IT may be set for an unprecedented year in the international limelight, but the start of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games year is set to turn into a damp squib after it emerged the city will shut its Hogmanay celebrations down early.
Revellers will be turned away from George Square from 10pm - despite extra funding being made available for Hogmanay events this year to help kick-start what tourism leaders are billing as Scotland’s “remarkable year.”
City leaders insist holding a daytime event in George Square - which will feature a ceilidh dance and live traditional music - is better value for money for the public purse than a full-scale celebration.
All-ticket celebrations in previous years had been headlined by the likes of Snow Patrol, Deacon Blue, The View, Paolo Nutini, Amy Macdonald and The Human League.
But the city insists the priority is its extended festive period, and in particular its Christmas lights switch on in mid-November.
Officials said its bars and nightclubs would still be able to accommodate revellers over “the bells.”
Around £400,000 was set aside from the Scottish Government’s £6 million funding pot Homecoming for new Hogmanay events this year.
A further £4 million was earmarked for the cultural programme linked to the Commonwealth Games. Games organisers declared they wanted the city’s cultural events next year to be a “defining” feature of Glasgow’s hosting of the sporting extravaganza.
When the extra Hogmanay funding was announced earlier this year, VisitScotland said: “The second Year of Homecoming will join both the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup in a year-long celebration of all that is fantastic about this creative and dynamic nation.
“The opportunity exists to enhance Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations, creating two ‘complementing’ activities that book-end “Homecoming Scotland 2014.
“This activity should enhance existing celebrations, benefiting the Scottish events industry, and highlighting and maximising the accessibility, inclusivity and profile of Scotland’s unique Hogmanay celebrations.”
As well as the high-profile festivities in the capital, which run over three days, other major celebrations are going ahead in Stirling, Inverness and Stonehaven.
Edinburgh, which has booked the Pet Shop Boys to headline its party, is already promoting its festivities under the strapline of “Scotland’s Big Year.”
Organisers say they are expecting a much higher international focus on Scotland’s celebrations due to the hosting of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup next year, as well as the independence referendum which will be staged between the two events.
The next Homecoming had been specifically timed to coincide with the two sporting events, as well as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.
Unique Events, producers of the capital’s celebrations, are understood to have won a contract to stage curtain-raiser fireworks displays and light shows across the country at 20.14 hours, before the spotlight follows on the festivities in Edinburgh.
It is hoped highlights will be shown live on television around the world.
Unique Events are already working on the Bannockburn Live festival, which will be held just after the 700th anniversary next June.
Glasgow Life, which runs the city’s winter festivals programme on behalf of the council, said there was much more public demand to attend the switching-on of its Christmas lights than there was for a Hogmanay party. More than 25,000 people have already applied for the 12,000 tickets.
Glasgow Life said it had decided to revamp the traditional George Square Hogmanay bash in 2011 “in light of customer feedback and to deliver value for money for the public purse.” It is thought the event was costing £34-a-head to stage.
A spokeswoman said the Hogmanay Day event had attracted more than 10,000 people last year to enjoy the ice rink and the entertainment on offer.
She added: “Glasgow enjoys an international reputation for the quality and range of restaurants, bars and clubs in the city so it is important to utilise these and give Glaswegians and visitors to the city one of the best nights out in Europe.
“Last year’s event was a great success and George Square will again be the perfect home for Glasgow’s Hogmanay festivities.”
A spokeswoman for EventScotland, which is co-ordinating the year-long programme of Homecoming events next year, said: “We are still in the process of working with a number of different locations on plans to enhance Hogmanay events with an exciting Homecoming Scotland 2014 element.
“The locations and a flavour of what is to come will be announced in early October.
“In terms of Glasgow, we will continue to work with them as part of the packed winter festivals programme which kicks off with St Andrew’s Day on 30th November and includes Christmas celebrations and Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations, culminating with Burns Night on 25t January.
“These celebrations provide an arc of unique Scottish festivities throughout the country across the winter months as we move towards 2014. We are still in the process of working with event organisers regarding funding levels.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow 2014 said: “Our cultural programme is a Scotland-wide cultural countdown to the Games and will deliver an ambitious and accessible calendar of cultural events, ensuring every part of the nation is part of a year-long countdown.
“Offering a platform to showcase the best of Scottish culture alongside work from the Commonwealth, it will play a central role in how Scotland hosts and welcomes the Games. The programme is a creative collaboration between the organising committee, Creative Scotland and Glasgow Life and many elements are still to be announced.”