A PUBLIC spending watchdog has cleared Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop of wrongdoing over a state aid grant to the organisers of T in the Park.
Audit Scotland said the minister had acted within Scottish Government guidelines and had a clear rationale for approving the grant but made several recommendations to improve ‘robustness and clarity’.
Hyslop came under fire last year after it emerged the Scottish Government had authorised a £150,000 grant for T in the Park just weeks after it became aware organisers DF Concerts had made £6.2 million profit.
The money was awarded to the music festival to assist with relocation costs and consultancy fees after organisers made the decision to move it from its long-term home at Balado to Strathallan Castle.
Ms Hyslop was brought before Holyrood’s Education and Culture Committee to explain the funding decision, with Conservative MSP Rosemary Scanlon accusing the minister of showing ‘contempt’ for the Scottish Parliament.
Several MSPs on the committee also complained that 600 pages of documents relating to the grant were only released the night before Ms Hyslop was due to give evidence, with many of the pages heavily redacted.
The decision was further investigated by Audit Scotland after a referral by an MSP.
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Its investigation concluded on Wednesday.
In a written response to the MSP, Audit Scotland said: ““There was a clear rationale for the grant at the point at which the Scottish Government committed to provide the grant to DF Concerts.
“The outcomes and milestones against which progress was to be monitored are also clearly articulated in the award letter.
“The Scottish Government had the legal authority to make the grant. The decision to award the grant to DF Concerts was a legitimate policy decision for the cabinet secretary, and was consistent with advice she received from Scottish Government officials.
“There was also budget provision for the grant, within the Culture and European Affairs budget, Major Events and Themed Years.
“There is also evidence that Scottish Government has taken steps to confirm that the money was spent in line with the grant conditions through its review of the final report provided by DF Concerts and related invoices.”
Audit Scotland made several recommendations to ensure greater ‘robustness and internal clarity’ for the approval process, including “Scottish Government staff recording, in one place, consideration of factors such as aims and objectives, options appraisal, value for money, additionality and expected outcomes.
“Organisations applying for funds to formally set out economic, financial, social and other arguments in favour of their request.”