Homecoming: Scots and traditional arts groups struggling

The Year of Homecoming is in danger of being a disappointment if traditional arts and culture are not properly supported, says Falkirk East MSP Cathy Peattie.

Cathy Peattie, who is a prominent supporter of Traditional Arts and the Convener of the Cross-party Group on Culture and Media, highlighted the problems facing traditional arts and language in Scotland. She warned that people coming to Scotland for the Homecoming will get limited access to traditional music and culture as part of their visit due to funding problems for traditional arts and language groups.

Cathy said:

“We are now in the year of the Homecoming, and yet uncertainty still exists regarding the funding of traditional arts and Scots language organisations. People are coming to Scotland to celebrate and experience our vibrant cultural heritage but what they will find is our cultural structures in turmoil.

“The Minister is still looking at the situation, and in the longer term, the problems can still be addressed, but for many organisations it is already too late to contribute to the Homecoming to the extent that they would have liked. The Homecoming will be the poorer because of this.

“We need to move as quickly as possible to address the funding issues for Scots language and traditional arts, and culture in Scotland generally, whether through Creative Scotland or by other means.

“The bottom line is that the cultural sector needs to be funded securely and sustainably so that organisations and artists can build for the future with confidence.”

Ms Peattie was backed by a number of Traditional Arts and language Groups.

A spokesman for the board of the Scots Music Group said:

“It’s an astonishing irony that in the year of Homecoming, we and several other Scots cultural organisations are going through funding turmoil – one that threatens our existence. Instead of developing our organisation, we’ve had to spend huge amounts of time simply trying to save it. PR approaches are fine, but only if they reflect genuine investment in the culture that they are promoting.”

Scots language organisations are also experiencing funding problems.

Dr Colin Milton, Convenor of the Scots Language Centre board, said:

“It is nearly a year and a half since the Scots Language Centre applied for funding from the Scottish Arts Council to continue its work. The Centre, the main on-line information and network resource for anyone interested in the Scots language, has still had no clear indication from the Scottish government that they will continue to support us. This is an extremely frustrating situation for SLC, and staff morale has been seriously undermined by it.”

“The government’s prevarication on this matter is all the more difficult to understand when one considers the progress the Centre has made in attracting visitors to its online services – there was a 25% increase in visits between 2007 and 2008, and in December 2008 alone, numbers rose by over 80% from the equivalent time in the previous year. The Scots Language Centre provides fantastic value to Scottish tax payers – we wish the government would recognise that, and give us the support we need to carry on serving the community.”


Notes:

Organisations which lost funding from April 2009 (with grant requested)
Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust £75,000
Scots Music Group £60,000
Traditional Music & Song Association £46,000
Voluntary Arts Scotland – £80,000
Scottish Language Dictionaries – £155,000
Scots Language Centre – £85,534

These requests are broadly in line with past funding, e.g. 2008/9, Scots Music Group – £58,607
(see http://www.scottisharts.org.uk/1/funding/pastgrantsawarded.aspx)

In practice the ending of funding in March 2009 meant redundancy notices, cuts and winding down from Autumn 2008.

In October, in response to protests, the language organisations were given six months funding, pending the results of an audit of Scots language that was due to be completed in early November, and will probably now be published later this month.

The other four groups were told that they could apply for “up to £30,000 in Organisational Development funding in order to help them to develop their ongoing plans and adjust to a different funding relationship” (Scottish Arts Council statement). While this may help to maintain some activity, it is still a major cut in funding and future funding remains uncertain, making it difficult to undertake anything involving long term planning.

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