ORGANISERS of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations have admitted the fate of the showpiece street party is in the “hands of the weather gods”, with heavy rain and high winds forecast.
The annual event, which is worth an estimated £32 million to the Scottish economy, has been cancelled twice in the past due to extreme weather.
Met Office forecasters said they were working closely with event organisers to monitor the weather, which is set to remain stormy over the coming days.
About 80,000 revellers from more than 60 countries are expected in the city centre for the event, now in its 21st year.
Hogmanay producer Pete Irvine last night said any decision over whether to cancel it would not be taken until the last minute. Edinburgh councillor Gavin Barrie said public safety was paramount and the event was “in the hands of the weather gods”.
Scotland was battered with heavy rain and strong wind yesterday, leaving 4,000 people without power last night.
With the stormy conditions expected to continue across much of the country, organisers of other big Hogmanay events in Inverness, Stirling and Stonehaven are also concerned about the impact of the weather.
Graeme Forrester, a Met Office adviser, said it would stay unsettled.
“We’ve had particularly stormy weather right across the country over the last few weeks,” he said. “It’s been pretty unsettled. There’s no great change to that general pattern, I’m afraid, over the next few days. A depression is coming in from the Atlantic with periods of wet and quite windy weather.
“The good news seems to be that those storms seem to be getting a little less intense.
“However, in a such a mobile situation when we get these systems coming in from the Atlantic, it’s very difficult to nail down periods of quieter weather and stormy weather to one particular time.
“So we will be keeping a very close eye on it over the next couple of days and trying to nail down the details as we get closer.”
Mr Forrester added: “We will work very closely with the organisers so that they can make the event safe. We would advise any people coming to the event to keep an eye on the conditions over the next few days and make sure they are suitably clad.”
Mr Barrie, who stood in for the council’s festival tsar Steve Cardownie at a briefing yesterday, said: “Nothing will be cancelled unless it’s a matter of public safety.
“The event shall take place as best it can, regardless of the weather conditions. The whole three-day thing won’t be affected by weather. Perhaps some [individual] events might, but it’s in the hands of the weather gods.”
Asked at what point a decision would be made about the weather, Mr Irvine, director of Unique Events, which produces Edinburgh’s Hogmanay on behalf of the council, said: “We won’t take that decision until the last moment. There are an awful lot of people looking at it and discussing it over the days and, in fact, over the weeks. The weather is always something we have to take very seriously.
“Edinburgh has been spared a lot of the bad weather we’ve seen around the UK over the last week or so and my perception is that we’ve had good weather for the last few weeks in Edinburgh.”
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are the country’s biggest and get under way on Monday with a torchlight procession through the city centre.
The Pet Shop Boys will headline this year’s Concert in the Gardens, while Scottish bands Django Django and Chvrches will perform at the street party itself, for which organisers said “a few thousand” tickets remain unsold.
The Pet Shop Boys had been due to headline in 2006-7, only for the event to be called off by police and council officials at 9pm due to high winds.
It was only the second time in its history that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay had fallen foul of the weather, with wintry conditions leading to a late cancellation of events in 2003-4.
In Stirling, more than 4,000 people are expected to welcome in the New Year, with Deacon Blue headlining a concert from the castle esplanade.
Danny Anderson, of organiser Zisys Events, said: “We are monitoring the weather constantly.
“If the wind is above a certain speed limit, we have to cancel for safety reasons, it’s just one of those things. Any time you hold an event in Scotland during the winter, you know you are at the mercy of the weather.”
In Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, organisers are expecting about 10,000 people to take in the traditional fireball ceremony, and a further 5,000 to see Simple Minds headline the Open Air in the Square concert.
Michelle Ward, who chairs Stonehaven Festivals and Events, said: “We’re always worried about the weather, but we’re confident it’s going to be calm for Hogmanay. The arena itself is very well sheltered, so I think we will be OK.”
Acts including the Red Hot Chilli Pipers will perform in Inverness’s Northern Meeting Park for the Highland capital’s Hogmanay celebrations.
In Glasgow, a series of daytime events will be held, including a ceilidh in George Square. However, there will be no official street party as in previous years, with revellers being turned away from George Square by 10pm.