Scottish ministers have been accused of “cultural vandalism” after they pushed ahead with a swingeing cut to Creative Scotland’s budget just months after insisting funding was safe.

The arts quango revealed the u-turn ahead of an appearance before Holyrood’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee.

In last year’s initial budget, the government cut £6.6m from spending on Scotland’s arts and culture sector.

But in February, ahead of the final budget process, the then finance secretary John Swinney reversed the slash, saying arts and culture were important to the “wellbeing of our society.”

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However, in an update to the committee, Creative Scotland said the money had “not been included in the Autumn Budget Revisions, and the cut is being reinstated.”

They said this had been confirmed in writing by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Angus Robertson, in a letter to their Chief Executive earlier this month.

Creative Scotland said they would be able to use National Lottery reserves to make up the shortfall, but warned that if the drop in budget was sustained they would be forced to “pass them on to the sector.”

Iain Munro the Chief Executive of Creative Scotland told MSPs the loss represented roughly 10% of their budget.

He said the use of the reserves would mean the 119 regularly funded organisations would see no impact from the decision in the short term.

“But I think it'd be worth noting the effects of the news of this will deepen the concern that exists within the sector.

“It will add to the the concerns about confidence and forward planning which is so critical to enable the the cultural sector to function, to have such a significant in year adjustment.

“If we hadn't been in the position or being able to allocate our national lottery reserves, the cut would have been passed on, as I say, at 40%.

“And it would have inevitably seen the tipping point for, another estimate, probably up to half of the current regularly funded organisations.”

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Mr Munro told the MSPs that even with their use of reserves, at least a third of the current regularly funded organisations were "so financially fragile as to be at risk in this next six month period."

He said that could mean 900 jobs, 12,000 artist employment opportunities and the loss of audiences of 1.4 million.

"That's even on a standstill basis, the problem has not gone away," he said.

"It will be amplified if the reductions continue into next year, where if the £6.6 million wasn't available and was applied, the numbers go up enormously.

"So the estimate is that based on current information and financial information and the fragility that we understand, around half of the current regularly funded organisations would be at risk that would lead to 2,000 job losses, it would lead to 26,000 lost opportunities for artist employment, and it would see nearly three and a half million of lost audiences as a result."

Mr Munro told the committee Creative Scotland’s budget had now tipped below 0.1% of overall Scottish Government spending, going on to warn that financial pressures on the sector will “be amplified if the reductions continue into next year”.

Speaking about the impact on the sector of the funding situation, he told the committee: “I think there is despair, there is despondency, there is disillusionment.

“There is a fear, people are exhausted in trying to keep the show on the road, literally, and that is vital for planning confidence.

“I think in these situations, as the perfect storm continues, and I have got to say it’s growing stronger, the risks are increasing all of the time in relation to the potential for parts of the sector to be unsustainable, and we see the decline of the sector in the months and indeed years ahead unless there is a change in the resourcing equation.

“That means closures, job losses, loss of provision, less available for communities right across the country, less available for artists.

“I think it is potentially very damaging if there is decline on the sector.”

Francesca Hegyi, the Chief Executive of the Edinburgh International Festival disagreed with Mr Munro's claim that the sector was facing a "perfect storm."

“A storm is a one-off event, it gathers, it unleashes, and then it dissipates,” she told the committee.

“What we're seeing, in our case, is 15 years of standstill funding, which has led to a 41% reduction in the value of public funding.

“That's not a storm, that's a climate.”

“I think what we are experiencing is a culmination, and a coexistence of a series of circumstances that we know about, which relates to inflation, which relates to interest rates that relate to the cost of living crisis, that work that we're living through.

“But it's also a consequence of a series of choices that government has made over the last 15 years not to invest in culture.”

She warned that the cuts to her organisation’s budget was stopping them being able to plan with international partners.

“And so the, the impact of that is not just financial, it's not just planning, it's actually about reputation, and it's about credibility, and it's about Scotland's place in the world, because we are losing credibility, and we have lost our international reputation for culture.”

Lori Anderson, director of Culture Counts, told the committee the reinstatement of the £6.6 million budget cut by the Government “goes beyond disappointing”.

She said: “It will be a massive knock in confidence to the sector and there’s going to be a significant job for the Government to restore trust between the Scottish Government and the sector, in all honesty.

“It shows a disconnect between what’s being said by us and what is being heard, and it ultimately shows that the value of the sector is really not understood.”

Scottish Tory culture spokesman Donald Cameron accused ministers of having “shamefully shifted the goalposts on this vital funding for Creative Scotland”.

The MSP, who sits on the committee, said: “It is completely unacceptable that ministers who were quick to boast about U-turning on previous planned cuts earlier this year are now set to impose them on Creative Scotland after all.

“That is an insult to Scotland’s struggling arts sector and it is clear the cutting of millions of funding from their budget will have a devastating impact.”

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Scottish Labour culture spokesperson Neil Bibby meanwhile said the government had “abandoned Scotland’s iconic arts and culture sector at the worst time possible”.

He added: “It’s clear their disastrous incompetence is putting the very future of our creative industries under threat – they are risking jobs, damaging our economy and making culture less accessible.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat culture spokesperson Neil Alexander described the cut as “cultural vandalism from Angus Robertson and the SNP.”

He added: “No one in the arts and culture sector should trust a word that comes out of SNP ministers’ mouths. They have given this money with one hand, secured the positive press and then snatched it away with the other.”

Mr Robertson said: “Over the past five years, the Scottish Government has provided £33 million to Creative Scotland to compensate for a shortfall in National Lottery Funding and we agreed to provide £6.6 million to cover this year’s shortfall.”

Stressing the Scottish Government’s obligation to deliver a balanced budget, Mr Robertson added that rising costs and pressure on budgets “made more challenging as a result of rising UK inflation” meant the government was “unable to provide funding to support the lottery shortfall this year”.

But he added: “I expect this funding will be able to be provided as part of next year’s budget, subject to the usual parliamentary process.”

Mr Robertson continued: “Creative Scotland have built up funding reserves and I am pleased they have agreed to use all the resources at their disposal, including these reserves, to support the culture sector and help protect jobs at this challenging financial time for us all.”