The Scottish Government has been urged to step in and save jobs after it emerged north-east entertainment chiefs could go bust.
Jane Spiers – the chief executive of Aberdeen Performing Arts – said the organisation was “battling insolvency” after paying out millions in refunds for shows cancelled due to Covid-19.
Last week, the Scottish Government announced £10 million of funding would be made available to support arts venues across the country – but no funds have yet been distributed.
A further £97 million of Barnett Formula consequentials is also due to be made available to the sector.
Now Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden has urged ministers to act fast to prevent job losses.
He said: “The SNP Government need to understand the urgency of funding to the Arts sector. Recent announcements of redundancies at Perth Concert Hall highlight that clarity is needed now to protect jobs.
“In Aberdeen we have Aberdeen Performing Arts which does a fantastic job but have had to close their doors to the public since March.
“They recently announced that they were fighting off insolvency. What they need and what those people who work in the arts need is certainty.
“The SNP Government need to stop dithering and pass the funding from the UK Government on without delay.
“With social distancing it would be difficult for them to reopen anytime soon. What they need is clarity on funding now to allow them to plan ahead and protect vital jobs.”
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APA, which runs His Majesty’s Theatre, the Lemon Tree and Aberdeen Music Hall, has processed more than £3 million in refunds since lockdown began, and has rescheduled hundreds of shows.
It has not yet made a decision on whether its Christmas pantomime will go ahead – but even if social distancing rules are reduced to one metre, HMT would only have 37% of its usual capacity.
Meanwhile, north-east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr has asked ministers to considering opening up an interest-free loan scheme to theatre groups in the region after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival was granted £1 million.
Mr Kerr said: “While I acknowledge the importance of the Edinburgh Fringe to the arts sector in Scotland, organisations across other parts of the country are also facing a desperate situation – none more so than those in the north-east.
“We have seen the fantastic job Aberdeen Performing Arts has done in continuing to expand its offerings across the region, producing festivals such as Granite Noir which have had to be cancelled due to the outbreak.
“The Scottish Government must realise the importance the arts sector plays in cities such as Aberdeen which is why they must make the interest-free initiative available to all.
“To only make it available to one festival in Scotland’s capital is a complete kick in the teeth to our fantastic arts organisations that we have in Aberdeen and beyond and I’m determined to continue to hold the SNP Government to account on this.
“Thanks to the UK Government’s financial rescue package for the arts and culture sector, Scotland has received a substantial £97 million funding boost.
“Now the Scottish Government must ensure groups such as those in the north-east are allowed the same kind of loan as the initiative given to the Edinburgh Fringe – they must not be forgotten about.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said ministers were in the process of finalising where funds would be allocated.
She said: “We understand the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on our culture sector and we were the first government in the UK to provide dedicated funding to help thousands of freelancers and organisations, including Aberdeen Performing Arts, navigate the initial stages of the crisis.
“We are currently working with Creative Scotland to finalise our £10 million Performing Arts Venue Fund (PAVF) so that organisations across the country are able to access this much-needed money quickly as possible.
“We are pleased the UK Government listened to our calls for significant funding for the arts, culture and heritage sectors and is using its borrowing powers, which we don’t have, to deliver this level of support.
“We await full details on Scotland’s share of the funding package however we are committed to using these consequentials to establish the best means to provide additional support to those devastated by Covid-19.
“Culture is so important to individuals, communities and our country and although this is clearly a substantial amount of funding, significant financial support is needed to help the sector survive.”