Scottish Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, has said she can do nothing to reverse Creative Scotland’s decision to axe funding for Pròiseact an Ealan — the National Gaelic Arts Agency — in spite of claims that their bid was supported by another Scottish Government quango, Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
The issue was raised at Holyrood last week through a question to Ms Hyslop from the Falkirk East MSP, Angus MacDonald, who chairs the all party group on Gaelic. He said that as a result of the “disappointing” decision to withdraw annual funding, Pròiseact an Ealan had now placed its staff under a notice of protective redundancy. He asked the Minister to ensure that Creative Scotland “revisits the decision”.
However, Ms Hyslop defended the culture quango by saying they had “£212 million-worth of applications for an available budget of £100 million” and that the decision was for them alone. She then stated wrongly that Pròiseact an Ealan “did not previously have foundation funding — it had annual project funding which it is still eligible for”.
In fact, Pròiseact an Ealan did have foundation status until 2012 which meant that it was able to plan on a longer-term basis. When this was controversially removed by Creative Scotland, it was replaced by a transitional phase of annual funding. At no point in its 28-year history has the organisation been dependent solely on “project funding” as Ms Hyslop asserted.
The basis on which Creative Scotland’s board took the decision to reject Pròiseact an Ealan’s bid remains shrouded in mystery. The organisation shares a Gaelic arts officer with Bòrd na Gàidhlig, Brian Ó hEadhra, whose role has been called into question both in relation to the 2012 decision and the more recent one.
However, Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s chief executive, John Angus MacKay, claimed in a letter to the Free Press that Mr Ó hEadhra’s submission to Creative Scotland had been supportive of the Pròiseact an Ealan bid, on behalf of the Bòrd.
The Free Press also revealed that the “Gaelic speaking member” of the Creative Scotland board, Fergus Muir, has never visited of met with the National Gaelic Arts Agency and that his only visit to Stornoway, where the organisation is based, was “for a Mod”. Mr Muir, a former civil servant who lives on Islay, refused to say how he voted on the decision to deny funding to Pròiseact an Ealan.
Creative Scotland have refused to make any comment on the circumstances in which the decision was taken on the grounds that they will not discuss any specific application.