First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged that culture will be “at the very heart” of the Scottish Government’s plans for recovery from the pandemic – should the SNP return to power.
Following major backlash from the arts sector over current regulations, the first minister have promised to review strict social distancing guidelines for entertainment venues.
And she said she hoped data from test events in England could be used to help inform a return to “more normal events” in Scotland.
Where are our test events? https://t.co/ppONXPWJhx
— @mintofmontrose (@mintofmontrose) April 29, 2021
Ms Sturgeon also pointed to an SNP manifesto pledge to provide a three-year funding settlement for “core funded cultural organisations”.
Financial support ‘badly needed’
Michelle Sweeney, director of creative development for cultural organisation OnFife, welcomed the pledge. She said: “Providing financial support feels the best solution for the sector right now. It is badly needed.
“And is a move we wholly support, given that we are unable to generate income through our venues.”
And Nick Williams, CEO of Perth’s Horsecross Arts, said: “We are delighted that the first minister has committed to a three-year funding settlement to support arts organisations to rebuild after the devastation of the pandemic.”
“But until the rules change, there is no pathway to reopening and rebuilding available to us in any viable way.”
Earlier this week, Mr Williams criticised the disparity between strict Scottish regulations and more relaxed rules in England. He said inconsistency, both across the UK and within Scotland’s own policies, risked “irreparably damaging” the sector.
Currently, Scottish venues such as theatres and stadia must maintain two-metre social distancing for patrons, while pubs and cafes must only enforce one-metre distancing.
In England, all social distancing is set to be scrapped on June 21.
Calls for clear roadmap
Mr Williams has now called for more government engagement with the industry. He said: “We are issuing invites to a range of politicians, clinicians, and civil servants to come to a concert at Perth Concert Hall in a few weeks’ time.
“This will let them see how we can manage things safely and understand the true impact of the current rules.
“We hope that this will give opportunity for direct engagement with the sector.
“And we look forward to a productive discussion on the easing of restrictions and the reopening of live performances.”
If we had more specific guidance around social distancing, it would help us to plan more.”
Michelle Sweeney, OnFife
Echoing Mr Williams’ calls for communication, Ms Sweeney said: “Once again we were disappointed to have to push our theatre programming back again until September. The landscape remains very unclear.
“We will be reviewing this in June, and will continue to review as the situation evolves, to evaluate how the guidelines are likely to affect our ability to reopen.
“If we had more specific guidance around social distancing, it would help us to plan more.
“But equally, we understand the need for caution as we move out of lockdown.”
Leisure and Culture Dundee echoed the feeling of uncertainty. A spokesperson said: “We are aware of the issues surrounding arts venues. We are keeping a close watch on the situation as coronavirus restrictions change.
“We look forward to reopening the Caird Hall once guidance permits.”