ARE the arts underfunded? Yes! Is their potential impact not understood properly? You better believe it! Are the funding models we use adequate? Not entirely. But it’s not their fault either.

I spent the best part of two terms ­sitting on the board of Creative Scotland (CS), finally resigning for reasons which need not ­detain us here. Scunnered by some events probably covers most of it.

Yet I’m not out of sympathy with an ­organisation which will never be loved by the arts community so long as there are losers and winners in the great funding ­lottery. And there always will be.

As one of the folks trying to run a ­community-based book festival and an events chair at others, I’m as gutted as ­anyone else that Aye Write got a ­dizzie whilst an allegedly dodgy movie was ­originally awarded more than Glasgow’s premier book festival would have cost.

I’m too far away from it all now to second-guess what happened, but the embedded Screen Scotland troops, who have a great deal of autonomy, may have held sway at the relevant meetings. Who knows? Not me, and not anyone else who wasn’t in the room at the relevant times.

I’m only familiar with a handful of the current board, having mostly ­encountered them in other incarnations. The staff ­turnover too has been comprehensive since my time there. There have also been four chairs – one of them interim – and three chief executives since CS was born.

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But there is one fact of funding life which is a constant which we all need to grasp. There is never, ever enough money to go around. Sometimes the decisions made seem – and can be – perverse, and despite the best efforts to reform the application ­process, practitioners still spend way too much time with a wet towel around their heads trying to summon the best formula of words to impress the decision-makers.

When I was on board, the funding streams were cut from 15 to 3, but the ­rumblings of discontent failed to be stilled.

There are other conundrums which beset bodies like Creative Scotland. If they only ever fund existing clients, they could be ­accused of stifling artistic innovation. Yet if they take a flyer with something judged more left field, they can and do run into a wall of abuse.

Another dilemma is trying to balance not just the half-starved books, but the perennial geographical problem of over-provision in one corner of Scotland ­married to a dearth of cultural delights in another.

Like every other quango, CS is ­dependent on Scottish Government ­funding which, in turn, is contingent on the level of pocket money it gets from Westminster. So from one year to the next, neither CS nor the Scottish Government can be sure what the budget will look like. Rather like blind man’s buff for the ­accountancy class.

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There have been years where not just a major book festival but a massive chunk of Scottish creativity has been ­under threat.

My second venture into arts funding bodies was considerably more ­congenial, principally because it involved doling out dosh rather than endlessly carting a ­begging bowl around.

The Dewar Arts Awards were set up in memory of Scotland’s first first ­minister and were designed as a nod to his ­considerable hinterland which ­embraced everything from concert, ­theatre and gallery-visiting to haunting second-hand bookshops. The latter mourned his ­passing big time.

The Scottish Government set up a trust fund to underwrite its activities but ­wisely left the first tranche of ­trustees to get on with it. I had the privilege of ­chairing this particular board for more years than is strictly advisable.

Its “mission statement” was ­mercifully brief. It would fund outstanding ­artistic talent in the under-30s – provided the ­applicants in question lacked the ­financial means to pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential.

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Given that it’s only had part-time ­administrators to handle the ­prodigious paperwork over the years, it has got through a wheen of fascinating ­applications. At its fifth year, it created a sub-committee to look at best practice, and on its 15th birthday, it ­commissioned a “warts and all” report on its activities.

Those early years provided a number of insights which were duly taken on board. It became clear from day one on that a family member or pal should not be the proposer or provide the references since they would assuredly lack objectivity as to what constituted outstanding.

Wee Jeanie finally managing to pass all her ­piano exams would not really cut it.

It was also crystal clear that whilst the distribution of raw talent was not a ­postcode lottery, the opportunities ­available to talented youngsters certainly were. Addressing those gaps is very much in the minds of the current board.

Plus the age at which young people needed a vital intervention turned out to vary a lot depending on the art form. Writers and filmmakers take time to develop; dancers need to get going early. Though not as early as the eight-year-old piper we funded who went on to win a UK-wide title.

At the time of the 2008 crash, the then trustees held an extraordinary general meeting at which they concluded skint kids were going to be even more in need of support and decided they’d trade their way through it even if they exhausted the funds. (They never did)! Indeed in the first 15 years, the awards provided almost £4 million in support.

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By some accidental miracle, their ­awardees turned out to have a perfect ­gender balance. The trustees always asked for a personal report at the end of the award period and it’s good to record that only a very tiny number failed to take proper advantage.

And of the almost 80% who responded to the 15-year survey, a rather ­amazing 97% are professional artists though ­inevitably some do other work to make these perennially difficult ends meet.

The tale all that tells is that Scotland is not only full of artistic talent, but that too few still get the chance to progress it. I’ve lost count of the number of really brilliant artists I’ve encountered over these many years who tell you that they actually got the chance to realise ambitions originally held by one or both of their parents.

Held by folk who – by dint of their own family circumstances – were pushed by ­necessity into the kind of paid employment which never reflected their own dreams.

The truth about pretty well all arts ­organisations in Scotland just now is that they expend too much of their energy just trying to keep the show on the road. Not so very long ago, local authorities in this country were major funders of the arts, but these days, sadly, they too are in ­financial disarray.

However much we love the arts – and most of us do – they represent a soft ­underbelly when the cuts come.

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Always destined to be the low-hanging fruit for councils, for governments, and for anyone else stuck with trying to make straw-free bricks in time of need.

Which is why I sympathise not just with strung-out arts administrators – many of whom I know – but also with bodies like Creative Scotland who face the annual impossibility of coming up with plans which won’t piss anyone off.

Of this one thing I am certain of: the arts, like few other activities, have the power to transform the lives not just of the practitioners – although I’ve watched that happen – but of those fortunate enough to consume their talent up close and personal.

The arts should never be seen as a ­luxury item; without their essential soul food, we would all be undernourished and much more impoverished.