SCOTLAND’s world renowned craft sector is under threat as a result of Brexit, an industry leader has warned.

A “rapid shrinking” of the market has been predicted because of the complications surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU.

Already badly hit by the pandemic, Brexit has “compounded the challenges” with a “whole host of uncertainties” according to Irene Kernan, director of Craft Scotland.

She said Scottish craft organisations and practitioners had spent years developing the nation’s reputation in Europe for being a producer of high-quality craft but that Brexit now “seriously jeopardised” their place on this “valuable” international platform.

“Scottish craft has a world-renowned reputation and many makers regularly exhibit and sell directly into Europe,” said Kernan. “Practically everything from the ability to source materials, travel for exhibitions and trade shows to shipping and customs uncertainty will almost certainly result in a rapid shrinking of the market.”

Kernan said the situation for the sector had worsened since the summer when it was found that half of makers surveyed had lost 80% or more of their income for 2020/21 and more than half had their entire work cancelled or postponed. The loss of income was as a result of cancellation of events, closure of retail stores, and reduced commissions as well as a lack of income from delivering classes and workshops.

The added complications of Brexit now “seriously threaten” Scottish craft businesses, said Kernan.

“Makers, both established and emerging, have now lost the ability to contribute to and benefit from the knowledge and expertise available in Europe,” she pointed out. “This includes Erasmus programmes for students, research trips for makers, residency exchanges, approaches to sustainability and technologies developed through European partnerships.

"For those working to reimagine heritage crafts in particular, this influx of new technologies and knowledge are vital.   “Makers in Scotland have shown their ability to adapt creatively this past year, but Brexit has compounded the challenges of the pandemic with a whole host of uncertainties making it difficult to know which way to pivot or how to address the ever-changing landscape.”

As a response to the problems facing the sector, Craft Scotland is founding a special Brexit Focus Group of makers who will work with a trade and export consultant to have specific sector concerns heard by those making policy decisions.

“Design-led contemporary craft in Scotland is one of the country’s greatest assets and it is vital we do everything we can to preserve its future and increase its contribution to the creative economy,” said Kernan.

The summer survey carried out by Craft Scotland found that makers work across all areas of society as a fundamental part of their practice with 72% working with young people, 86% in informal learning, 65% within the local community and 54% in health and wellbeing areas. More than half of makers surveyed reported that 100% of these projects and sources of income were either postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sarah Calmus, president of Visual Arts Scotland (VAS), said creatives could not sustain further loss of income. While she welcomed government support during the pandemic, she said more help was needed.

“We are anticipating that people may well leave their area of expertise to ensure they are able to survive and withstand these times, which undoubtedly will profoundly impact and impoverish the cultural and artistic identity of Scotland in the long-term,” said Calmus.

“With over 20,000 individuals in Scotland working in the arts sector and over 77,000 in the creative industries, contributing to £4.4bn to the Scottish economy every year, we need to make sure more support for independent artists and creative freelancers is available and the wider long-term issues start being addressed to ensure the continuation of our vibrant creative culture.”