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A whole lotto projects

Pauline McLean | 18:38 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

It's hard to imagine a time when the National Lottery didn't exist.

When corner shops didn't have a little spot dedicated to government sponsored gambling and the queue at the supermarket kiosk was for cigarettes and not the lotto rollover.

But cast your mind back to the furore when the then Conservative Government decided to introduce the game.

Critics described it as a tax on the poor while others claimed it simply legitimised gambling.

Few were won over by the argument that 28 pence in every pound spent would be used for nominated good causes - arts, sports, heritage, education, environment, health, charity and voluntary projects.

If the government wanted to give to charity, why not do it directly, instead of setting up state sponsored gambling?

Fast forward 15 years and it's quite a different landscape. Quite literally.

From new buildings like Dundee Contemporary Arts and Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, to the restoration of old buildings like Kelvingrove and even older - Rosslyn Chapel. The Falkirk Wheel, the RSS Discovery, Ben Nevis, Hampden Park - there's barely a project created in the last decade which hasn't had lottery money.

And it's not just buildings. Money has been used to restore old paths, support woodlands and even protect endangered species - the basking shark and black grouse among them.

Even those who initially opposed it are happy to take their share of the windfall - religious groups in particular, have been happy to apply, even though many individuals still oppose the use of lottery money for personal reasons.

There have been casualties. The Big Idea in Irvine - a variation on the science centres which continue to prosper in Glasgow and Edinburgh - was an early loss. And talks are still underway about the future of the Lighthouse, which went into adminstration at the summer.

But on the whole, Scotland's track record in lottery investment seems to be a solid one, something Colin McLean, chair of the Scottish Lottery Forum puts down to good partnerships and preparation (applicants complain about the amount of paperwork - he says it's vital to make sure every project is carefully thought through.)

The only downside - at least for the Heritage Lottery Fund - is that the funding is set to decrease, thanks in part to the demands of the London Olympics.

"We've probably seen the last of the big projects - the multi-million pound museum refurbishments like Kelvingrove," he says.

"But we remain one of the largest funding sources for heritage in Scotland and we may just see a different sort of application in the future."

Perhaps more applications from communities like Govan - where grants so far have helped refurbish a row of derelict shops for artistic groups, employ staff at the Pierce Institute and a film production company, and upgrade community football pitches at Ibrox.

They're hopeful they can also get further funding for plans to turn the Fairfield Shipyard Offices into a modern workspace and restore the little fountain at Govan Cross.

And while Heritage Lottery Money is down, the other pots of funding are apparently predicted to increase over the next few years, meaning many communities, if they're sharp, can secure funding for the things that matter most to them.


  • Comment number 1.

    All well and good, but what was government expenditure on historic building grants and woodland upkeep and endangered species before the lottery, and what happened to it after the lottery? If lottery funds have replaced government expenditure then isn't the lottery just another tax, this one being levied mostly on the poor?

  • Comment number 2.

    The money generated by the lottery should have been dedicated to one project such as providing world class sports facilities throughout the country. Far too much has been wasted on politician's pet projects, the dome, the olympics wtc. It has been a convenient method of funding that bypasses the normal Government and Council funding hurdles. Imagine what facilities we could have had in this country if we had started down the foregoing track.

  • Comment number 3.

    Just imagine how many more good projects could have been funded if the Lottery was non-profit making. It's still a morally corrupt way to raise funds.

  • Comment number 4.

    Not sure why the contributors believe it to be a tax on the poor?? Camelot research suggests that 70% of the UK population regularly play the National Lottery and that the player base is representative of the population. Therefore, this is a widely misplaced myth as all ages and backgrounds play. I also think it is in all of our interests to have a commercially run organisation operating the National Lottery as I believe this delivers more cash for the 'good causes'. Where is the incentive for a 'not for profit' organisation to continually improve and grow sales and therefore good causes money? Regardless, the real benefactor is still the UK Government. Camelot take 0.25 pence in the pound as profit, HMRC takes 12 pence in the pound - 48 more times more cash than Camelot. The question has to be where is this money being spent (approximately £10m per week) and what happened to the funding previously used prior to the Lottery.



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