Creative Scotland’s arts strategy raises concern about low incomes of artists

Stuart Rodger

Creative Scotland report highlights unequal access for both performers and audiences

CREATIVE SCOTLAND has launched its arts strategy for 2016-2017, with one of its core aims being to ensure artists are paid fairly and sustainably for their work.

Highlighting the poverty and intermittent income of many artists, the arts funding body said 80 per cent of artists earn less than £10,000 per annum. Focussing on the precarious nature of their employment patterns, the report said: “[Artists] are not recognised as ‘job-less’, even though they may be ‘income-less’. This means they are unable to claim unemployment and other associated benefits.”

The document – published on Creative Scotland’s website – also highlighted concerns that access to the arts in Scotland are the preserve of the wealthy: “The most frequent arts attendees and participants are from Scotland’s least deprived areas, tend to be in urban areas, and have the highest levels of educational attainment.”

“The most frequent arts attendees and participants are from Scotland’s least deprived areas.” Creative Scotland

A spokesperson from the Scottish branch of the Musician’s Union said: “The MU welcomes the arts strategy and that it recognises the issues facing musicians stemming from the freelance nature of much of their work, such as intermittent work opportunities and low incomes for many.”

They added: “The MU would like to see funding distributed in a way which encourages sustainability within the music sector and further to this we would also urge Creative Scotland to ensure that opportunities for musicians continue to be available, protected and sustained.”

The agency vowed to undertake an “impact analysis” on Open Project Funding and said it would seek feedback from individual artists about their funding models. The strategy is self-aware about the problems people experience from arts funding councils: “Artists can be less conservative in their thinking than funders, clients, audiences and society. This can be challenging for funders in terms of the wide context of accountability, capturing public benefit and public perception.”

Creative Scotland is clear that demands for funding come at a time of constrained public spending: “The demand on funding is increasing at a time when the funding available to Creative Scotland, other arts and cultural stakeholders, partners and across the public sector, is reducing,” the agency said on its website.

The report indicated that the arts receive 0.2 per cent of the Scottish Government’s budget. Creative Scotland has suggested the Scottish Government could uses the new tax and spending powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to increase the sector’s funding. Arguing that such spending would be an investment, the report said such spending gets a “significant return”.

The report indicates that the arts receive 0.2 per cent of the Scottish Government’s budget.

It also raised concerns about the maintenance of venues. “As pressures grow on local authority budgets, and while Creative Scotland currently has no large capital programme open for application, the cost of maintaining the listed building stock will continue to be a particular concern.”

The report also suggested the possibility of bringing on board the views of audiences when making decisions: “One way of achieving a broader outlook would be to explore the development of a national citizen or audience council that would be a forum to discuss, debate and inform how Creative Scotland develops policy in certain areas.”

Green MSP Ross Greer said: "Over 70,000 people are already employed in the creative sector in Scotland, so we have a real opportunity to strengthen and grow this area of our economy. In our 2016 Culture manifesto the Greens called for an intermittent work scheme to boost the income of artists between jobs. We'd urge the Scottish Government to consider exploring such a scheme.”

Picture courtesy of Chris Carter / Flickr

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