THE toll the pandemic has taken on the traditional arts of Scotland is laid bare in a new report.

Almost one fifth of freelancers in the sector have seen their income “totally disappear” while the recruitment and retention of children and young people has been “severely affected”, according to research by Professor Simon McKerrell of Glasgow Caledonian University.

“This, combined with the ageing profile more broadly, makes recruitment and retention of children and young people to Scottish traditional arts the top priority for pandemic recovery across the country,” the report states.

“The ageing profile of Scottish traditional arts is a significant factor both in the effects of Covid and its recovery across the sector.”

The research, commissioned by Creative Scotland and carried out between May and June last year, found that freelancers had suffered the worst financial effects of the pandemic restrictions.

The average income across the sector is between £5000 and £10,000, with 87% of respondents earning less than £20,000 pre-pandemic per annum from Scottish traditional arts.

When asked how this income has been affected by the pandemic, 63% said their income had been either “reduced somewhat”’ or “been badly reduced” with 18% saying their income had “totally disappeared”.

The impact of the pandemic on venues and audiences for Scottish traditional arts has also been “substantial”, according to the report.

Programmers and events organisers said there had been a significant rise in “no shows” to events, a decrease in ticket sales and different responses to live, in-person events from younger to older audiences.

Older audience members, in particular, appear to be slow to return to in-person events and are buying fewer tickets, meaning that programmers for Scottish traditional music events are taking this into account in their programming decisions.

The report goes on to warn that many in the sector felt the full impact of Covid was still to be seen.

“Many venues and festivals are coping with simply providing the events and fulfilling obligations to artists and audiences that have been continually rescheduled over the past two years,” the reports points out.

“One of the consequences of this long delay to promised events is a ‘cost hangover’ as many of these events were costed on 2019/2020 prices and travel, and rising inflation and costs now mean that they are dealing with far higher overheads when providing these events in 2022 and 2023, with static ticket revenues.”

Not is all doom and gloom, however, as the pandemic has accelerated digital trends, presenting opportunities for future growth in Scottish traditional arts for both amateur, voluntary and professional artists and learners, according to the report.

These include new streams of income for professional artists, festivals and events able to reach a more global audience for teaching and performance; the emergence of “live digital” events as meaningful practices for highly localised geographical communities and international communities of practice and the development of higher quality digital learning resources for both students and teachers of Scottish traditional arts.

There is also cross-sectoral collaboration and mutual benefits from cultural tourism and marketing involving Scottish- and heritage-aligned businesses with traditional artists and a diversification of the communities surrounding Scottish traditional arts through greater globalisation and digital preference.