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Thursday, 23 March, 2000, 06:28 GMT
Crisis talks over opera closure
Scottish Opera
Scottish Opera is again facing financial problems
Union leaders are to meet Scottish Opera management in talks over closing down for six months in an attempt to get the organisation out of debt.

Scottish Opera is predicting debts of 1.5m this year, despite last year's injection of 2.1m from the Scottish Executive.

The management say closure is only one of the options being considered, but unions will have talks with the chairman Duncan McGhie to discuss the possible impact of a shutdown on staff.

Culture Minister Sam Galbraith approved the rescue deal in November on the strict understanding that no more bail-outs would be available.

Scottish Ballet sign
Scottish Ballet has merged with Scottish Opera
Mr Galbraith also stipulated that Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet should merge, a process which has now been completed.

The joint company says that no further savings can be made and it will be forced to stop productions from October until the start of the next financial year in April.

Scottish Opera management was last month criticised for its "irresponsible and inadequate" handling of the crisis that took it to the brink of bankruptcy.

'Serious concerns'

A report by the Scottish Parliament's culture committee accused the company of arrogance in expecting to be bailed out when things went wrong.

Convenor Mary Mulligan said: "We have serious concerns that Scottish Opera was allowed to operate on the extraordinary assumption that whenever it got into financial difficulty more money would be made available.

Criticism rejected

"Quite clearly, the chairman and general director failed to meet the standards required of them and supervision from the Arts Council was also not of the quality and consistency that should be expected."

Sandy Orr, who was Scottish Opera's chairman but has since left the company, rejected the criticism and said they had not been given enough time in front of the committee.

"I think it's very disappointing that the report comes out with these conclusions after one hour of evidence," he said.

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See also:

08 Nov 99 | Scotland
2.1m opera debt pledge
05 Nov 99 | Scotland
Opera raises cycle of debt fears
03 Nov 99 | Scotland
MSPs launch Scottish Opera inquiry
24 Oct 99 | Scotland
Debt phantom back to haunt opera
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