SO, a white knight in the shape of £1.5 million of government funding has come charging in to save music projects in two of Scotland's most deprived areas from local authority cuts.

How noble. It's a happy ending for both Big Noise projects in Torry and Douglas but what an appalling stress it must have been for the children, staff and parents involved thinking that what is a vital resource for both communities faced a fight for the future.

We are only two months down on 2023 and already the arts, again, is having to advocate for its purpose and impact. Late last month the Scottish Government u-turned on plans to cut nearly £7 million from the Creative Scotland budget. Union leaders had said the deficit would put 8500 arts jobs at risk; the wider ripple effect of such losses would be immeasurable.

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At one point during the campaign to prevent the government's budget cut, the chief executive of Creative Scotland said the organisation may have to half the number of groups and companies it supports - this should be an unthinkable act.

While the Scottish Government was persuaded to protect Creative Scotland's funding, two Scottish local authorities were harder of heart. Not only did they proceed with arts funding cuts, they cut lifeline financial support to projects working with children from some of Scotland's most deprived postcodes. Bold.

Dundee's majority SNP council voted to end support for Big Noise Douglas, Douglas being one of the most disadvantaged areas of the city and where Big Noise works with around 500 children. Sistema Scotland's chief executive, Nicola Killean, said the decision was a "devastating" and "brazen" broken promise from the council, which has agreed to provide funding from 2021/22 onwards.

The removal of £900,000 over three years by Dundee City Council meant the scheme would have to be drastically scaled back in Douglas.

Ms Killean was similarly scathing of Aberdeen City Council when its SNP/Liberal Democrat administration voted to withdraw financial support for Big Noise in Torry, where 750 children and young people are involved each week. "Short-sighted" and "shocking" were the words of choice from a chief exec clearly exasperated from having to find yet more fresh outraged adjectives.

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Two local councillors, Lee Fairfull and Christian Allard, went so far as to say that Big Noise Torry had failed to deliver and had "no impact" on its stated aim of narrowing the attainment gap. The brass neck of an SNP councillor complaining an organisation has failed to narrow the attainment gap, eh?

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn wrote to the council to plead for clemency on the cuts and was accused for his efforts of "crocodile tears" from opposition councillors. It's hard to dispute: MPs and MSPs only act reactively, when there are points to be scored or blows to be landed, rather than to proactively protect valuable resources.

Nicola Sturgeon, who tweeted her delight at the Scottish Government's £1.5m rescue deal for Big Noise, knows very well the importance of the scheme. Big Noise Govanhill works in her constituency and she has seen first hand the multifaceted benefits of the scheme.

HeraldScotland: Nicola Sturgeon should know very well the benefits of the Big Noise scheme first hand given the project's presence in her Govanhill constituencyNicola Sturgeon should know very well the benefits of the Big Noise scheme first hand given the project's presence in her Govanhill constituency (Image: Newsquest)

But the funding is a hollow boast from the Scottish Government. Year on year council budgets have been squeezed; year after year the election pledge to sort out the unfair guddle of the council tax system has failed to happen.

Councils must cut their cloth accordingly. But the arts has become too soft a target. It's not just Sistema Scotland. The continuing of free musical instrument tuition and music in schools has been a funding battleground for the past couple of years with Midlothian Council the most recent to propose cutting the funding it contributes to music education.

Sistema is not only about learning a musical instrument but about aspiration, teamwork, opening of opportunities, skills in maths and language, and on and on. Some of the young Govanhill players are in India at the moment, a definitely enriching and potentially life-changing trip they would not otherwise have access to.

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We know all this, though, and politicians choose to ignore it.

John Swinney, in announcing the Creative Scotland funding u-turn, said it comes "at a time when the country requires the inspiration that the culture and arts sector can provide for all of us." That's surely damning with faint praise - the arts provide far more than inspiration. Away from the impact on young people of these threatened cuts, arts workers are already precarious enough without a perceived lack of political support and understanding hanging over them too.

Mr Swinney and his peers know that the creative industries and cultural heritage set out who and what we are as a nation. We undervalue that at our collective peril.