As in other areas of the UK, the arts, culture and heritage sector in Scotland has been faced with unprecedented challenges this year, prompting organisations to adapt to new ways of working.

See Creative Scotland's COVID-19 resource directory HERE.


Like their colleagues across the UK, Scottish arts organisations face many uncertainties as preparations for the cultural recovery begins.

A longer period of more severe restrictions in many parts of Scotland has resulted in a majority of organisations welcoming very few, if any, audiences since lockdowns began in March 2020, with venues across the sector relying on emergency funding from Creative Scotland and other supporters to stay afloat.

More positively, many organisations have been able to take this moment to step back and re-evaluate their previous work, their purpose as creative enterprises and how they might take these hard-won lessons forward into a changed future. Scottish arts, culture and heritage organisations have been creative in turning the current crisis into an opportunity to re-centre audiences at the heart of their activities and develop the resilience that we are all now so aware is essential.

As Scotland emerges from lockdown, the need to implement stronger data-driven decision-making is absolutely key. In some cases, embracing new ways of engaging with communities during the pandemic has actually resulted in a wider audience reach than ever before. So we can expect that spirit of innovation to continue generating new opportunities to bring Scottish cultural activities to growing audiences, both on and offline.

That said, some of our research findings do suggest that Scottish organisations may be facing a particularly uphill climb:

  • Scotland had lower levels of arts and cultural engagement before COVID than were in line with the UK average, but levels dropped further still in Scotland since March 2020 than overall (esp. for performing arts).​​
  • Fewer Scots are ready to start attending in person than the UK average.
  • Only 30% of Scots had attended any arts/heritage since Mar 2020 during periods where restrictions were lifted, below the overall UK average of 34%. Stricter Scottish restrictions are likely a factor here though.
  • The % who are currently ‘in play’ (i.e. who have booked, or are interested in booking) for ANY art and heritage activity is c. 4% lower in Scotland than the overall UK average.

On the positive side:

  • As of the beginning of November, COVID appears to have had less impact in Scotland in terms of time and money available to people. More people faced local lockdowns, but fewer were shielding.
  • Scots read for pleasure at average levels before, but increased (even) more​.
  • 29% of Scots watched a performance/ event online since March 2020; 6% had taken part in an online activity.

Keeping an eye on these trends, as well as gaining greater insights about your own previous and potential audiences, will be key to building COVID recovery strategies over the coming months. Our evidence-based resources can help build that picture.

Tried and tested tools and services to support a data-driven approach to planning and reopening post-Covid-19:

Image of Scotland | Audience Spectrum Mapping
Scotland | Audience Spectrum Mapping

These maps offer an overview of Scottish regions' demographic makeup through the lens of Audience Spectrum - a tool that segments the whole UK population by their attitudes towards culture, and by what they like to see and do.

Image of Scotland | Intentions Survey
Scotland | Intentions Survey

In partnership with Creative Scotland, The Audience Agency has conducted a 'temperature taking' survey of organisations across the nation and their audiences' attitudes to returning to culture post-COVID.

Image of Scotland | Audience Finder
Scotland | Audience Finder

Join Audience Finder and benchmark your audience data against other organisations in your sector and your local population.

Image of Scotland | Cultural Participation Monitor
Scotland | Cultural Participation Monitor

This report summarises results for Scotland from the first wave of The Audience Agency’s COVID-19 Monitor.

Image of All Original Research
All Original Research

A round-up of the original research and analysis that The Audience Agency is undertaking into the impact of the crisis on cultural participation and engagement.

Image of Recovery Route-Maps
Recovery Route-Maps

Our Using Evidence To… route-maps are designed to help you navigate your own data and The Audience Agency’s free resources to clear key hurdles for bouncing forwards.