Scotland politics

Sturgeon backs calls to save Scottish Youth Theatre

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon made clear that she wanted the youth theatre to remain open

The first minister has pledged to explore all options for saving the Scottish Youth Theatre (SYT).

It was announced on Wednesday that the theatre is to close in July after failing to secure regular funding from Creative Scotland.

Speaking at Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon made clear that she sympathised with calls for the theatre to be saved.

But she stressed that the Scottish government was not allowed to tell Creative Scotland who to fund.

Ms Sturgeon was questioned on the threatened closure of the Glasgow-based theatre company by Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie and SNP backbencher Sandra White.

Mr Harvie said he accepted that the Scottish government could not intervene in the Creative Scotland decision.

But he said it did have a "direct responsibility" for a national asset like the theatre group.

Mr Harvie asked: "This year is being billed as the year of young people. Are we really going to let Scottish Youth Theatre close?"

Difficult decisions

Ms Sturgeon responded by saying that there were always difficult decisions to be made on arts funding, and that Creative Scotland was sometimes unfairly criticised.

But the first minister said the potential closure of SYT was of "serious concern" to her, and urged the company to continue to explore "alternative routes".

She said: "Scottish Youth Theatre do fantastic work and I think it would be the desire of all of us to see them able to continue to do that."

Image caption Karen Gillan and Gerard Butler are among the former members of the SYT

Ms Sturgeon said she had asked Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop to meet SYT "to see whether there is some action that the Scottish government could be party to that would help to secure a future" for it.

She said: "While I can't give detail about what those options might be, today I certainly give a commitment that we will do everything we can to fully explore all options to allow young people in the future to benefit from the Scottish Youth Theatre in the way that young people in the past have done."

The SYT subsequently tweeted that it would be meeting the Scottish government on Monday next week.

The Scottish government put together a £1m package in November 2014 to secure the future of SYT over the following three years.

It came after the group lost its Creative Scotland funding the previous month.

The announcement was made by Ms Sturgeon's predecessor, Alex Salmond, at the SNP conference during his last major speech as first minister.

Image caption SYT was formed in December 1976

The SYT was founded 41 years ago, and has helped shape the careers of stars including Gerard Butler and Karen Gillan.

But patrons have now been informed the funding gap for 2018-21 represents a third of its required income.

Creative Scotland said it was "disappointed" by the decision and that it was "fully committed to supporting access to creativity for young people".

But it said limited funds meant it had not been able to support the group, and that it had been working with the SYT regarding "alternative routes to support".

The theatre group confirmed it was left with "no realistic option" but to cease trading on 31 July.

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