DCSIMG

Don’t blame us for Bannockburn retreat – council

The planned celebrations at Bannockburn have been dramatically scaled back. Picture: Robert Perry

The planned celebrations at Bannockburn have been dramatically scaled back. Picture: Robert Perry

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

COUNCIL leaders in Stirling have denied trying to hijack plans to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn – but have revealed they warned months ago that tickets for the troubled event were overpriced.

The local authority has hit back at claims by clan chiefs and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) that it is responsible for the dramatic scaling back of the Bannockburn event.

The council has come under fire for agreeing to host the UK government’s flagship Armed Forces Day event on the same weekend as Bannockburn Live, which has been more than 18 months in the planning stages.

But senior figures in the council say they warned Scottish tourism minister Fergus Ewing personally about the proposed ticket prices for the Bannockburn event, which range from £22 to £82.50 for day tickets, including VIP passes to the new £9 million visitor centre.

Council leader Johanna Boyd pointed out the council has never been responsible for Bannockburn Live – but insisted it is “fully supportive” of the event.

She was responding to demands from MSPs for an explanation of surprise changes over the Bannockburn event.

It will now be held over two days, rather than three, with a capacity of 20,000 rather than 45,000. It has emerged that only 2,000 tickets have been sold so far.

VisitScotland, which took over the running of the celebrations after NTS raised concerns over an “unacceptable” financial risk to the charity, has admitted poor ticket sales were a factor in the overhaul.

The council has come under fire previously for pulling the plug on a planned clan gathering to coincide with the Bannockburn anniversary, because of the estimated £700,000 cost.

Following the intervention of VisitScotland and a promise of £400,000 worth of public funding, NTS was persuaded to stage a much bigger event at Bannockburn, but passed responsibility to the tourism body last month amid concerns over the impact of the Armed Forces Day clash.

In evidence to MSPs, Sir Malcolm MacGregor, the leader of Scotland’s clan chiefs, said the origins of the “ongoing debacle” over Bannockburn Live lay in the decision to hold both events on the same weekend. He added: “Why has Stirling Council allowed these two events to take place on the same day?”

Councillor Boyd insisted holding the free Armed Forces Day in Stirling was a “superb opportunity” to boost ticket sales for the Bannockburn celebration.

In a letter to Holyrood’s tourism committee, she said: “Stirling Council is not an organiser of this project [Bannockburn Live] and never has been. We are, however, fully supportive of the event.

“It is not for the council to express a view on VisitScotland’s changes to Bannockburn Live or to comment on ticket sales.

“However I would point out that I have previously questioned the affordability of ticket prices in correspondence with Fergus Ewing.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Mr Ewing first received correspondence from Councillor Johanna Boyd on 17 July 2013 when the event was being managed by NTS. In his reply dated 1 August Mr Ewing highlighted that pricing is comparable with other events and attractions which target the family audience.”

Caroline Packman, Homecoming project director at VisitScotland, said: “We had sight of the letter on a ‘for your information’ basis as we were not leading on the organisation of the event at this time.

“The ticket prices for Bannockburn Live have never been a concern to VisitScotland as they were decided based on the requirement to produce a world-class event and quality programme as proposed by the event producers, Unique Events.”

A spokeswoman for VisitScotland added: “We have built into the financial model provision for targeted discount promotions.”

A spokesman for NTS said Stirling Council had been represented on the steering group for Bannockburn Live, which had decided to hold prices down as the scale of the even evolved.

He added: “We are unaware of anyone from the council raising any particular issue about pricing before the tickets were initially made available.”

for agreeing to host the UK government’s flagship Armed Forces Day event on the same weekend as Bannockburn Live, which has been more than 18 months in the planning stages.

But senior figures in the council say they warned Scottish tourism minister Fergus Ewing personally about the proposed ticket prices for the Bannockburn event, which range from £22 to £82.50 for day tickets, including VIP passes to the new £9 million visitor centre.

Council leader Johanna Boyd pointed out the council has never been responsible for Bannockburn Live – but insisted it is “fully supportive” of the event.

She was responding to demands from MSPs for an explanation of surprise changes over the Bannockburn event.

It will now be held over two days, rather than three, with a capacity of 20,000 rather than 45,000. It has emerged that only 2,000 tickets have been sold so far.

VisitScotland, which took over the running of the celebrations after NTS raised concerns over an “unacceptable” financial risk to the charity, has admitted poor ticket sales were a factor in the overhaul.

The council has come under fire previously for pulling the plug on a planned clan gathering to coincide with the Bannockburn anniversary, because of the estimated £700,000 cost.

Following the intervention of VisitScotland and a promise of £400,000 worth of public funding, NTS was persuaded to stage a much bigger event at Bannockburn, but passed responsibility to the tourism body last month amid concerns over the impact of the Armed Forces Day clash.

In evidence to MSPs, Sir Malcolm MacGregor, the leader of Scotland’s clan chiefs, said the origins of the “ongoing debacle” over Bannockburn Live lay in the decision to hold both events on the same weekend. He added: “Why has Stirling Council allowed these two events to take place on the same day?”

Councillor Boyd insisted holding the free Armed Forces Day in Stirling was a “superb opportunity” to boost ticket sales for the Bannockburn celebration.

In a letter to Holyrood’s tourism committee, she said: “Stirling Council is not an organiser of this project [Bannockburn Live] and never has been. We are, however, fully supportive of the event.

“It is not for the council to express a view on VisitScotland’s changes to Bannockburn Live or to comment on ticket sales.

“However I would point out that I have previously questioned the affordability of ticket prices in correspondence with Fergus Ewing.”

A spokeswoman for VisitScotland said: “Pricing for Bannockburn Live is comparable with other live events and represents excellent value for money.

“We have also built into the financial model provision for targeted discount promotions.”

A spokesman for NTS said Stirling Council had been represented on the steering group for Bannockburn Live, which had decided to hold prices down as the scale of the even evolved.

He added: “We are unaware of anyone from the council raising any particular issue about pricing before the tickets were initially made available.”

 

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