Creative Scotland was told that Rein would involve a "sex scene with genital contact” before they awarded the show more than £86,000 of taxpayers’ cash.

After the public furore over the show, the arts funding body clawed back the money and claimed there had been a “significant change” to the project from the application.

However, documents released to The Herald under Freedom of Information suggest the explicit nature of the show was known about before the grant was awarded.

The Herald:

The work, which aimed to show an "erotic journey through a distinctly Scottish landscape,” proved controversial after a casting call made clear that "any sex that features will not be simulated but performed by cast members.”

In a letter to Holyrood’s Culture Committee, Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s Chief Executive, claimed lead artist Leonie Rae Gasson and her team had breached their contract.

He said the application had initially stated that the sexual performance in Rein would simulated.

Mr Munro described the terminology in the calling notice as a “new and significant difference" which "took the project into unacceptable territory.”

He told the MSPs: “This represented a significant change to the approved project, moving it from ‘performance’ into actuality, and into a space that was, in Creative Scotland’s view, inappropriate for public funding.”

READ MORE: Creative Scotland claw back £67k from 'hardcore' Rein

However, the open funding application from March 2023 made clear that in the show’s development phase the company would “work on a sex scene with genital contact with three of the cast, in addition to Intimacy Coordinator.”

It then goes on to say that this will be someone “who has experience safeguarding in a sex work and pornography context so we can experiment with more explicit sexual content in the work.”

Ms Rae Gasson made this point to Mr Munro at a meeting between the two in April after the row. According to a minute of that summit, she said she was "confused by the idea that it wasn't clear."

The quango boss responded, "Real sex was not our understanding."

Other documents released to The Herald reveal Creative Scotland was aware that the show could prove controversial, with members of the company being put in contact with PR staff at the agency as the "project deals with content and subject matter that could be
perceived as challenging, or quickly judged to be risky if picked up by the press."

The casting call mentioning "non-simulated" was also uploaded to the Creative Scotland website and was, according to a released Teams message, "approved" by a member of the digital team.

There was also some internal pushback against the decision to withdraw the fund.

One staff member posted on an internal chat: "btw I don't see why we shouldn't fund Rein. We're quite happy to fund a bit of the ultraviolence, but we're prudish about something everyone does? Very tiresome. Sex isn't shameful"

In one internal note shared with the board of Creative Scotland, Mr Munro describes the fallout from Rein as "an extremely rare but nonetheless high-profile and damaging event."

He adds: "For Creative Scotland, confidence in us has been undermined and questions will continue to be asked of our involvement in the project, the robustness of our funding and decision-making processes, what other projects of this nature may have been funded, and the controls in place to avoid this happening again.

"It also undermines the wider case for support of the arts which we have worked hard to advocate for."

Labour's culture spokesman, Neil Bibby said he would seek an explanation from Creative Scotland. 

He said: “I called for the initial application to published so there could be public confidence in Creative Scotland’s funding processes, but it appears now that the explicit nature of the project was explicit in the original application.

“Creative Scotland have serious questions to answer about how on earth this project was ever awarded public money but also about their claims that the original application had changed in nature.

“This project should never have been backed by public funds. I hope that Creative Scotland can explain this apparent inconsistency between what they suggested was in the original application and what we now know was in it.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Creative Scotland have some serious explaining to do.

“It appears they have misled the public over this scandal, in an attempt to cover their appalling misjudgement in awarding funding to this project.

“The attempted cover-up is more inexcusable than the original poor decision-making. As a publicly-funded body, Creative Scotland have a duty not just to spend taxpayers’ cash wisely, but also to be fully transparent on how they do so.

“Ultimately, SNP culture secretary Angus Robertson is answerable for this quango – and the public deserve answers on this growing scandal.”

READ MORE: Minister condemns taxpayer funded 'secret cave sex party'

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman told the PA: “We were always aware the project would be explicit and creatively challenging, but it was not clear until the project issued the call out for participants on its website, that the project was moving from performance to unsimulated sex.

“It was at this point that Creative Scotland felt that there had been a breach of contract, and this breach of contract was not disputed by the applicant.

“Creative work, across many art forms, can feature explicit depictions of sex. But there is a difference between that depiction and actual sex, which is not appropriate for public funding.”

The team behind Rein declined to comment.

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.