Rankin and McDermid urge halt to Scottish arts cuts

Rankin and McDermid urge halt to Scottish arts cuts

Leading Scottish writers including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Denise Mina have called on the Scottish government to halt potentially "devastating" cuts to arts and literature for "the good of everyone in Scotland".

Funding for arts and culture is to be decided in a settlement between Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government later this month, and it is expected that significantly less funding and fewer opportunities will be available to develop arts and culture in Scotland.

Ahead of the budget, which will be announced on 14th December, writers have appealed to the government to increase funding to arts and literature to help produce and support writers who will encourage diversity, inclusion and literacy, as well as boost Scotland’s economy.

While the letter concedes there are "of course difficult budget decisions to make in times of austerity", the authors urge the government to consider that the cost of supporting literature "only amounts to a tiny fraction of the overall money the government will spend".

"When it comes to the arts and literature, for a modest investment from the government our work generates enormous financial and cultural dividends", the letter said.

It continued: "Without support from the government, Scotland will surely damage one of its prize assets: its world-renowned literary heritage. What an irony we could be facing: a country which trumpets its First Minister’s Reading Challenge on the one hand, but which cuts funding to new writers on the other."

The letter argued that supporting literature was by no means a "drain on the country’s resources", but that, on the contrary, "books make an enormous contribution to the country, financially and reputationally".

"Our writers tour the world, talking about Scotland and its culture at book festivals from Guadalajara to Jaipur and from Reykjavik to Auckland", said the letter. "Our books are an advertisement for Scotland, attracting tourists to visit the landmarks they’ve read about, and foreign students to come on summer schools here – not to mention the visitors who come especially for our festivals."

Award-winning crime writer and one of the 111 signatories, Ian Rankin, told The Bookseller that agencies such as Creative Scotland are a lifeline for many small independent publishers, writers, theatres, and film and TV projects. He said that cuts to culture would jeopardise the future of these artistic endeavours.

"Scotland’s creative artists show Scotland to itself and to the world and contribute to culture, community and the economy", said Rankin. "Financial cuts threaten these endeavours and make life increasingly difficult for many professions working in the cultural sector."

Fellow crime writer Val McDermid said that cuts to arts funding are “incredibly short sighted” and have negative consequences for the country’s cultural offering and also for its economy.

“I feel quite strongly that cutting funding to the arts is an easy target”, she said. “But although that has destructive consequences for the wider culture of the country, it also has economic consequences. The arts brings money into Scotland's coffers, both directly and in the indirect effect it has on tourism, It's incredibly short sighted to make cuts to the funds that support writers in their early years in particular. Writers need time and space to develop into the stars of the future.”

Meanwhile, Ever Dundas, recent winner of the Saltire Society's First Book of the Year Award, said that cuts to funding often affect the most vulnerable of society, meaning that "we lose an array of voices".

Dundas, who suffers from the chronic illness fibromyalgia which includes symptoms of chronic pain, exhaustion, and cognitive difficulties, said: "I would be really struggling without funding because I’m unable to do the myriad of things writers often have to do to make ends meet. All too often I hear the arts dismissed as a frippery and a luxury, but the arts and storytelling were a lifeline for me when I was growing up, and I know it’s saved the lives of many others. If only the privileged can afford to pursue a career in the arts, then our culture will be myopic and impoverished. Arts funding is incredibly important."

The letter follows the Society of Authors call last week for writers to join Literature Alliance Scotland's lobbying group and SoA chief executive, Nicola Solomon, in writing to cabinet secretary for finance Derek Mackay MSP to campaign against the cuts. 

In the letter, Solomon said cuts to “literary infrastructure in Scotland - the bedrock of a cultural offer recognised worldwide for its quality - will undoubtedly lead to the disappearance of many irreplaceable arts organisations and literary infrastructure which support our readers, storytellers, writers, and publishers”.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting and protecting Scotland’s culture and historic environment, to ensure our diverse and evolving culture scene and rich heritage continues to thrive."

Finance secretary Derek Mackay will set out the Scottish government’s draft budget plans to the parliament on 14th December.