financial cut in the first instance. Does the minister agree that cultural institutions such as the Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock are invaluable local assets? Will she agree to meet with me to discuss funding for various theatres in West Scotland that are in real peril?
The minister might be aware of West Lothian Leisure’s proposal to close the Howden Park Centre and theatre in Livingston, West Lothian, after Labour-led and Conservative-supported West Lothian Council’s proposal to withdraw all management fee funding from the trust in future years. What more can the Scottish Government do to ensure that local authorities are meeting their statutory responsibility under the Local Government and Planning (Scotland) Act 1982 to provide cultural facilities? Surely, simply owning buildings is not enough. Communities need a local cultural strategy and at least some financial contribution to the running of cultural services.
I understand the concerns that have been raised about the future of the Howden Park Centre, although local authority provision is entirely a matter for each local authority.
I understand that Creative Scotland is initiating discussions with West Lothian Council about the potential closure of the centre in view of the redevelopment grant that was previously given to it. The additional Covid-related funding that was provided by the Scottish Government to West Lothian Council included £4.2 million in recognition of the loss of income during the pandemic by leisure centres such as the Howden Park Centre.
More broadly, we continue to work in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the culture conveners group—a forum that was instigated by Fiona Hyslop—at both local and national levels in order to identify ways to strengthen services around the principle of cultural recovery and renewal.