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Economic Impact of Scotland's Museums and Galleries - Summary Report


Scotland’s museums and galleries contribute to a range of important national outcomes, for example: improving health and wellbeing, education, climate awareness, building cohesive communities and supporting fair work and skills development. Given the high impact in these areas – examples of which can be found in our case studies area – evidencing impact tends to focus on the social, wellbeing and learning benefits of museums and galleries. However, as a core part of the major culture and tourism economy in Scotland, there is a need to further understand the specific economic benefits, as an often underestimated area of impact of our sector.

The recent budgetary pressures have sparked interest and debate on how Scotland’s culture, heritage and creative industries add value to the economy. This economic impact report commissioned by MGS and conducted by DC Research is part of our ongoing advocacy to ensure the continued long-term investment of our sector at a time when they are particularly vulnerable to funding cuts and the impacts of rising inflation costs.

The data for this report has been sourced largely from the aggregated results from MGS’s Survey of Scotland’s Museums and Galleries that was carried out in summer 2022, supplemented by some additional data sources (more info in full report below).

The key findings of our national survey provided valuable insights into visitor numbers and profile, museums workforce, volunteers and total earned revenue. This economic analysis has been calculated using these key areas and how they make an economic footprint.

In order to avoid the skewing of data due to the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and to align with the visits data provided by museum organisations in the survey results, 2019 was the focus of this analysis.

The approach taken for this assessment has been discussed with and checked by the Scottish Government and addresses the gross impact of Scotland’s museums and galleries at the national level only. This implication of measuring gross impact means that although we cannot accurately attribute some of these impacts directly to museums and galleries, it is a strong estimate of the direct and indirect effects the sector has on the economy.



Visitors to Scotland’s museums and galleries have a notable impact on, and make a clear contribution to, the economy.

  • From 2019-2020 there were 8 million visits to Scotland’s museums and galleries.
  • The results show that the gross spending impacts of these visits (both on-site at museums and off-site elsewhere in the economy) amounted to an estimated £900 million.
  • In 2019-20, 28% were visits from local people, 38% were national visitors (i.e., from elsewhere in Scotland/UK), and 34% were international visitors.
  • If only off-site impacts are considered (i.e., the spend by visitors in the wider economy beyond any spend that takes place within museums) it is estimated that this accounts for the vast majority of this spend at around £831 million – showing the scale of contribution of museums to the wider economy.


Many of our museums and galleries rely on volunteers, some are completely volunteer-run. As unwaged positions, it is harder to quantify the range of benefits volunteers provide to the success of a museum and its engagement with the public and communities, but it is an important metric to understand as volunteers cover the full range of museums roles. This includes those roles that are remunerated at levels above the National Minimum Wage/Real Living Wage for paid staff, so the value volunteers add should be recognised in economic terms.

  • It is estimated that there are 4,930 volunteers in Scotland’s museums and galleries and, on average, each volunteer provides almost 11 (10.97) volunteering days per year.
  • The scale of volunteering in Scotland’s museums and galleries (based on 2022 rates and 7.5hr working day)  is estimated to be more than 54,100 days per year and, as a minimum, this is valued at between £3.9 million and £4.4 million per annum.

I enjoy my role as a voluntary member of Edinburgh Living History as it provides me and the other members of the group with opportunities to bring the history of Lauriston Castle to life through drama and role play. Furthermore, I value the opportunity to meet and work alongside a wide variety of interesting people ranging from Edinburgh Museums and Galleries staff, other volunteers, the general public and school groups.

Linda, Edinburgh Living History volunteer

Earned Income:

For every £1 of core funding provided to museums, the economic output generated is more than double this at £2.67, meaning museums and galleries provide a real bang for your buck.

A total of £115.1 million direct, indirect and induced Gross Value Added is generated within the museums sector and its supply chain.

Download the report

Economic Impact of Scotland's Museums and Galleries - Summary Report
(PDF, 436 KB)