Members Newsletter February '21

Members Newsletter February '21


This is a Members Newsletter including information about a new Mental Health event from SAU Learning; information about Brexit; information from the report submitted to the Scottish Government based on our workforce survey with SCAN: and a Template Letter for writing to your MSP.


Firstly, we hope you are surviving as well as possible under the current circumstances. We continue to live in hope that the situation for all of us will improve in the coming months. If you need up-to-date information about the current lockdown situation, there is information on the Scottish Government website, which you can access here.

N.B. The SAU staff team continues to work from home so the best way to contact us continues to be by email ([email protected]). 

Understanding the importance of mental health during the pandemic.

Self Care and Wellbeing for Freelancers - A free learning event for our members, with an additional 1 : 1 session (subject to availability), on March 20, 2021 at 10am - 12pm.

We have been successful in attracting additional support from Scottish Union Learning's Covid-19 Recovery Fund to deliver some online training and support around mental health for our members.

There is more information about how to sign up for this Self Care & Wellbeing course delivered by Mental Wealth Training here: Self Care and Wellbeing For Freelancers

Brexit information

We have had a number of members getting in touch with questions about the effects of Brexit and we thought it would be good to share the following links to a Craft Scotland Guide, and the Scottish Government's own information. We hope you find these useful. 

Craft Scotland Makers Guide to Brexit

Scottish Government info - 

Culture _Creative_Sectors - visas-coming-to-scotland-for-employment-and-freelance-work/

Prepare for Brexit


We have had a request to circulate this survey from Patricia O’Grady, who is doing some research about Cultural Trusts in Scotland and their impact on arts and culture. The research is for her dissertation as part of her Masters course in Arts Management at Queen Margaret University.

The responses are completely anonymous the questionnaire should only take 10 minutes.

Survey on Cultural Trusts here

Workforce Survey Results

Between December 2020 and January 2021, the union ran a survey in collaboration with SCAN (Scottish Contemporary Art Network). We wanted to collate information about the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the visual arts community in Scotland, to understand and advocate for the needs of the sector. Independent researcher Ruth Stevenson designed, managed and analysed a web survey to gather this information.  Thank you to all our members who took part, the majority of individual respondents were from SAU members, and giving us valuable information for advocacy and lobbying.

The summary findings and conclusions were as follows:

The results from this survey show that Covid-19 has had a substantial and ongoing negative impact on the visual arts workforce in Scotland. Whilst there are pockets of positivity, the vast majority of individuals have had a negative experience. 

Impact on financial position

  • 65% expected to make a loss in 2020 compared to pre-Covid expectations.
    • Groups most likely to anticipate a loss were: zero hours workers, sessional workers, self-employed workers, artists or makers, disabled people, and those with caring responsibilities.
    • Overall, 22% across the sector estimated that they would lose more than half of their expected income in 2020 due to Covid-19.
  • 87% had experienced any gaps in income caused by Covid-19.
    • 30% of those that had gaps in income said that that the available financial support had not been effective in covering these gaps in income.
  • Across the visual arts workforce in Scotland:
    • 53% applied for any form of creative sector support, and 39% had received this support.
    • 64% applied for any form of government or other non-creative sector specific support, and 53% had received this support.
    • 10% received Universal Credit or other similar Government benefits where they otherwise would not have done so, as a direct result of Covid-19.
    • 72% made use of at least one other forms of support, including savings (43%), friends and family (30%) and studio rental holiday / reduction (15%).
  • 28% across the sector said that they felt they had “fallen though the cracks” and been ineligible for adequate financial support during Covid-19.

Impact on employment

  • 84% of those in PAYE roles said Covid-19 had an impact on their PAYE working conditions.
  • 92% of those in self-employed roles said that Covid-19 had an impact on their self-employment working conditions.
  • Across the visual arts workforce in Scotland:
    • 18% of the respondents told us that they had changed their employment status in the visual arts as a direct result of Covid-19.
    • 23% had sought work or employment in areas other than the visual arts in order to earn income.
    • 5% had stopped working in the visual arts completely.
    • 2% had been made redundant.

Other impacts

  • Other direct impacts of Covid-19 on the visual arts workforce in Scotland were working for free (31%), having caring responsibilities which were negatively affected (29%), and volunteering where otherwise they would not have (27%).
  • When asked to rate how various elements of their lives and careers were now compared to how they were pre-Covid, more than half of the visual arts workforce in Scotlandfelt that each of these elements of their life/career were worse just now. Most negatively affected were income (worse for 72%), new opportunities available in the visual arts (worse for 71%), financial stability (worse for 69%) and mental health (worse for 66%).
  • It is however notable that in less than 10% of cases across the elements, some individuals found themselves currently in a better position, particularly in the case of work/life balance which was currently better for 18%.

Concluding remarks

Scottish Artists Union’s annual surveys and SCAN’s 2016 Mapping the Visual Arts Research indicate that the visual arts workforce already had annual incomes well below the average Scottish full-time wage, and this survey shows that this has certainly been exacerbated by the pandemic situation and by eligibility rules for available financial support.

This survey demonstrates the negative impact that Covid-19 has had on a workforce that includes many self-employed individuals with mixed/portfolio careers on relatively low incomes, confirming that they have been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and that this is a substantial ongoing issue.  

We used results from the survey to complete our submission to the Culture, Tourism, European and External Affairs Committee (CTEEA) at the Scottish Parliament outlining the current issues facing artists due to Covid-19, including requests for further action. You can read the report we submitted here. SAU CTEEA report

Alongside other Cultural Trade Unions and sector representatives we were called to give evidence where the message was reinforced, and further questions came from across the political spectrum. Supplementary evidence was subsequently submitted following questions from the committee on Universal Basic Income details.

Press Coverage

SAU and SCAN worked together on a news release to further publicize the current issues facing freelancers and the wider sector. This was picked up by the ‘National’ newspaper and the following article published. You can read the article here - The National press article.

Template Letter for Writing to Your MSP

The press article shows the power of telling individual artists’ experiences and we are urging our members to consider using our current template letter to contact your local MP/MSP and highlight your own practice and any issues you want to raise. You can adapt the letter to suit and personalise as needed. This is an election year (Scottish Parliament), and the politicians are more mindful than usual about the needs of their constituents – your experiences are important – make sure they hear you!

To find your MSP go to

Finally… in response to the issues you have been raising with us recently, we are pleased to announce three new workshops funded through the Covid-19 Recovery Fund. Details to follow shortly from our Learning Programme team. Supported by Scottish Union Learning with funds allocated from the Scottish Government, the workshops will cover:

  • Mental Health Support 
  • Finance for Freelancers
  • Online Marketing for Artists

As we go to press, the Scottish Government has announced a further £9 million to support creative freelancers in Scotland. £9 million will be distributed as a top-up to the Hardship Fund for Creative Freelancers and Screen Hardship Fund bringing the total value of support for creative freelancers to £17 million. You can read more about this Here.

Our union has appreciated the speed with which Creative Scotland and partner organisations have assessed and distributed emergency funds over the last year – supporting artists and makers at this challenging time. We are hoping there may be a name change to the Hardship Fund as some of you told us in the survey that the phrase ‘Hardship’ was off-putting, with many thinking this might not apply to them, wanting to ensure that other artists would get the funds. Please apply if you need to and meet the eligibility criteria. We will continue to fight for those of us who have still been excluded from support, whether it’s from SEISS or for other reasons.

One final thing - we are looking for a member to join our Executive Committee Member, who has experience in HR experiences (Human Resources). If this is you or you know someone else that you can suggest pleas email us at [email protected]


Check out our social media posts and please share on Twitter: @SCOArtistsUnion | FB: ScottishArtistsUnion | Instagram:

Support Your Union!! Together We Are Stronger!!

There’s never been a more important time to be part of a union, help us fight for a new ‘normal’ that supports the arts and culture!!

If you want to help SAU further please encourage fellow artists to join up, or get involved with the Executive Committee by attending our meetings (all currently online!). Email us and we will send you the link. 

Please help us promote the activities of the union on social media by following us and sharing posts.

We are here to help. We are a small team of part time workers and a voluntary executive, currently email is the best way to get in touch. 
Stay safe & healthy everyone.  

Keep on Keeping On!

Yours in Solidarity, 
Everyone at Scottish Artists Union


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