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Homecoming 2014 campaign to be “free of politics”

The torchlight procession which marks Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Picture: TSPL

The torchlight procession which marks Edinburgh's Hogmanay. Picture: TSPL

ORGANISERS of the £6 million Year of Homecoming campaign have insisted it will be kept free of politics – ahead of a spectacular launch which will see giant Saltires and thistles created in the sky above central Edinburgh.

The campaign, designed to attract tens of thousands more visitors to Scotland in 2014, will officially get under way tonight during the annual Torchlight Procession in the capital.

Specially-created lighting effects, fireworks displays and fire sculptures will be deployed at Calton Hill this evening, to create a special so-called “Hogmanay Homecoming moment”.

The Scottish-themed lighting, including giant thistles and Saltires, will be recreated in Edinburgh, Stonehaven, Inverness, Stirling and Biggar on New Year’s Eve.

VisitScotland provided Hogmanay celebrations organisers Unique Events with an additional £400,000 to fund what has been billed as Scotland’s “first truly collective celebration of the New Year”.

Speaking ahead of the launch events, culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said the nation was “on the cusp of one of its most momentous years” while First Minister Alex Salmond said the campaign would ensure a special welcome in 2014, when he predicted “the eyes of the world will be on Scotland”.

In an interview with The Scotsman ahead of the launch tonight – expected to attract more than 20,000 participants – project director Caroline Packman insisted Homecoming was “absolutely a non-political ­campaign”.

But she admitted there were no official protocols in place to prevent political meddling or interference in the campaign, which is hoped to generate at least £44m for the nation’s economy and attract an additional 70,000 visitors next year.

Pete Irvine, managing director of Unique Events, which was called in to organise a three-day festival to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in the summer, said Homecoming should not be seen as a political initiative.

Mr Salmond said: “The eyes of the world will be on Scotland in 2014 and Scotland will provide a special welcome to the world during those 12 months. Our unique offering has just been recognised by [travel guide] Lonely Planet which named Scotland one of the top countries in the world for travellers in 2014.

“The second Year of Homecoming offers something for everyone: whether it’s enjoying our inspiring natural resources and outdoor activities, experiencing our vibrant culture, creativity and ancestral heritage or savouring the best of Scotland’s food and drink.

“Combined with the stellar international sporting events of the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, this programme will allow us to celebrate all that gives the nation its worldwide reputation as a destination with warmth and heart.”

Ms Hyslop added: “Scotland is on the cusp of one of its most momentous years. Our Hogmanay celebrations are the perfect way for everyone to get in the party mood and to show off our world-famous welcome.

“I hope that people the length and breadth of the country take the opportunity to be part of the excitement and enjoy Scotland’s moment to shine.”

Ms Packman explained that the 12-month programme, which features more than 400 events, represents a huge ­opportunity to “enhance Scotland’s image on the international stage” and capitalise on the huge levels of media coverage that are expected to be generated over the next year by the major sporting events.

“While clearly we want to boost tourism in 2014, it’s not just about next year, it’s about looking beyond that as well.

“We think the whole year will help to get Scotland on people’s radar screens as a destination to visit at some point in the future and get across that it is a vibrant, happening, contemporary place with so much of interest going on.

“We know events are already a powerful motivator for people to visit Scotland.

“Homecoming is a tourism initiative, the primary objective is to generate extra revenue for Scotland. That’s what it’s all about.

“All of the themes we are using in the campaign are based on why people come to Scotland, which we know from our own research. It’s not based on politics at all. It is absolutely a non-political campaign.”

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, which is running the Homecoming campaign on behalf of the Scottish Government, said: “2014 is going to be an exceptional year for Scotland, so we wanted to start the year with an exceptional celebration. Homecoming Scotland is all about celebrating our home – Scotland – and as we’re known as the home of Hogmanay the world over, this is our moment.”

Mr Irvine added: “Homecoming is a government-funded project, it’s not an SNP project. That additional funding is really welcome for us, not just to invent things like the Bannockburn project, but also to support the events that we do already like Hogmanay.

“While Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is world-renowned and we will be kicking off the Homecoming launch at our torchlight procession, we’re very much looking forward to working with other cities and towns across Scotland in the first truly collective celebration of the New Year.”

Tonight’s Hogmanay festivities in the capital will get underway at 7pm, when the torchlight procession sets off from George IV Bridge. The special “Hogmanay Homecoming” display, at 7.15pm, can be viewed from Princes Street and The Mound, while there will be a “Son et Lumiere” finale of the event on Calton Hill around 8pm.

The landmark will be closed to the public in advance in a bid to ensure as many of the 8500 torch-bearers as possible get onto the hill.

Extra pyrotechnics displays will also be held above the city centre on Hogmanay, from Calton Hill and later from Edinburgh Castle, at 8.14pm and 11pm respectively.

Tonight’s Hogmanay festivities in the capital will get underway at 7pm, when the procession sets off from George IV Bridge. The special “Hogmanay Homecoming” display, at 7.15pm, can be viewed from Princes Street and The Mound, while there will be a “Son et Lumiere” finale of the event on Calton Hill around 8pm.

The landmark will be closed to the public in advance in a bid to ensure as many of the 8500 torch-bearers as possible get onto the hill.

Advance tickets for tonight’s torchlight procession curtain-raiser were all snapped up, although around 2000 which have been held back will be on sale in Parliament Square from 2pm.

Extra pyrotechnics displays will also be held above the city centre on Hogmanay, from Calton Hill and later from Edinburgh Castle, at 8.14pm and 11pm respectively.

Simon Page, director of Titanium Fireworks, who are masterminding the pyrotechnics displays in the capital this evening and tomorrow night, said: “There are quite a few extra elements we are planning over and above what people would normally see.

“We are attempting to recognise what a massive year 2014 is going to be for Scotland, by creating two of the country’s most instantly recognisable and authentic emblems.

“Weather permitting, people should get the chance to see the special Homecoming moment several times over the two days and the less windy it is the greater the effect will be.”

SEE ALSO:

Weather outlook favourable for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay

 

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