SCOTLAND’S comedians fear they’re likely to lose out on a slice of the £97 million funding package for the cultural sector because they’re not considered an “art form” by the Government.

A group of comics, comedy writers, performers, producers, promoters, directors and venue owners have come together to form the Association of Scottish Comedic Arts (ASCA).

They are demanding urgent talks with arts and culture chiefs to try to secure “a lifesaving package” for the industry.

They are concerned they are “being punished for being popular”.

Stand-up comedy has been badly hit by coronavirus, with clubs and venues among the first to close down. It seems unlikely that they will be able to re-open again in any meaningful way until the country enters phase four of the Scottish Government’s route-map out of lockdown.

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That could be months away and possibly not until next year.

A spokesman for ASCA said comics feared they could fall down through the “cracks between the available emergency financial packages” as they didn’t fit “the criteria for either the hospitality industry or the arts and culture money announced this week”.

He added: “Creative Scotland, which is likely to administer the vast bulk of the £97m, has for many years refused to acknowledge comedy as an art form.

“This locks our industry out of cash meant to keep the lights on for a viable and vibrant sector which for decades has been self-funding, commercially successful and a huge part of Scottish life both in a live setting and on our radios and TVs. Scotland has seven dedicated and established comedy venues as well as pop-up clubs, monthly regional gigs and grassroots nights that are facing extinction if they are excluded from this round of emergency money.

“It would be a scandal if there were no Scottish-owned and run comedy venues included at next year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Some 40% of its programme of 4000 shows is comedy.”

The spokesman added: “We want an industry that has fostered and nurtured some of Scotland’s biggest exports and brightest stars, from Billy Connolly, Daniel Sloss and Kevin Bridges to Frankie Boyle, Janey Godley and Craig Ferguson, to finally be recognised as an art form and unlock the vault of money available to other arts such as ballet, opera, jazz, classical music, theatre and storytelling.”

A Creative Scotland spokesperson said it noted the letter from the group and was continuing discussions on “opportunities for support”. She added: “We are working with the Scottish Government to establish the details of the funding. Further information will be available shortly.”