SCOTLAND’S biggest music festival received a secret injection of public money just days before the event was held, The Scotsman has learned.
Ministers agreed to provide last-minute funding to the tune of £150,000 to help bankroll the staging of T in the Park at its controversial new home in Perthshire.
The funding deal - described as “state aid” by the government - was never made public in the run-up to the three-day event, which was dogged by problems at its new site.
However it has now emerged the funding was provided on 2 July to “help ensure the successful transition” of the event to the Strathallan Estate, a site which had been fiercely opposed by environmental campaigners and local activists.
An investigation by The Scotsman has discovered that the promoters approached the government in May - the same month they finally won planning permission - to ask for financial assistance over this year’s event.
T in the Park was forced to relocate from its long-time home at Balado, in Kinross-shire, due to fears from the Health and Safety Executive over an underground oil pipeline. DF Concerts warned in April that the event, first staged in 1994, could be scrapped completely if it did not go ahead in 2015.
T in the Park is one of Scotland’s most popular eventsScottish Government
Council officials and politicians had given their backing to the staging of the festival at Strathallan, despite fears over the amount of antisocial behaviour and traffic congestion the event would bring to the area, as well as concerns about the impact on wildlife.
This year’s festival failed to sell out and organisers were inundated with thousands of complaints over traffic chaos, crowd congestion and levels of disorder at Strathallan. Organisers DF Concerts apologised after revellers were caught up in queues to gain access to the event, confusion over pick-up and drop off areas, and problems getting vehicles out of muddy car parks.
One reveller was found dead in a portable toilet on the Saturday while a young man was knocked down by a double-decker bus in a designated bus lane outside the main arena the following day. A man has also appeared in court over an alleged bottle attack captured on a mobile phone.
Details of the funding for the festival appeared on the state aid section of the Scottish Government’s website four days ago.
It states: “T in the Park, delivered by DF Concerts, has received one-off grant funding support of £150,000 from the Scottish Government to help ensure the successful transition of this iconic music festival to their new temporary site at Strathallan in Perthshire.
The outcomes of the grant aid are to, support the objectives of Scotland’s national events strategy and enhance Scotland’s major events portfolio; boost the events, tourism and national economies; and achieve the successful transition of the T in the Park event from Balado in Fife to Strathallan in Perthshire.”
A spokeswoman for the government told The Scotsman: “T in the Park is one of Scotland’s most popular and successful annual cultural events, which last year generated £15.4 million for the Scottish economy, as well as employment opportunities in the staging and delivery of the event. Recognising the economic and tourism benefits T in the Park delivers for Scotland, the Scottish Government invested £150,000 to support relocation of the event.”
A festival spokeswoman was unable to explain why DF Concerts had applied for financial assistance from the government. She insisted next year’s event would definitely be returning to Strathallan, despite the government’s description of the site for the festival as “temporary.”
The spokeswoman added: “Tickets will go on sale later in the year.”
Liz Smith, Tory MSP for mid-Scotland and Fife, who has called for a full review of this year’s T in the Park before it is allowed to return to Strathallan, has pledged to raise a series of questions about the funding deal in the Scottish Parliament.
She told The Scotsman: “Whilst it is not unusual for festival events in Scotland to receive Scottish Government funding, it is very important that there is absolute clarity and transparency over the recent funding for T in the Park.
“I have written to ministers to ask the specific questions, the most important of which relate to exactly when the Scottish Government was first approached about the provision of additional funding for T in the Park at Strathallan and by whom?
“Given all the issues about this year’s festival it is vital that these answers are provided as quickly as possible. The taxpayer surely deserves to know the details.”