John Swinney has demanded "a very full and comprehensive explanation from Creative Scotland" after the arts quango was accused of misleading MSPs over a sexually explicit performance piece. 

Iain Munro, the arts funding body's chief executive, has long insisted that they did not know that Rein by Leonie Rae Gasson would include non-simulated sex.

However, documents released to The Herald under Freedom of Information show that the successful application for a grant made explicitly clear that there would be “work on a sex scene with genital contact" involving three members of the cast.

READ MORE: Robertson hauls in Creative Scotland boss over Rein

Speaking to the PA, the First Minister said: “The Culture Secretary [Angus Robertson] has expressed his concerns about the information that’s come to light and he’s asked for urgent discussions with the chair and chief executive of Creative Scotland because we have got to understand the substance of this issue.

“I share the concerns that the Culture Secretary has expressed and I think we need to see a very full and comprehensive explanation from Creative Scotland.”

He added that it was not appropriate for the Scottish Government to take decisions on individual arts programmes.

Mr Swinney said: “Creative Scotland has got a specific role to undertake, but it must undertake that in a way which is open and transparent.”

The project was awarded £23,219 in lottery funding through Creative Scotland in August 2022 for research and development and then another £84,555 through the agency’s Open Funding round in January of this year.


The work, which aimed to show an "erotic journey through a distinctly Scottish landscape,” proved controversial earlier this year when 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 in March, Mr Munro claimed Ms Gasson's application had initially stated that the sexual performance in Rein would simulated.

He 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.”

Ms Rae Gasson's 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 co-ordinator 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."

He replied to say, "real sex was not our understanding."

READ MORE: Rein application mentioned 'sex scene with genital contact'

A Creative Scotland spokeswoman said: “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.”