Some decisions by government agencies leave you speechless. When I heard that Glasgow’s Aye Write festival had been cancelled because Creative Scotland turned down its grant application, I thought I had misheard. A mere six weeks before it was due to start, its director will have the miserable job of contacting all the authors booked to appear – of which I am one – to tell them that, thanks to this decision, Aye Write and its children’s festival, Wee Write, is not going to happen.

Creative Scotland’s funding decisions often raise eyebrows, but this one beggars belief. Following its inception in 2005, Aye Write swiftly made a name for itself as a vibrant and pivotal event in the literary calendar. While it could not compete in size with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, it could rightly claim to be one of the country’s most important and popular book festivals.

It was also unique, since nowhere else could boast a location as impressive as the Mitchell Library, one of Europe’s great reference libraries. Taking part in events in rooms lined floor to ceiling with mahogany bookcases, or in its bijou theatre, or simply wandering its magnificent halls and corridors, felt special.

Whether as an author or as a member of the audience, I was always struck by the buzz the Mitchell created. The place fizzed, like the tingling of electric lines before a train wooshes past. Audiences were enthusiastic, but also vocal, turning it into an occasion where readers and writers could properly engage. People from all parts flocked to listen to authors because they were interested, rather than viewing it, as happens at some other events, as simply another social engagement in the diary.

Yet now, after its £77,500 grant application has been rejected, Aye Write might bite the dust, and Glasgow would be without a book festival. It is unimaginable, since countless small towns, from Blairgowrie to the Borders, continue to have one. That’s why I could hardly believe what I was hearing. Did Creative Scotland really intend to destroy a fixture that Humza Yousaf rightly calls a “cultural icon”? No wonder my husband prefers to call it Cremative Scotland, believing it specialises in destroying things rather than nurturing them.

Annie Wells, Conservative MSP for Glasgow, spoke for many when she said “The public will be appalled that Creative Scotland have effectively pulled the plug on this renowned and much-loved festival”. She also referred to the recent funding fiasco, in which over £107,000 was given to a “hard-core” pornographic film called Rein, by Leonie Rae Gasson, whose aim was to “push the boundaries of what it means to create and show dyke sex on screen”.

Awakened belatedly to the project’s full intentions and thus its embarrassing misuse of public money, Creative Scotland are now trying to claw back the grant – and good luck with that. In light of both these misfires, Wells was spot on when she said “Creative Scotland have serious questions to answer over their judgement and priorities.”

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Mounting its defence, the agency has stated that “difficult decisions have to be made on a daily basis”. No doubt they do. But the act of cutting Aye Write’s funding was not a difficult decision, it was blatantly a wrong one.

At a stroke, Glasgow has suffered a brutal cultural blow. Book festivals take years to build a reputation and establish themselves. Even though Aye Write intends to reapply for funding to resume the festival in 2025, and will hold occasional pop-up events in 2024, a year’s hiatus could be crippling.

Festivals cannot be run with confidence or imagination if a sword hangs perpetually over their heads. How in future can Aye Write – or indeed any of those festivals that depend on Creative Scotland – function properly now they’re aware that, after months of hard work, everything might have to be cancelled shortly before opening? What authors, invited to appear in 2025, will feel confident that it will happen? Not only has the festival organisers’ confidence been badly knocked, but, unless it is rescued, its profile and status will also be bruised.

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So who within Creative Scotland actually took this decision? I doubt we’ll ever know, since the names of those on the adjudicating panels are usually kept under wraps. Inexplicably, also, those selecting which literary projects to fund, or those in other art forms, are often experts in an entirely different field.

Such invisibility feels suspiciously akin to unaccountability, which is hard to defend when it’s public money being disbursed. It would also be interesting to know whether those higher up in the organisation were informed of Aye Write’s plight, not to mention other controversial decisions. If they were, there would surely have been a pause for a rethink, because axing the lifeline of a long-established and much-loved event was guaranteed to cause a furore.

It’s not the first injury Glasgow has suffered. Despite its manifold shortcomings, the Edinburgh Film Festival has always seemed to receive Creative Scotland funding as if from a magic money tree, whilst the fantastic and highly popular Glasgow Film Festival is less favoured.

Equally, as The Herald’s recent investigation into the fate of the Glasgow School of Art has shown, no-one is dynamically forcing its rebuilding forward. Whilst all those invested in its future – the Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, the School of Art – need to be involved, this project appears to be on hold. Mackintosh’s masterpiece was a jewel in Glasgow’s crown, but it was also one of Scotland’s greatest buildings. As such, everyone in the country has a stake in seeing it returned to a glorious landmark of which the nation can be proud.

All of this suggests that nobody is concerned about Glasgow’s best interests or has a vision for its cultural future. Yet if Scotland is to thrive, then Glasgow must thrive. It must be treated as one of the great cultural hubs of Britain. Some of its legacy as City of Culture in 1990 remains, but it is decidedly frayed around the edges.

That the First Minister reacted to the news of Aye Write by saying he would “look at what potential support the Scottish government can give” suggests all might not be lost. Whatever the outcome, however, Creative Scotland must do some profound soul-searching, as it investigates how it reaches decisions that have such destabilising and far-reaching consequences.