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Scottish government suddenly pauses youth music funding as cost of living crisis strikes

All distribution of the Youth Music Initiative budget operated by Creative Scotland has been temporarily halted causing great concern for schools, students and freelance suppliers and contractors. 

Although the Scottish Government says the £9 million per annum budget is not at risk, the cost of living crisis has seen the government struggling to balance the books. On 7 September, the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, wrote an open letter to outline savings of over half a billion pounds that would be made to cover the additional costs of rising public sector wages and help for those in need. 

The letter stated, ‘Our budget was based on a UK Spending Review that did not anticipate the levels of inflation that have arisen, and which, according to the Bank of England, will deteriorate further. Our reserve funding is already fully allocated and we have no legal ability to borrow to fund pay costs or further cost of living support within the existing Fiscal Framework rules. We also cannot vary income tax in-year.

‘These constraints are in addition to the inflation-driven increases in government costs which we face and the need to meet significant commitments that are important but unbudgeted for, such as support to the Ukrainian displaced people as far as possible – all from within a largely fixed budget.’

Scottish Culture Minister Neil Gray said, ‘The Youth Music Initiative programme plays a vitally important role in nurturing the talents of children and young people across the country.

‘While there was a brief pause in the distribution of funding while the Cost of Living Emergency Budget Review was completed, the Scottish Government has confirmed to Creative Scotland that the funding for the Youth Music Initiative is secure. 

‘We are working closely with Creative Scotland and expect local authorities to be informed of the up-dated situation as soon as possible to allow delivery of the programme to start, or restart with minimal disruptions.”

Despite his reassurance, the announcement of the arrested flow of funds came without warning. So, music providers and schools across Scotland are desperately trying to work out how to protect their services in the interim. 

Emily Carr-Martin of music education charity Hear My Music has asked the schools they work with to provide testimonials and impact reports to show the Scottish Government just how important their work is. 

In an email to schools, she said, ‘A pot of funding that falls under the Youth Music Initiative formula fund, managed by Creative Scotland has been paused with immediate effect this week. This is Scotland-wide and will have a massive impact on Youth Music in Scotland… I was informed yesterday that to cover the shortfall from this pot, there may need to be changes to projects we are delivering. I’m hoping that the schools’ individual budgets don’t fall under this category. In response to this I’m trying to collect as many testimonials as possible highlighting the need for this service.’

Maria Neil, Head Teacher at Greenburn School in Lanarkshire, is one of many asking parents to help lobby Creative Scotland. 

Writing to parents and teachers, she said, ‘From an equity point of view I wonder what else Creative Scotland is offering our children and young people with severe and complex learning difficulties. I would very much hate to think that the ASN community were being disadvantaged by this withdrawal of funds.’

It remains to be seen what ‘temporary’ means, but as the cost of living crisis deepens towards winter, the government is not giving dates.