SCOTLAND’S cultural and creative industries are facing a “cliff edge” when the furlough scheme and other financial support ends, MSPs have been told.

Holyrood’s Culture Committee heard from representatives of the music, theatre and museum sectors that the various support schemes have helped reduce the “scarring” on their industries but that without ongoing support they will be “decimated”.

The evidence session raised concerns that people working in the arts industries – particularly the self-employed – are also more likely to be “falling between the gaps” of the support available.

People missing out on the financial backing was also likely to have a negative impact on Edinburgh’s festivals when they are able to resume, MSPs heard.

Julia Amour, the director of Festivals Edinburgh, said: “We sit at the intersection of a huge range of interdependencies in the system: individual artists, freelance producers, venues, commercial companies who are presenting work, and so on and so forth.

“There’s a huge range of the schemes that some people have been able to draw on, but also really important gaps that have left out other people – particularly individuals in freelance positions.

“They fall between the stools in terms of being able to apply for the self-employed grant or the furlough assistance.

“That’s a great worry to a lot of us in the system because we can’t function without that pipeline working really well.”

Nick Stewart from the Music Venue Trust said that “trade is rapidly diminishing” and problems were being compounded by the Scottish Government’s ban on music and sound from televisions in bars, pubs and restaurants.

Describing October 31 as “an absolute cliff edge” because of the ending of the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the final date for sector-specific support, he said: “There must be a plan or we’re going to see mass closures.”

“Thereafter, there is no further funding in place – this is a really crucial and really tricky area for us,” he said.

“There is a contradiction in that you can have a music ban and at the same time have venues opening for socially distanced performances from September 14,” Stewart said, warning that most grassroots music venues physically cannot host socially distanced shows.

“On a financial level, it would be extremely difficult to try and run those shows; the shows would certainly not be profitable unless there is very significant funding coming from somewhere else.”

Alex McGowan, the executive director of Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, added: “Social distancing in any form – while necessary and understandable – is incompatible financially with the businesses that we run.

“For as long as that social distancing is in place, we will find it hard to retain the organisations that we operate”

Asked at the Government’s coronavirus briefing about the apparent contradiction about music in bars, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she did not want to risk reaching a “tipping point” that allows coronavirus to “run riot again”. She said: “None of what we’re doing right now is ideal but we’re trying to get things back to normal while keeping the risk of transmission as low as possible.”