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Shadow Culture Secretary says government “could have done a lot more” to support internationally touring performers and commits Labour to not resting “until we’ve got a solution”.

Image of Lucy Powell and Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar with Lucy Powell, Shadow Culture Secretary

Scottish Labour

Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell has said the Labour Party would commit to resolving visa issues for creatives if it comes into government at the next general election.

Her comments came during a speech in Glasgow at the Barrowland Ballroom, delivered on Tuesday (8 August), as part of a trip to meet Scotland’s creative sector leaders alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

The Manchester Central MP said the government “could have done a lot more to smooth the path” for touring performers, such as musicians.


“It’s not just that they themselves have to get a very expensive visa, which is a lot of paperwork,” Powell said. “All the equipment, everything they are taking on tour needs individual cabotage [freight] paperwork.

“[The government] kept saying they were going to go back to the drawing board with the EU, but they haven’t done that. The next Labour government will prioritise that. 

“We won’t rest until we’ve got a resolution. It’s massively damaging to our music industry and our festivals industry, which is so important, especially here in Scotland.”

In her speech, Powell also said Labour would work alongside Scottish Labour to “put our creative and cultural sectors centre stage, fixing touring so Scottish creatives can work in Europe again hassle-free and promoting Scotland’s rich cultural heritage to the world”.

Her comments were echoed by Sarwar, who said on Twitter it had been great to chair a roundtable of representatives from the arts industries that featured Powell: “We will work in partnership to deliver the change our country needs,” he added.

International touring constraints

A report into the international activity of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), reported on by Arts Professional earlier this week, highlighted the impact of visa issues on international creative work.

It found 83% of NPOs that responded to the study who identified visas and work permits as a barrier to their international activities said Brexit had been a contributory factor to reduced international activity.

The majority of those surveyed said they expected visa issues to remain a key barrier. More than 80% said it was one of the factors they expected to impact their ability to continue international touring in the next one to three years.

Meanwhile, some NPOs said they were seeking guidance and support from governmental departments in managing the challenges, restrictions and new legislations that have come along with Brexit.

“While cultural organisations are endeavouring to spread the message that England continues to welcome international artists, organisations feel it is important the government make strides in promoting a culture of openness for European artists,” the report says.

The Labour Party has previously accused government of failing to unblock problems with touring in Europe post Brexit.

During Tuesday’s speech, Powell said Labour would push for a visa waiver for artists with the EU alongside negotiating an EU-wide cultural touring agreement, including allowances for cabotage.

 “Creative industries are vital to Labour’s economic growth mission,” she added.

“Culture, the arts, and creative industries are absolutely vital, not just to economic growth but to creating attractive places for people to come and live and work, invest in and want to be.”