Scottish arts group latest to cut BP sponsorship ties

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The National Galleries of Scotland has severed Portrait Award funding ties with BP over the “climate emergency”.

It has become the latest arts organisation to distance itself from oil giants after Shell were snubbed by the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company dropped BP.

Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland, which oversees several arts institutions, decided links to the fossil fuel company were “at odds” with their commitment to tackle climate change.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Andrew Milligan /PA)

As the annual BP Portrait Awards were announced for 2019, the organisation revealed its decision to drop backing from the oil giant for the annual prize.

A statement from the National Galleries of Scotland said: “We recognise that we have a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency.

“For many people, the association of this competition with BP is seen as being at odds with that aim.

“Therefore, after due consideration, the trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland have decided that this will be the last time that the galleries will host this exhibition in its present form.”

Trustees thanked BP for its support with the Portrait Awards, which carry a first prize of £35,000 and a total prize fund of £74,000. The awards have been associated with BP for 30 years.

A spokesman for BP said: “The exhibitions outside of London are a popular and successful part of the BP Portrait Award each year, and are part of our commitment to giving back to the communities where we live and work.

“The increasing polarisation of debate and attempts to exclude companies committed to being a part of the energy transition is exactly what is not needed.

“This global challenge needs everyone – companies, governments and individuals – to work together to achieve a low carbon future.”

The National Galleries of Scotland decision to drop BP sponsorship for the Portrait Awards has been hailed as “extremely significant” by campaigners.

A campaign group for removing fossil fuel funding from the arts, BP or not BP?, has welcomed the decision, which follows snubs to fossil fuel money from the Edinburgh Science Festival earlier this year.

Alys Mumford, from BP or not BP? Scotland, said:  “This is a massive win for campaigners who have taken action against the BP Portrait Award being hosted in Scotland for several years.

“It sends a clear message that it is no longer socially acceptable to have links with the fossil fuel industry because of their continued role in driving the climate crisis and human rights abuses across the world.

“We hope that the few remaining institutions that allow themselves to be used as greenwash for the industry join the National Galleries on the right side of history.”

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