Cathy Peattie has called on the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish Traditional Arts and language organisations are adequately and sustainably funded.
National organisations such as the Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust, the Traditional Music & Song Association of Scotland (TMSA), and the Scots Music Group (SMG) which between them, bring together over 1,500 individuals and 30 organisations with a commitment to maintaining and building the grassroots Scottish traditional arts – face severe curtailment of their activities following funding cuts by the Scottish Arts Council.
Having highlighted the issues in the Creative Scotland debate before the summer recess, Cathy Peattie has continued to support the campaign against the cuts, and raised the issue again during questions to Culture Minister Linda Fabiani.
In her question, Cathy asked “what discussions have taken place or are planned between the Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust and other traditional arts organisations?”
Cathy explained that she asked that particular question “because the Scottish Arts Council claimed in a briefing to have “held preliminary discussions at a national level with representatives of these sectors” but that seems a little extravagant with the truth, when it was months since they had spoken with STDT, which is the main national organisation in its field. Similarly, while the TMSA and SMG are appealing their funding cuts, they won’t engage in discussions with them.
“The Minister said that the Scottish Arts Council has told her that it held a number of discussions earlier this year with traditional and other arts organisations that have been affected by the council’s flexible funding decisions, including informal discussions with the Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust in May. “That’s hardly recent or ongoing talks. However it looks as if the pressure is paying off, because the Scottish Arts Council has now said that it plans to write this week to all affected organisations and to meet them after the next board meeting on 25 September.”
Cathy also asked about the “strategic review” that has been set up to discuss funding issues in relation to the traditional arts, dance and the Scots language. The minister said that Arts development managers at the Scottish Arts Council have drafted for submission to the joint board meeting on 25 September a paper that reports on all the outstanding strategic issues following the fallout from the flexible funding decisions and offers possible solutions to the strategic issues. She indicated that while ring-fenced funding for the traditional arts stopped in 2006, she would “consider the matter and to work with the Scottish Arts Council and creative Scotland to ensure that we protect our traditional arts.”
“The important thing now,” said Cathy, “is to ensure that these organisations can survive until the SAC and the Minister get their act together to protect traditional arts funding. They need interim support, and I hope that on the 25th the SAC takes the needs of traditional arts and Scots language organisations on board.” “In the longer term, we need a funding system that does not emphasise the new and the different to the detriment of support for our living and naturally evolving cultural heritage.
“Anything less than wholehearted support for Scots language and Scottish traditional arts will leave the Scottish Government with egg on its face when we celebrate the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns’ birth in the Homecoming next year.”