This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

Edinburgh festivals are struggling to make ends meet.

In a column at the start of the month, Francesca Hegyi, the chief executive of the Edinburgh International Festival, said real-term support had dropped by 41% since 2009.

“The reality is that we are now stretched to breaking point.”

She pleaded with the Scottish Government, the local council and Creative Scotland for more money.

There are some good arguments for giving the festivals more taxpayers' cash.

“It’s difficult to understand the strategy of cutting back support to the festivals when their contribution is so profound,” Ms Hegyi wrote. “Put simply, for every £1 of public money invested in Edinburgh’s festivals, £33 is generated in return.”

The festivals and venues and programmers that put on shows every August are trapped in a pretty difficult place right now. 

They have to cope with skyrocketing costs and keep ticket prices low enough to make sure they’re not pricing out their punters. 

As Ms Hegyi said in her column, they’re having to rely more and more on their corporate sponsors. 

But that isn’t without its problems.

By now you’ll likely be aware of the row over Edinburgh International Book Festival’s relationship with Baillie Gifford. 

I won’t go into too much detail here, mostly because top colleague Vicky Allan has already written the best and most comprehensive column on the issue.

But, to quickly recap, last week 50 authors, including Ali Smith and Zadie Smith, put their names to an open letter criticising the partnership with the asset management firm due to its roughly £4.5bn investments in fossil fuels. 

They’ve called on the Edinburgh Book Festival to find alternative sponsors for 2024 or face a boycott.

The Herald:

When asked about it on Tuesday, the First Minister came down firmly on the side of the corporate sponsor. 

“I know for a fact that we would not have an Edinburgh International Book Festival if it wasn't for sponsors like Baillie Gifford and others,” he told the Holyrood Sources podcast.

“I think these things are absolutely a judgement call for the festival to make, but ultimately if they are on the journey to disinvestment in terms of fossil fuels, then I think that's a good thing.”

A cynic might suggest that given how tight things are for the government, given the demands on ministers from all sectors, Mr Yousaf is trying to head off demands from Reekie’s cultural overlords for new cash.

UnspunNeil Mackay: Is anyone else sick to death of politicians at the Fringe?

At the end of the last year, when he was acting finance secretary, John Swinney told MSPs that Creative Scotland’s funding would be slashed from £69.3 million to £64.2m in the coming financial year.

We’re expecting the latest update on multi-year funding from the arts quango imminently.

In January, chief executive Iain Munro warned MSPs that many of the organisations looking to Creative Scotland for financing would be unsuccessful. 

“We're now about to go beyond the tipping point. And when things are gone, they're gone, and it's very hard to recover from that,” he said. 

There are difficult times ahead for the festivals and for Scotland’s arts scene. 

I don’t envy those making the decisions at all. 

...enjoyed the article? Sign up for free to the Unspun newsletter and receive it directly to your inbox every weekday night at 7pmClick here 👈