Edinburgh’s Hogmanay will promote Scotland to a billion people around the world at the start of what organisers say is the biggest year in the nation’s history.
“Scotland’s big year starts here” is the slogan for this year’s Hogmanay party in the city, capitalising on its international profile to showcase Scotland’s packed calendar next year.
The Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup, Mountain Biking World Cup, MTV Awards, the independence referendum, the second Year of Homecoming and anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Bannockburn are all taking place in 2014.
But with strong winds already closing some Christmas attractions in Edinburgh, organisers are keeping a close eye on the weather.
The unsettled conditions are forecast to continue right up to Hogmanay but the Met Office says there is “nothing horrendous on the horizon”.
The new national police force will guard the expected 80,000 revellers for the first time, although Police Scotland’s Edinburgh commander said the response will be almost identical to Lothian & Borders Police’s “successful” stewardship of the event over the last 20 years.
Pete Irvine, director organiser Unique Events, said: “2014 will be the biggest year that Scotland has ever had, and probably ever will have.
“Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is by far the biggest television event in Scotland, going out to a billion televisions around the world and on international news bulletins every 15 minutes for around 36 hours.
“This year people are going to hear from Scotland a lot. The Commonwealth Games will go out to all of the Commonwealth and English-speaking countries, and the Ryder Cup is the biggest television event outside of the Olympics.
“So there’s an awful lot of focus on Scotland, never mind the referendum.”
There will be no prohibition on political organisations using the international profile as forum for their messages, according to Mr Irvine.
“This is a news moment. We have lots of other press, reportage and reviews. We have a great artistic programme which profiles Scotland,” he said.
“A big part of our programme is the Rewinder, a live DJ and VJ (video jockey) show from the top of the mound and on eight screens throughout the street party.
“We are doing something that has never been done by any country, which is demonstrate how little old Scotland has changed the modern world with all of its inventions, discoveries, achievements.
“We are telling this story through the great dancefloor tunes that Scotland has produced and relate to us. It’s a four-hour show about how brilliant we are.”
Senior Met Office adviser Graeme Forrester said: “We have had particularly stormy weather right across the country over the last few weeks. It’s been pretty unsettled and there’s no great changes to that pattern over the next few days I’m afraid.
“However, the good news seems to be that those storms should be becoming a bit less intense but, in such a mobile situation, it’s very difficult to nail down periods of stormy weather.
“There’s nothing horrendous on the horizon but it’s still very unsettled, so we will just have to keep an eye on it. People should monitor the forecast and make sure they’re suitably clad for the conditions.”
SNP councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of Edinburgh Council’s regulatory committee, said: “Nothing will be cancelled unless it’s a matter of public safety, and the event will take place as best as possible regardless of the conditions.
“The three-day festival won’t be affected by weather but some events might. It’s in the hands of the weather gods.”
Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said: “This is the first Hogmanay we will police as a single police service, but we have been doing this successfully as Lothian & Borders Police for over 20 years.
“We have always treated Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as a community policing event, and the handful of arrests that we have had over the years is testimony to that.
“The vast majority of the officers working at the party are from Edinburgh.
“We have always drawn on colleagues from the wider Lothian and Borders area to assist because of the numbers involved, and there’s no difference this year.
“Come and have a fantastic time, but stick with your friends, have their phone numbers to hand and have a plan to get home safely.
“Look after each other and think about your own safety. We don’t want to stop people having a drink at this cracking event, but don’t drink to such an excess that you make yourself vulnerable and put yourself in danger.”