By Fiona Hyslop

As we seek to find a "new normal" during this challenging time, creativity is playing a huge part in getting us through.

Creativity in finding new ways of living and working, and allowing us to keep in touch with family and friends, albeit in compliance with the physical distancing guidelines.

And creativity behind the entertainment we’ve turned to, whether it’s organisations such as Dance Base providing online dance classes, new digital artworks from National Theatre of Scotland or our museums and galleries hosting virtual tours and online collections, among many others.

Beyond their drive to create exciting content, cultural organisations are also contributing to the enormous national coronavirus response – Scottish Opera’s wardrobe department, for example, are producing scrubs and masks; members of their props team are making visors and they have redeployed trucks to assist with much-needed supermarket deliveries.

When I launched A Culture Strategy for Scotland earlier this year, I set out our commitment to strengthen the sector so as to value, protect and nurture culture. I wanted to highlight its ability to transform lives and empower people.

While I did not imagine we would be facing such unimaginable challenges so soon after, the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated beyond any time I can remember, the power of culture to inspire and lift people in times of need.

At a time when performers and companies have halted their shows and touring commitments, when museums and galleries have been forced to close rather than welcome millions of visitors through their doors, and when our internationally renowned festivals are cancelled, we must hold on to and embrace our creativity.

The social restrictions in place now are necessary to help slow the spread of Covid-19, protect our NHS and save lives.

However, with government responsibility for culture and the economy, I know too well the wider impacts of these restrictions and I know how worrying a time this is for people and organisations in culture.

It is my absolute priority to ensure support for a sector which not only contributes to Scotland’s economy and international reputation, but which greatly improves our health and wellbeing.

Together with partners, the Scottish Government is working extremely hard and quickly to build packages of focused support.

We are providing rates relief and grants to businesses, on top of the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

We’ve honoured grant commitments, increased funding for museums and galleries and repurposed other existing funding, for example EXPO fund for festivals, to be used for individuals’ and creative organisations’ resilience.

Creative Scotland is developing an expected total budget of £14 million of support in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. They have also offered a Bridging Bursary fund for freelance creative professionals, and a repurposed Open Project Fund as well as one-off bursaries to film and TV sector workers and screen development funding. The National Performing Companies have made a number of arrangements to safeguard, so far as possible, the incomes of staff and creative personnel working on current projects which could not progress as planned.

Staying in contact with each other during this time is crucial and I have had valuable feedback from stakeholders which has shown some gaps in support. This is why I have doubled the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF) from £45 million to £90 million which reopened to applicants on Thursday.

PERF will continue to provide bespoke grants and wraparound business support to SMEs, including many of our theatres and music venues, that were viable prior to the coronavirus pandemic and will be critical to restarting the economy.

This is in addition to the £34 million for the Newly Self Employed Fund and £20 million for Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund, which will provide support to businesses in need quickly, including those that haven’t been covered by the current package of UK Government support.

We’ve also provided £400,000 for museums and galleries across the country, to help them get through this extremely difficult period. Museums play a key role in society, having evolved from their original purpose to serve as community hubs that benefit from the tireless work of staff and volunteers and contribute to a variety of wider social causes.

Tomorrow, May 18, is International Museum Day, a time to celebrate the value of our world-class museums and the excellent work they do. They inspire us to learn and encourage us to see our world in new and different ways, and I encourage everyone to support them. I will be taking part in the #MuseumsSparkJoy social media campaign tomorrow and you can too by sharing what you love about your local museum.

This pandemic is a rapidly evolving situation and we must be responsive to people’s needs. Recovery will vary widely for different parts of the culture and creative industries. Some will continue to be affected far longer than others.

I will continue to listen and take on board feedback to ensure the government does all it can to pave a way through this.

Culture is central to who we are. It is Scotland’s strength and it will continue to play an integral role in how we get through this crisis and how we begin to rebuild our country as we look to the future.

We face a long journey, but we will get through it together.

Fiona Hyslop, SNP MSP for Linlithgow, is Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs