West Lothian could face a long-term arts and entertainment unemployment crisis if SNP ministers do not step up the fight for jobs, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay has said.
Neil Findlay MSP spoke out as Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole continue to be hit hard by the cancellation of the Edinburgh festivals and other major cultural events. He warned that if the furlough scheme ends before a quality jobs guarantee scheme is in place, thousands of workers in creative industries could be laid off.
Scottish Labour has calculated that the arts and entertainment sector employs at least 121,000 people across Scotland, including 3,000 in West Lothian. There are many seasonal jobs in the sector additionally.
According to a submission to Holyrood’s culture committee from Festivals Edinburgh, “the wider economy now stands to lose at least £360 million and 7,000 jobs from the collapse of the 2020 [festival] season”.
The Edinburgh International Festival alone employs over 350 people including core, freelance and seasonal staff according to its own submission, as well as supporting up to 2,000 creative roles. EIF says the “loss of income for those individuals could be the difference between being able to sustain their businesses for another year or risking redundancy”.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:
“Many workers in the arts and entertainment sector have been furloughed, but if there are not government-supported jobs created in the sector when the furlough scheme ends, many could face the prospect of long-term unemployment.
“The UK and Scottish Governments have announced a significant package of support for the arts, including specific funds for grassroots music venues, museums and galleries, theatres, and live events. These have all been offered much-needed support. But we need a clear strategy to create jobs in this sector – not a piecemeal approach which pits different parts of the sector against each other.
“This is about more than funding the sector to get through a crisis. Our creative industries can help us reboot society and build a better West Lothian after the pandemic. With so many workers employed in the sector, West Lothian’s economy depends on arts and entertainment jobs, and West Lothian’s arts and entertainment sector needs jobs for good.”
Local Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay said:
“The Coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on the economy, has shown that we need a clear jobs strategy in a range of sectors, not least in the arts and entertainment sector.
“Scottish Labour will prioritise this ahead of next year’s election to ensure that everyone has access to secure and well-paid work.