Arts News!

Letter to the First Minister of Scotland

Dear Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland,

Today, Tuesday 11th January 2022 you made an announcement to parliament regarding ongoing restrictions in Scotland in relation to the Omicron Covid Pandemic. 

You confirmed that the restrictions on capacity at outdoor venues will be lifted as of the 17th of January, but all other restrictions remain in place with an indicative date of 24th January as a possible easing date. First Minister this is a catastrophic decision on the part of the cabinet and the Scottish Government.

The arts industry was getting back onto its feet prior to Christmas 2021 when the announcement was made that a maximum of 200 people could enter a theatre for a socially distant performance a completely unviable prospect for any venue. Therefore, the curtains came down across the country many of which were mid Pantomime season, a season which is the lifeline for many venues. Causing huge financial loses for theatres, creatives and staff from across the arts spectrum. To date there has been no financial support received from the government or an indication of when this may come.

The decision announced today that allows 65,000 plus sit in Murrayfield for the Rugby matches with 50% Covid pass check but doesn’t allow for 3000 to sit in the Edinburgh Playhouse with 100% covid pass checks is at its least galling and deeply unfair to our industry as well as vast swathes of the Hospitality industry equally as effected by these decisions made today.

It’s been agreed and even said by yourself that we must now learn to live with this virus as it moves from pandemic to endemic and for many these latest restrictions have had little meaningful benefit in stemming the latest wave.

We all appreciate and accept the need for ongoing caution, but it’s now becoming a situation of being overly cautious and damaging lives financially not to mention the toll on mental health.

Many of our free-lance and front of house workers have not worked since Christmas eve, with no income or support things are at a desperate stage. Today’s announcements have seen the Scottish premiers of “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Waitress, The Musical “being cancelled or reschedule causing a knock-on effect to so many.

You say the decisions have always been guided by the science and the data, but you have never clearly shown this science and data to us and have admitted it’s difficult to identify the link from restrictions to benefits.

If we are to live with this virus, then we must do that collectively, if it’s possible for stadia to be at full capacity with mitigations then so too should our theatres, nightclubs and indoors sports venues be given the same chance.

The time for damaging and controlling restrictions is now passing, and while we accept the need for mitigations, we must learn to live life with the virus instead of in fear of it. Indicative dates are of no use First Minister, The arts and other industry need confirmed dates and information in order to plan for reopening, not endless what if’s.

First Minister if these highly damaging restrictions must continue, we ask for the science and data that clearly demonstrates the benefit of such action, as oppose to an exercise in control and further please bring forward the financial support now to ensure those in our industry can survive until the curtains can rise, that is of course is if there is even a curtain to go up.

Yours truly,

Brett Herriot

Editor, Scotsgay Arts.

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