Letter: Ease VAT burden on museums

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article (25 June) rightly makes the case for continued free access to public collections. This is a principle to which the Scottish Museums Council, the membership organisation for the non- national museums in Scotland, is firmly committed. Indeed in Scotland, there is still in force legislation (the Public Libraries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act, 1887) which prohibits admission charges to local authority libraries and museums.

All museums are facing financial pressures, but there may be ways of relieving these pressures. One obvious route would be to re-examine VAT provisions, particularly relevant where museums are engaged in large construction programmes. If all registered museums were entitled to recover VAT, irrespective of whether or not they charged for admission, the economic argument for introducing admission charges would be far less clear.

We believe that access to public collections should continue to be free of charge. It seems most unfortunate that the important principle of public use and access, expressed in the 19th-century legislation, should now be abandoned.

JANE RYDER

Director

Scottish Museums Council

Edinburgh

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