SCOTLAND’S cultural sector should be protected financially, according to more than 120 organisations spanning the arts, heritage and business communities.

Ahead of next week’s Budget statement, individuals representing those organisations have co-signed a letter, organised by independent charity Arts & Business Scotland, urging the Scottish Government to protect funding in the sector.

The benefits to the Scottish economy are highlighted, with creative industries estimated to contribute £4.6 billion annually, supporting 84,000 jobs. The signatories also believe wider Scottish society benefits from added financial value, particularly in areas such as education, justice and community cohesion.

The Scottish Government has said it remains committed to supporting and protecting Scotland’s cultural sector.

With constraints from elsewhere due to pressures on Lottery funding and local authority spending, there are fears any cut to the £325 million total spending on culture, tourism and external affairs – which represents less than one per cent of the current Scottish budget for 2017-18 – could have a “devastating impact”, according to Arts & Business Scotland chief executive David Watt.

“Set in that context, it’s clear that the small percentage of the Scottish budget invested each year in the cultural sector offers outstanding value for money,” he said.

“As a minimum, that funding must be protected as part of next year’s Scottish budget settlement.

“But beyond that, with other categories of cultural funding under sustained pressure, a modest increase in Scottish Government funding for culture would enable Scotland’s core cultural infrastructure to survive and thrive.”

Last year’s World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report showed that creativity is set to rise from the 10th most important skill for businesses – where it stood in 2015 – to third by 2020, meaning ties between culture and business are more important than ever.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to supporting and protecting Scotland’s culture and historic environment, to ensure our diverse and evolving culture scene and rich heritage continues to thrive.”