A £10 million fund to help performing arts venues in Scotland survive the coronavirus crisis has been announced by the Culture Secretary.
Fiona Hyslop told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing that the Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund would help businesses prevent insolvency in the current financial year and avoid redundancies for specialist core staff.
The money for venues unable to reopen yet due to the impact of coronavirus is part of the Scottish Government’s £185 million Business Support Fund and is also expected to increase opportunities for commissioning freelancers.
Ms Hyslop said: “Our performing arts venues effectively had to close overnight, with an almost complete loss of income. There is no doubt that in doing so they saved lives, and for that I am extremely grateful.
“As we navigate our way through the pandemic, we know physical distancing is vital to ensuring that we do not see a second wave of infections, but we recognise the difficulties this presents for those in performing arts.
“This dedicated fund will be a vital lifeline to help performing arts venues continue to weather the storm. We are also actively considering support for grassroots music venues.”
Stressing she is determined that Scotland’s performing arts venues will “survive and be able to thrive again”, she called on the UK Government to announce major investment in the sector through use of its financial powers, such as borrowing capability.
Creative Scotland will operate the new fund and is expected to announce more details shortly.
Chief executive Iain Munro said: “We welcome this £10 million from the Scottish Government which will provide a critical injection of cash to help meet the immediate needs of performing arts venues in Scotland which have been so badly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is significant, welcome and demonstrates the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to culture but we also recognise that organisations and individuals working across the wider cultural sector are facing extremely challenging circumstances which, in some cases, threaten their long-term viability.
“We will therefore continue to work closely with both the Scottish Government and other partners to explore every possible avenue for further support.”
The Federation of Scottish Theatre said its members have lost around 70% of turnover since the virus hit.
Its co-chair Rhona Matheson said: “We are delighted by the scale of this investment in the future of theatre and dance in Scotland.
“The Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund will benefit our sector ecosystem, helping to secure jobs and livelihoods wherever possible all over the country.”
Scottish Greens culture spokesman Ross Greer also welcomed the funding, but warned “it will only buy venues more time, not prevent their closure entirely”.
He added: “We risk a post-Covid normal with cultural deserts across much of Scotland if venues close on the scale we’re currently facing.”