Too Big to Fail: Scottish Opera under Thatcher

Huw Jones

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


At the Coalition's arts cuts begin to bite, this paper recalls a similar episode 30 years ago, when the Thatcher Government tried to reduce arts funding. In the early 1980s Scottish Opera faced bankruptcy after running up £750,000 in debts against a background of falling levels of public subsidy. The Scottish Arts Council, its main funder, argued that the company needed to be downsized, to save costs. However, Scottish Opera refused to accept this solution, winning over the support of the Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, George Younger, who agreed a £40,000 bail out. This paper examines how Scottish Opera made the case for special dispensation, what impact his had on the rest of the arts in Scotland, and how the decision ultimately undermined the arm's-length principle as the cornerstone of arts funding in post-war Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationN/A
Publication statusUnpublished - 1 Jan 1990
Event Subsidy, Patronage and Sponsorship Conference - London
Duration: 19 Jul 201221 Jul 2012


Conference Subsidy, Patronage and Sponsorship Conference


  • thatcher


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