IN a desperate attempt to avert indyref2, the Westminster Conservatives have regressed to the time-worn argument that an independent Scotland would be incapable of functioning economically.

“They are wrecking it. They are diabolical for the Scottish economy,” Boris Johnson said of the SNP in the run-up to December’s General Election.

If the Scottish culture sector is anything to go by, the Prime Minister’s words could not be further from the truth.

A recent report commissioned by Arts Council England found that 74% of arts and culture organisations south of the Border have been affected by public funding cuts in a decade of Tory austerity. In the same period, the Scottish Government has been plotting a very different path for the nation’s museums and galleries.

A Scottish Government draft proposal, published in 2018, asserts that a thriving arts sector is “central to Scotland’s cultural, social and economic prosperity”. Little wonder, given that it contributes more than £7 billion to the economy each year. The document also reveals that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s team had spent several years researching the policies of progressive nations including Germany, New Zealand and Canada to inform their plans.

Recent years have seen civic funds ploughed into many ambitious schemes, such as the £16.8 million extension to the Scottish National Gallery and the £10m refurbishment of the National Library of Scotland.

Another example which fully vindicates the approach taken by the Scottish Government can be found on the banks of the River Tay, where £38m of public money was stumped up to build the V&A museum of design in Dundee – and the rewards have already far exceeded expectations.

In its first year alone, the influx of tourists to the museum was worth £21m to the Dundonian economy and £75m to the overall Scottish coffers. Original estimates predicted the impact would be a much more modest £10m in Dundee and £23m across the country.

Continuing to go from strength to strength, V&A Dundee has now welcomed its one millionth visitor in just over 500 days.

Philip Long, director of V&A Dundee, says its success demonstrates “the value of investing in world-class cultural centres”. His

colleague Tim Allan, who chairs the museum’s board, adds that the V&A is “driving business confidence within Dundee and developing the city as an international tourism destination, both of which will develop in the coming years.”

The boom is being felt throughout the city, with separate research commissioned by Dundee City Council finding that wider tourism is now worth more than £10m a month to the local economy, with visitor numbers up 19.4% in the first half of 2019.

It’s not just Dundee that’s reaping the rewards of the Scottish Government’s support. Further up the east coast, more than 100,000 people have visited the recently renovated

Aberdeen Art Gallery since it re-opened in November. The venue was redeveloped as part of a £370m investment drive across the city, described as “probably the biggest capital investment in culture that the city will ever see” by councillor Marie Boulton, culture spokesperson for Aberdeen City Council.

BUDGET day this year contained a further display of support for the creative industries when Kate Forbes announced that the Culture, Tourism and External Affairs portfolio has been allocated £365.5m this year, an increase of £34.5m from 2019-20.

This investment will provide major boosts for initiatives including the £42m Paisley Museum Reimagined project, which is set for completion in 2022. It’s predicted the museum’s first three years could boost the Paisley economy by as much as £79m.

If the experiences of Dundee and Aberdeen are anything to go by, however, that could easily be surpassed.

The leader of Renfrewshire Council, Iain Nicolson, says he is “delighted that the Scottish Government is fully behind the project”, adding that its stance on funding such ventures is vital to creating a “strong, thriving local economy”.

An independent Scotland’s inability to guarantee jobs and a sustainable economy – both on a local and national level – has always been the underpinning ideology of the No campaign. Flying in the face of this claim, the returns already achieved from the Scottish Government’s approach to culture spending fully endorses the nation’s capability of not just protecting but enhancing both.

Indeed, the only reasons that unfettered optimism shouldn’t reign supreme can all be found in Westminster. Budget revisions could, for the first time ever, be forced on Scotland if alterations are made to the Barnett formula. EU tourism could also be dented if SNP fears that Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans could “greatly harm” the creative industries in Scotland and jeopardise their “ability to operate and be successful” are realised.

One certainty is that the Scottish Government’s sustained support for the nation’s cultural institutions is excellent news both for the economy and anyone who believes the Tory Party ruling Scotland is a concept which belongs in a museum.