THE nation is days from the 'meaningful vote' on Brexit.

But for the world of arts and culture, it is not only meaning that needs to be found amid the sound and fury of Brexit, but reassurance over a series of funding and movement issues, and perhaps, a way forward.

There is growing alarm and uncertainty over what Brexit means for artists and the arts in Scotland, and in particular, how exactly it will affect the movement of ideas, artists, arts companies and international collaborations.

Amid this tumult, one arts figure, appalled by the prospect of Brexit and what it could mean for the cultural world in Scotland, has begun the process of establishing a new body to advocate for Scottish artists in Europe.

Claudia Zeiske, a German arts director who made her home and raised her family in the north east of Scotland, is the driving force behind Deveron Projects, the cultural organisation based in the small Aberdeenshire town of Huntly.

Deveron Projects has, over the years, helped change the face of the town: artists have residencies there, students intern there, a town song has been created by Mike Scott of The Waterboys, and contemporary art works are scattered in 65 locations, under the rubric of "the town is the venue".

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Now Zeiske is working on an ambitious new project: a new body to help represent Scottish artists in Europe, after Brexit, and whatever form it takes. Zeiske's plans, still in their early stages but already fortified by a steering group and the subject of several discussions, were quietly unveiled at the Royal Scottish Academy, in a session chaired by Creative Scotland's visual arts director, Amanda Catto.

Zeiske has spoken to more than a dozen cultural institutions about the project, and is determined to drive the idea forward: the establishment of a kind of roving cultural ambassador for Scottish-based artists in Europe. With the UK leaving the EU, the director sees the new body as a way of continuing to make Scottish culture's voice heard on the continent.

At the moment, she is calling the project the Scottish Cultural Representation in Europe, and it would, if backed by Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government, help Scottish artists work in the EU after Brexit.

"I want it to be a sort of actual representative," she said. "It would not be a building, but something more mobile, something that could work in different countries, not a big building in Berlin or Brussels, but a body that could move to different places where needed.You need someone to co-ordinate and run it, and I think it should be artist led and driven."

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Even though it's early days for her plan, Zeiske has a good idea what its function would be. "Depending on the outcome of Brexit, it could help keep doors open with existing networks and open others. It would be an alternative to the British Council which is based on trade and other government interests. Our interests would be more community orientated looking to collaborate with a wide range of people and professions."

Movement, freedom and collaboration: these are repeated words that come up when the cultural world discusses Brexit. The ability to, largely, move around Europe and work with artists, companies, festivals and other organisations is a key part of the infrastructure of the cultural world. It is not a perk of being in the EU for artists, festivals and companies: it is core to their artistic existence.

Travel, visas, and the ease of artistic collaboration are real factors: another is the potential loss of access to funding from Creative Europe, the EU culture body which is powered by millions of pounds in funds, and earlier this year unveiled a series of projects that it is funding in Scotland.

This week, Nick Barley, the director of Edinburgh International Book Festival, said the situation is potentially dire, and damaging for both Edinburgh's festivals and culture in general.

He said: "For visitors coming from outside the European economic area, there's unquestionably been an increase in the number of refused visas in recent years. And if that same process applies after Brexit, then it is inevitable that there will be an increase in temporary visas declined from European visitors as well. And if that's the case, then that's going to be damaging for all festivals and arts organisations that wish to have exchanges with artists, musicians, writers and so on coming from Europe.

"The consequences of that are difficult to measure, but it seems clear to me that Edinburgh's festivals, specifically, depend for their very lifeblood, on international performers – it is Scotland on the international stage – and if we cannot have an international stage then Edinburgh's festivals will no longer be the same thing they have been. That's not to say the festivals would die, but their reputation would be substantially damaged."

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Fiona Robertson, the director of the Sound festival, also in the north east of Scotland, has already warned of the chilling effect of Brexit on international collaborations. The festival has worked with partners in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere. Ms Robertson has said: "We have huge concerns that Brexit could impact on our ability to commission new work such as this."

A recent piece in Arts Professional, by Damon Culbert of the Immigration Advice Service, says there are 131,000 EU nationals working in the creative industries in the UK, making up 7% of the total workforce.

It says: "Should the UK leave the EU with no deal and extend its current immigration system to Europeans, these workers will not be eligible to enter the UK on a Tier 2 visa. The work visa route requires employers to first apply for a sponsor licence before they can employ overseas workers.

"From huge events like music festivals to costume-makers to theatre bar staff, the creative industries could see vacancies grow rapidly following Brexit."

It notes that "EU citizens already here are guaranteed the ability to stay indefinitely, following a registration process...but for many in the creative industries, the UK may never have been a place to settle permanently".

Zeiske shares Culbert's concerns: "Right now, artists can just fly in and out to work: but what will that look like in a year's time? If you are an arts company in Austria, for example, and you want to work with other companies in Europe, and for some countries it is easy, and for Britain it isn't, which would you choose to work with?"

This issue was also a key subject of discussion when more than 60 cultural experts from across Europe recently gathered at the Centre for Fine Arts of Brussels (Bozar) in Belgium, in an event held with the European Cultural Foundation and the British Council, to address the potential impact of Brexit.

The event's final report is full of concerns for culture, and it calls for an "artists' visa" – a special cultural exemption to visa red tape. It says: "Mindful of the needs of the next generation of creative talent, we recommend the introduction of specific arrangements that would allow artists, culture and creative industry professionals, their teams, materials and equipment to move freely across borders."

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Artists have told the Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) of similar fears. In their submission to Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament, one said: "My experience is that the perception of the UK and its cultural sector is shifting and we are regarded as moving away from the European mainstream and being considered less in developing projects, exhibitions, etc.This will have a long-term effect for many UK artists."

Another noted: "I am an outward-looking gallery, presenting art and representing artists from the EU. Brexit is a complete disaster for this EU branch of my business. I regularly export artworks to EU countries – again a complete disaster for my business."

The National Theatre of Scotland is marking Brexit by staging a series of plays on the evening of March 29 next year, the date which the UK is meant to leave the EU.

Jackie Wylie, its artistic director, noted: "The main concerns we have as cultural organisations is about movement of artists in and out of the country – culture is inherently reliant on the exchange of ideas, and the exchange of people. So there are very practical considerations around being able to have that. And then, there is something ideological: it is about being outward-looking.

"All culture benefits from being able to lift its head up, look outward, and look at new ideas and thinking."

She added: "We bring Scottish artists together with international artists to create new forms of theatre, new conceptual ways of thinking about theatre: so my concern is about being able to continue to do that."

Creative Europe is another significant issue. If there was a no-deal Brexit then access to that programme's funds would be in jeopardy.

Perhaps little noted or commented on outside the arts world, the financial muscles of the EU's cultural programme for supporting culture are significant. They are also growing: recently the EU said it is proposing to double its budget. This would take funding for the Creative Europe programme from the €1.4bn currently available to €2.8bn for the years 2021-27.

But will any of this money be available to artists in Scotland? The answer is not clear. What is sure is Creative Europe money is currently heading to Scotland. Earlier this year, year seven artistic projects involving Scottish arts companies working with European colleagues were announced, totalling €1.4 million (£1.25m).

Recipients included Imaginate, Leith Theatre Trust, National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, North Lands Creative Glass and Scottish Ensemble in Scotland, among others, and as part of 40 awards in the UK altogether.

The Creative Europe issue is complex: countries do not need to be an EU member to receive money from the body, indeed there are currently 11 non-EU countries in the programme.

It is possible that the UK, which has still to establish its new standing with the body, could negotiate a new relationship with the body, leaving lines of communication – and funding – open. Ukraine and Tunisia currently have similar such agreements.

In its Brexit White Paper, the UK government said “the UK is open to exploring ... continued involvement in Creative Europe to support the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors".

Scotland's artistic collaborations with Europe are wide: a recent Creative Scotland survey into the implications of Brexit found that its respondents were working with arts companies in 14 European countries, in and out of the EU, including Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

European funding "opens up new networks and involves new partnerships" it found.

The Creative Scotland survey found concerns over "whether Creative Europe funding will be accessible in the long term, and that the general economic fallout could lead to budget cuts for culture at the national and local level. We anticipate a reduction in funding levels generally".

Iain Munro, the interim chief executive of Creative Scotland, has said: "Working internationally is key to ensuring that Scotland remains a successful and distinctive creative nation connected to the world ... we share the real concerns among the cultural community in Scotland as to the impact that leaving the EU will have on their work and the ability of artists to exchange ideas and practice."

He added: "The sooner we have clarity on what leaving the EU means, the sooner we can all prepare for its implications."

For some, the implications are clear: Brexit is a historic rupture with the wider culture of Europe and important networks could be disrupted. Mr Barley said that, in listening to what people at other cultural festivals say, for Britain's reputation "the damage is already done".

He added: "Certainly writers around the world tell me that – they regard Britain as a diminished nation, reputationally.

"Obviously that's not everybody, but the vast majority of the people I have spoken to have said things like that.

"If they are right, it is already too late, I am sorry to say."

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- As Nick Robinson pointed out on the Today Programme, referring to current immigration policy: it’s not about keeping out the low-skilled, it's about keeping out the low-paid. Artists fall right into this category. Because of the value index employed by the government the arts will be among the first to suffer when it comes to restrictions on freedom of movement.

- Artists in Glasgow have struggled to find their feet after the economic crash of 2008. Artists have such marginal economies that they are amongst the first to suffer when recession hits. We all feel recession is an inevitable consequence from breaking ties with the EU. Government ministers are currently softening us up to that reality.

- My collective European spirit has been damaged. I remember travelling to Galway in the early 1990s visiting a few traditional "sessions" in West Coast bars, new musicians with new instruments were turning up after the 1992 Maastricht Treaty when freedom to reside in other member states had been established. It was a new Wild West and I loved it.

- I worked last year on a project with the Highland Print Studio, I was following Fort William Shinty Club for a project called "Throw Up" exhibited at the Camanachd Cup Final in Oban. Everywhere I went in the Scottish Highlands I met workers from Central Europe. I fear there’s going to be a 2nd Highland Clearance. The 1st cleared the Highlands of Scots who were regarded as economically valueless on Highland Estates, this 2nd Clearance will eject large numbers of European workers who find themselves in hotel and catering jobs all for political expediency and votes in the South East of England.

- Because of the United Kingdom’s long love affair with laissez-faire economics and a popular feeling that British Entrepreneurialism will see us through this crisis, ties of European collectivity are being cut.