I didn't comment on this story earlier in the week because I had presumed that it would be covered to death in the broadsheets. It is a sign in itself that it hasn't had a mention.
The annual report for the National Fund for Acquisitions, the fund managed by the National Museum of Scotland for the Scottish government, was released this week. The report makes for spectacularly depressing reading.
Thanks to funding cuts and pressure on museum budgets, acquisitions by Scottish museums have dropped more than 50% since 2009/10.
The story isn't just that funding has been cut by 25%, for which the government should hang its head in shame, but how little it is in the first place. Funds of £150,000 are pitiful. The highlight of last year's acquisitions was an etching and aquatint from Sueño y Mentira de Franco by Pablo Picasso, by the
Hunterian. As the report says:
"A lowering of ambition in collecting as budget cuts affect the ability of organisations to raise funding for higher value items. The full effect of this on individual collections may only be felt in the longer term as missed opportunities accumulate."
It has been a long story of neglect and decline. Last year the fund was cut by £100,000. At the time Mark Taylor, director of the Museum's Association said:
“To arbitrarily slash [the NFA] by 50% with no consultation shows an arrogance and lack of understanding of its value that takes the breath away.”
“In the face of unprecedented cuts in our Budget imposed by the Westminster Government we are prioritising spending in order to minimise the impact on key cultural organisations.”
To put the sums we are talking about into perspective, the National Gallery in London alone has an annual acquisition fund of around £5 million.