Association of British Orchestras

ABO Statement on Creative Scotland Budget Cut

The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) has expressed deep concern at the reinstatement of the 10% cut to Creative Scotland, announced by the Scottish Government.

This - as well as Northern Ballet’s most recent decision to reassess the amount of live music that accompanies its touring productions due to increasing financial pressures and the Lammermuir Festival having been turned down by Creative Scotland’s Open Fund for funding towards this year’s festival - is yet another indicator of the worrying, downward trend in public investment in the arts in the UK.

The Creative Industries in Scotland are a strategic growth sector, contributing more than £5 billion to the Scottish economy every year. They comprise of over 15,000 businesses employing more 70,000 people and make a vital contribution to national wealth and international reputation.

Scottish orchestras, including ABO members the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Dunedin Consort, the Glasgow Barons and Scottish Opera are a national and global success story. They delight audiences at home and abroad, reach thousands of children and adults in education, health and community settings, from schools to care homes, and enrich our everyday lives through orchestras’ collaboration with film, TV, games, pop and rock concerts. 

We welcome Creative Scotland’s decision to use £6.6 million of National Lottery reserves to prevent this cut from being passed onto cultural organisations and to maintain the planned RFO payments, with the third annual payment due in just a week’s time including to ABO members Drake Music Scotland, Scottish Ensemble and Red Note Ensemble. This short-term, one-off intervention will help stabilise the position until the end of this financial year to a degree, but great uncertainty for the future remains. The impact of this decision will also be felt longer term given that the reserves used to offset this cut are earmarked to ease the transition to the new funding framework and could result in a starker future for those organisations who may be unsuccessful in securing Creative Scotland funding in years to come.

Clarity is urgently needed regarding what funding will be available when the next stage of the Creative Scotland Multi-year Fund is announced early in 2024.

We urge the Scottish Government to honour the commitment made by Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson, to reverse the cut in the 2024/25 Budget.

Cultural spending as a proportion of the overall Scottish Government budget represents less than 0.6% of total overall expenditure – one of the lowest in Europe, where the average is 1.5%2. The return on investment in the cultural sector, in terms of economic, social and international benefits, far outweigh the levels of public expenditure.

We call for cultural spending to be increased to 1% of overall Scottish Government expenditure.

We encourage the Scottish Government to continue to collaborate with UK government in securing cultural tax reliefs, and to support the sector in making the case for the permanent extension of the 50% Orchestra Tax Relief rate.

Protecting the financial resilience of the cultural sector and funders such as Creative Scotland will provide much needed confidence for Scottish orchestras and the wider creative industries.

Increased cultural and creative sector investment in Scotland will help unlock new growth, protect and generate employment in the sector, increase access to culture and opportunity across the country and boost music export potential.

Annual Conference

The next ABO conference will take place in Bristol,
hosted by Bristol Beacon, from 24-26 January 2024.