South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has warned that the arts and entertainment sector in the Scottish Borders faces a ‘jobs crisis’ unless more action is taken soon.
The creative industry has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19 as the furlough scheme begins to wind down and with no quality jobs guarantee scheme in place, thousands of workers in creative industries look set to be laid off.
Scottish Labour has calculated that the arts and entertainment sector employs at least 121,000 people across Scotland, including 2,250 in Scottish Borders, as well as many seasonal jobs in the sector additionally.
The region would normally have been host to a range of major events and festivals during the summer, but many have either been cancelled or moved online.
What support that is being provided to grassroots music venues by the Scottish Government won’t become available until September – more than two months after being promised.
Colin Smyth believes the “triple whammy” from Government of a lack of specific financial support, the easing of lockdown for the sector being later than many others and social distancing rules of 2 metres, compared to one metre in pubs and restaurants, could lead to huge job losses in the sector.
Colin Smyth said: “Unemployment in our region have almost doubled compared to this time last year and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with that number set to rise as the furlough scheme winds down. Our region is facing an unemployment tsunami, and the creative sector is one industry which is set to suffer badly from the jobs crisis.
“Arts and entertainment venues are facing a triple whammy of a lack of support, being behind other sectors when it comes to easing from lockdown and tougher social distancing than pubs and restaurants. Social distancing of two metres in big city theatres and cinemas may work, but in small venues in rural areas, it simply becomes financially unviable to open. Unless the UK and Scottish Governments work fast, we will inevitably see closures and yet more job losses.
“Our region is standing on the edge of an unemployment crisis and without more Government help to support jobs, the number of families in our region who will find themselves out of work is going to rise significantly.
“Covid-19 started out solely as a public health crisis but as time has progressed, it is now also a serious economic crisis too with the arts and entertainment sector at the centre.”