SCOTLAND’S “world-leading comedy industry” has been “forgotten by emergency government arts funding“ and is “on the brink of collapse” the country’s oldest full-time comedy venue has warned.

Yesterday, in an email to supporters, the Stand Comedy Club, which has venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle, warned that they could soon be forced to close.

The letter from Eva Mackay, one of the club’s directors, said:" We have received funding from local authorities to support hospitality businesses and the Job retention scheme.

“This has helped but it has not bridged the gap. Since Covid-19 with no customers through the doors the clubs have a trading loss of £342,000 and as of yet have received no funding from arts funding bodies

“Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government need to step up and help before it’s too late.

“Without their support there will be no Stand Comedy Club providing a real living wage to its employers, providing revenue for acts and supporting charities.

“There will be no clubs to provide entertainment enriching the culture of the country.

“Our world-leading comedy industry is on the brink of collapse and runs the risk of being forgotten by emergency government arts funding.”

For many comedy venues, even if they get the go ahead to re-open on September 14, the need for social distancing in what are relatively small rooms, will make it tricky to run at anything other than a loss.

Two months ago a group of comedians and venues formed the Association of Scottish Comedic Arts.

Their aim was to make sure that clubs and comics were “not being forgotten about, left behind or left out of arts and culture rescue packages”.

There’s a feeling among comedians that the lack of funding is because, historically, comedy has not been seen as a proper art form.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, said she absolutely regarded comedy as an art form and said there would be help available.

The minister said some venues had already received support.

She pointed to Edinburgh’s Gilded Balloon, which received money from the government’s resilience fund.

She said: “I’m in active discussion with Creative Scotland and hope to have announcements soon that will benefit not just comedy, but the rest of Scotland’s strong vibrant cultural sector which is so important to Scotland’s well being.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said arts and culture were “essential” for the country.

Sturgeon said: “Comedy, in my view, is a very fine art form. And, you know, perhaps in these challenging times it’s also a particularly valued art form. We should not lose sight of that. As Fiona said we’re providing support in a range of ways.

“You know there’s a question right now, about whether any support is as much as we would want to be giving in an ideal world, but we will continue to work really hard to target support where it is needed, and where can it have most benefit and certainly comedy as an art form is very much included in that.”

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Creative Scotland told The Scotsman: “For clarity, we recognise comedy as an art form and provide support in a variety of ways, including support for writing, practice development, performance and production.

“Our support for comedy is delivered across a range of art forms including theatre, physical performance, music, film and spoken word.

“We provide funding to a large number of venues, organisations and festivals who deliver comedy through their programmes, for example Tron Theatre (Glasgow), Eden Court Theatre (Inverness), The Beacon (Greenock), Aberdeen Performing Arts and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Individuals and organisations involved in comedy are welcome to apply to our ‘Open Fund’.

“Applications are assessed against published criteria, assessing artistic and creative quality, public engagement, effective management and the financial viability of the project from the information provided.”

She added that historically, Creative Scotland had “not received many applications for support from individuals involved in comedy”.