THEATRES, concert venues, clubs and cinemas have experienced unprecedented closures during the pandemic. Now MSPs are launching a probe over the future of the sector’s funding.

The announcement comes just days ahead of the start of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe.

Live performances were cancelled last year – the first that the world-famous arts showcases have not taken place since their inception.

While audiences can take their seats again this year, they’re urged to bring masks and many shows will remain online.

But the new inquiry is much wider than the capital events and MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee are today launching a call for views on funding for culture across the country.

The call marks the start of its work in advance of the Scottish Government’s budget for 2022/23. The evidence gathered will be taken into recommendations put forward to ministers.

In a statement, the cross-party body said: “The committee is focusing its work on the culture sector in Scotland, given the sizeable impact the pandemic has had on many culture-focused and creative businesses, groups and individuals.

“Covid restrictions severely curtailed many cultural businesses’ ability to operate, and the support which has been available through government schemes is expected to wind up in the coming months.”

It’s appealing to individuals, groups and businesses to share their immediate and longer-term recovery plans, what the future looks like for the sector and “whether the Scottish Government might be able to take a more strategic approach to supporting” it.

A total of £175 million was earmarked for supporting cultural and other major events in the SNP government’s 2021/22 budget.

On top of this, local authorities provided “significant” funding for culture and heritage in their areas. This reached a total of £195m in 2019-20, but that outlay also covers libraries. Last year the sector’s output dropped by around one third, according to estimates.

Meanwhile, the number of jobs in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in Scotland dropped from around 92,000 to 78,000 from March 2020 to March 2021 – a fall that cost 14,000 positions.

The National: Clare Adamson of the SNP is the convener of the committee holding the inquiry

Committee convener Clare Adamson MSP (above) commented: “The pandemic has tested, at times to breaking point, our creative industries, culture sector and those who make a living through them.

“MSPs on our committee want to know what the sector wants to help it to recover and then thrive.

“Our culture scene is so important to Scotland, not only economically, but also for the social and societal benefits that it brings. Hearing the views of those involved in this sector will be vital to informing our recommendations for the Scottish Government on budgetary priorities.”

The call for views closes on Wednesday, September 8.