AMBITIOUS plans to hold a second Gathering of the Clans during the 2014 Homecoming celebrations have been scrapped, Scotland on Sunday has learned.
The Gathering, due to be held in Stirling shortly before the independence referendum, has been dropped amid fears the event could lose money. The last Gathering, in Edinburgh in 2009, attracted around 47,000 people and generated £10.4 million for the Scottish economy. Following its apparent success, the Scottish government said it would welcome a second event in 2014, when it planned to hold its independence ballot.
But the event later attracted widespread criticism after being given £500,000 in grants and an emergency bailout of £180,000 from the Scottish Government following the collapse of the private company running the event. More than 100 private sector creditors are still out of pocket to the tune of £300,000.
Last night Stirling Council leader Corrie McChord said there had been reservations about the cost of the event, which had been estimated at around £700,000.
“We were aware of what had happened in 2009 with various organisations, small businesses, the Scottish government and Edinburgh City Council all losing out as a result of the event,” he said. “Given the position of local authorities at the moment with budgets, I was concerned that the cost would grow in terms of underwriting the event.”
The move has disappointed the thousands of clan members in theUS, Canada and Australia who planned to travel to Scotland in 2014 for the event.
Sir Malcolm MacGregor, head of Clan MacGregor, who broke the news last week to American clan leaders at the 40th anniversary of the Stone Mountain Highland Games in Atlanta, Georgia, said: “There was disappointment and a slight sense of perplexity,” he said. “Some clans had already made plans to come in July 2014 and it’s very difficult to change those plans.”
Martin Hunt, of Tartan Silk PR, one of the creditors still owed money after the 2009 event, said: “I don’t know how the First Minister could have the courage or audacity to hold a second Gathering without paying the people who did the first one. You can’t possibly hold something that’s a success and not pay the people who actually made it happen.”
It is also understood there were concerns around the logistics of hosting such a large event in Stirling with worries about parking at Bannockburn and the numbers of hotel rooms available.
The decision to abandon the Gathering means that the main Homecoming event hosted by Stirling will now be Bannockburn 700 – a battle re-enactment, at the end of June run by the National Trust of Scotland. However, there will be no tented village, parade or pageant – all key elements of the 2009 Gathering.
Neither EventScotland nor VisitScotland would comment on the change of plan yesterday. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government and the Homecoming Scotland team are working in close partnership with Stirling Council to deliver a range of events through Homecoming 2014, including those that will appeal to the international clan audience.”