January 17, 2019
Since 2012, we have been surveying the experiences of artists working in Scotland.
We would like to thank you for your continued engagement with the survey over the past five years. This has allowed us to gain an accurate reflection of the lives of artists in Scotland, and also to map trends and changes over this period. Our survey has become the largest survey of artists in Scotland, and is referenced by many arts organisations, media outlets and the Scottish Government. This gives us an invaluable opportunity to have our voices heard.
Our political landscape has experienced many ruptures since the survey began, and it is therefore not surprising that this is reflected in the survey results with many of our members expressing concerns over Brexit, welfare reform and employment instability amongst other issues.
With 81% of members surveyed earning less than £10,000 per year from their practice, we are often reliant on other sources of income or employment. The survey highlights that the issues facing artists such as health, care, finance and gender equality are a reflection of our wider society. This highlights the increasing relevance of artist-led trade unionism that understands the particular needs of our sector within this social and political context.
One of the main concerns emerging from this year’s survey is the lack of efficient and affordable studio spaces. 73% of artists surveyed now work from home, with many reporting that studio space is increasingly unaffordable, below par, and not economically viable on a low practice income. This causes concern as many artists report feeling isolated by working from home, due to the lack of artistic support networks.
Once again, this data shows a downward trend in artists’ income. Our labour continues to subsidise the wider arts sector with Artists consistently being the lowest paid workers in the sector, often working without contracts or adequate pay, and far too often being expected to work for free.
Despite this, the results demonstrate that we continue to be a flexible and resilient workforce responding well to our changing conditions. However, this resilience is not sustainable and should not be exploited. The evidence highlights the need for our union to respond to these changes, lobby and campaign for the rights of our members.
This year, the union has seen many changes that will enhance the service to our members. With our new employees, a modernisation strategy, and learning programme, we aim to build our union and its resilience to our changing landscape. Using this valuable feedback, we aim to continue to support our membership with the practical and professional challenges artists face in sustaining a career from their practice
Yours in Solidarity,
Sinead Dunn, Vice-President
Scottish Artists Union