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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 15:04 GMT

UK: Scotland

Scottish Opera faces the music

Two national companies have faced a crisis

Bosses from Scottish Opera have told MSPs they were not guilty of mismanaging the company which almost closed with severe debts.

During evidence to the Scottish Parliament's culture committee, they admitted their new production Macbeth had contributed a great deal to the poor bank balance.

[ image: Scottish Opera deny mismanagement]
Scottish Opera deny mismanagement
But they denied the decision to commission the work had been an extravagant one.

MSPs say they are determined to get to the bottom of a funding crisis which almost destroyed Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet.

Managers were called to appear before the culture committee amid growing concern over the financial state of the major arts institutions.

Scottish Opera was given £2.1m by the Scottish Executive last week, just days before it would have been declared bankrupt.

Future in question

That financial problem threatened to throw proposals for a cost-cutting merger between Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet into doubt - endangering the future of both companies.

The management, both past and present, have been called to give evidence.

Among them is former Scottish Opera general manager Ruth Mackenzie, who resigned in June, and chairman Sandy Orr, who resigned a month later.

MSPs will ask them how they ran up such huge debts and why they waited so long to tell the Scottish Arts Council.

They will contrast Scottish Opera's handling of its finances with other national companies - who between them use up the lion's share of arts council funding.

The Scottish Executive pledged financial help for Scottish Opera but said this is dependent on a full report into how the company ran up debts and assurances that its merger with Scottish Ballet will be completed.

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