Subsidy Junkies or Toadies… Or Sirs of the Realm…

At what point is it all right to bite that hands that feeds you? I remember many years ago I spent a weekend in Fintry in a log cabin. It was a weekend of working as a volunteer Tory – I know…

The local MP was Mike Forsyth, arch Tory and Thatcherite and he was given an invite to come and talk to the assembled 20 or so people who were students of the time and very much on the Libertarian right of the party; much like him.

The Scotsman columnist, Brian Monteith had organised it; he as a mate and came to my first wedding.

During his speech, Forsyth bemoaned the fact that, as a government, the Tories were pouring money into companies like Wildcat Theatre Company, who then used that money to propagandise against and criticise the government.

He was determined to stop this; he thankfully failed.

We all applauded and nodded, though I wondered if this was the right thing to do; even in my Tory state I was unsure of the way things were going politically. By then I had been detached from my artistic self for a long time and I was not really thinking straight. I could blame the alcohol content of my blood stream, but it was really far more than that. As time progressed, of course, I realised that deep inside me I had an arty core that would not be silenced and it led to my departure from the Tory Party…

A few weeks ago, this came flooding back to me when I read that the artistic director of the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh had had a wee go at Scotland’s leading composer.

The stooshie is all about getting Government funding for a programme of Sir James McMillan’s work at the Edinburgh International Festival. McMillan was understandably, very proud at such a celebration of his work and given he is now 60, his expressed view feels quite warm and gushing.

Artistic director of the Lyceum, David Greig was not one to join the gush.

Like Mike Forsyth, Greig used the word “hypocrisy” in his tirade; the comparison ends there.

In the past, McMillan has ranted and raved about how people who accepted such subsidies were nothing more than Government “stooges”.

Given that Greig is also a supporter of independence for Scotland and a leading member of the National Collective of artists campaigning for independence this could be quite personal. McMillan was scathing about this group, describing them as “Mussolini’s cheerleaders” it is easy to see from where such enmity springs.

And yet nearly seven years ago they were signatories on a joint artistic letter to Creative Scotland arguing and calling for significant changes on how the arts should be funded.

With both thoughts in mind, I wondered if they give you cash should you play their tune?

If BP fund your Opera could it be about climate change?

In sport there are huge gambling issues, and many gambling companies sponsoring events – should they sponsor an anti gambling message?

So, if you get a government subsidy does that really make you a stooge or a toady or is taking their cash really hypocrisy if you think others are?

I hope this debate runs and runs like the Mousetrap…