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Creative Scotland accused of falling below standard and ‘damaging’ the confidence of cultural organisations

Janet Archer, formerly chief executive of Creative Scotland Janet Archer, formerly chief executive of Creative Scotland
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Creative Scotland has fallen “well below the standard that is expected from a non-departmental public body” and has “damaged” the confidence of cultural bodies in the country.

These are some of the criticisms levelled at CS by a cross-party culture committee, which has set out serious concerns about the arts body’s funding round this January.

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In a strongly worded 12-page letter to its chief executive Janet Archer, the committee specifically criticises the decision-making process on funding for touring theatre and dance companies.

The committee took evidence from Archer and Ben Thomson, former interim chair, on February 22 as part of its parliamentary inquiry into regular funding for 2018-21. It also received more than 50 written responses from arts bodies.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: “It is clear to us that the confidence of a significant element of the cultural sector in Creative Scotland’s regular funding process has been badly damaged.

“In particular we felt that the handling of the process in relation to touring theatre and dance companies fell well below the standard that is expected from a non-departmental public body.”

The letter sets out a number of issues about the governance and administration of the recent regular funding round that have been raised in the evidence received.

One of the issues is how concerns were communicated to the CS board about the factual accuracy of assessment reports to bodies applying for funds.

On this matter, the letter says that “Creative Scotland’s evidence appears to be inconsistent with written evidence received by the committee”.

CS had previously committed to reviewing its internal communications and the committee says this should now be completed as a matter of urgency.

On the matter of creating a new fund for touring companies, the committee says: “Creative Scotland should have made a decision about touring companies’ eligibility for regular funding before applications were opened and communicated its decision clearly to the sector.

“The failure to do so has meant that artists and organisations have committed staff and financial resources unnecessarily to complete regular funding applications.

“This approach has hampered the sector’s trust in Creative Scotland and added to ongoing uncertainty for the sector at a time when the funding pressures on the sector are already high.”

The committee adds that it is “disappointed that the strategic issues identified by Creative Scotland were not recognised at an earlier stage so that they could be addressed before applications for regular funding were opened.”

Responding, Creative Scotland chair Robert Wilson said he recognised “that there needs to be full trust and confidence in our organisation”.

“We take all feedback very seriously and we have commissioned an independent review of the last regular funding round, which, in turn, will help shape a broader review of our overall approach to funding for the future. We are also conducting an organisational review, which will look at Creative Scotland’s culture and working practices, values, structure and operations,” he said.

Wilson also added that the organisation continues to “support excellent creative work across all parts of Scotland and internationally through all our routes to funding”.

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