THE world's biggest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, has strongly criticised the nation's "insulting" arts funding body in documents filed to the Scottish Parliament.

The Fringe is one of more than 40 organisations who have submitted evidence to the Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which is gathering evidence on the funding controversy which engulfed the body earlier this year.

The Fringe says that it believes it was "pre-determined" that it would not be successful in receiving Regular Funding (RFO), and that "clarity on that in the first instance would have saved time, effort and relationship and reputational damage."

The RFO funding decisions caused huge controversy in the arts world, as several theatre groups lost funding, some of which was later restored after an emergency Creative Scotland board meeting.

READ MORE: Inside the Creative Scotland funding crisis

Two board members resigned, and the leadership of the body has since formerly apologised, and promised to review its funding decisions in the future.

Recently The Herald printed candid internal documents written by Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer, showing the turmoil and upset caused by the decisions within the body itself.

Staff at the body are known to be still angry at the way the funding decisions were made, and the subsequent about-turn on funding for companies including Catherine Wheels and Birds of Paradise.

The forthright Edinburgh Festival Fringe paper says that a discussion about funding before the funding decision making would have been preferable and "this would have been fair treatment of an established and valued organisation and would have stopped time wasting and negative press on both sides."

The Fringe, which was not granted RFO funding, said that the application process was "time consuming and overly generic."


The festival, led by chief executive Shona McCarthy, also lambasts the decision, after the U-turn on funding for other groups, to not grant the Fringe a reprieve.

It adds: "It is unacceptable not to have clear processes around reversing decisions.

"For additional money to appear and be distributed on the basis of those that shout the loudest, is not good.

"To receive a second rejection was surprising and insulting, particularly as the application was assessed for a second time without our knowledge.

"We were given no understanding of why this had been done or that there was indeed an additional

£2.6 million funding pot that was being distributed."

The Federation of Scottish Theatre's evidence also queries the actions of the funding body.

It notes one of the biggest developments of the funding round: the removal of funding from theatre companies, who were told instead that they could apply for a new touring fund.

The touring fund is still expected to be launched, but at the time of the funding decisions, its details were not fully fleshed out.

The FST says: "It is not clear why Creative Scotland did not consult the sector before they introduced this new strategy.

"This strategic shift taking place mid-way through a process and behind closed doors.

"This meant companies were told that although their application had initially been assessed as deserving of funding, the goal posts had since changed and their application no longer met the criteria for theatre – which did not exist when they applied.

"The thinking behind this approach is unclear."

The Fire Exit theatre company also severely criticises Creative Scotland in a lengthy and detailed submission.
It says: "Our assessment report is highly problematic. 
"It repeatedly ignores the data and statistics we provided and instead focuses on the personal opinions of one staff member...despite being only 3100 words, the report contains 38 factual inaccuracies."

The Dunedin Consort, a leading ensemble, which also lost its funding, which was later re-instated, says in its evidence: "The process failed to recognise the practical realities of running a performance organisation.

"There was a long wait, a late decision with no warning, and a completely inadequate offer of transitional support.

"In short, there was no sign that Creative Scotland recognised the world in which its clients operate, with devising programmes, booking of performers and venues etc.

"That does not give confidence."

Creative Scotland have, since many of the documents were filed with the Committee, met several of the companies involved.

In a statement, the body said: "We welcome the Committee’s call for views on Regular and other funding and the important feedback that it has gathered.

"We want to take this opportunity to recognise and underline the significant expertise, knowledge and commitment of Creative Scotland staff which was applied throughout this process.

"Over the past months we have met with many of the organisations concerned to understand the issues being raised and, where appropriate, deal with these issues through our official Complaints process.

"We will be considering all the feedback provided to the Committee carefully and we will use it to inform the review of how we fund in future.

"We will move forward with this work as a matter of priority."