ONLY FOUR major Hogmanay parties are being held at the Bells this year in Scotland.
Edinburgh, Inverness, Stonehaven and Stirling are the only locations laying on large-scale parties for revellers over the midnight hour.
It is a far cry from a decade ago, when most towns and cities staged outdoor celebrations.
Experts said rising health and safety costs, shrinking council budgets and the “hassle factor” involved in staging big outdoor events had triggered the decline.
Glasgow, Aberdeen, Oban, Dundee, Fort William and Loch Ness are among the locations that have shunned high-profile celebrations this year.
Despite this, tourism agency VisitScotland says Hogmanay in Scotland still offers “something special.”
Its website is promoting Hogmanay events such as a Bee Gees tribute act in Nairn, a performance of the play The Steamie in Hamilton and a comedy night in Edinburgh.
The official guide to Scotland’s Winter Festivals, run by the Scottish Government, includes family events in Glasgow and East Lothian that will be over well before the Bells.
The Proclaimers will headline Stirling’s Hogmanay party at the castle, while Big Country and the Treacherous Orchestra are lined up for Inverness’s outdoor bash at the Northern Meeting Park.
An open-air party is being held in Stonehaven, to complement its famous fireball-throwing festivities, with the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Blazin’ Fiddles lined up to appear.
Edinburgh’s street party, which had a capacity of 180,000 for the millennium, could be down to as few as 75,000 this year. Tramworks have led to the scrapping of live music stages in Princes Street, although Simple Minds, The View and Admiral Fallow will be among the headliners at the celebrations.
Peter Irvine, artistic director of Edinburgh’s festivities, and author of travel guide Scotland the Best, said: “I think the big issue is that other parts of the country simply struggle to compete with what is on in Edinburgh.
“The events elsewhere are mainly for a local audience, and you cannot justify spending huge amounts of money on them because they do not bring the same kind of economic return the programme in Edinburgh does, with last year being in the region of £30 million.
“The crucial thing is that we have an event where two-thirds of the audience are international, and that is a much higher proportion than any of the other festivals in Edinburgh.”
Stephen Leckie, chair of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, and chief executive of Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, said: “The big issue really is the huge hassle factor for many areas trying to organise a large-scale Hogmanay party.
“You really need a huge number of volunteers to help organise something like that and it’s just too difficult to persuade people to get involved.”
East Lothian Council said its new celebration in Musselburgh, including family events throughout the day and a fireworks display, will be over by 8pm.
Aberdeen City Council confirmed only a fireworks display would be held in the city centre at midnight.
A spokeswoman for Glasgow Life, the city’s arts and culture trust, sajd a decision has been taken last year to revamp its Hogmanay celebrations in light of customer feedback and to deliver value for money for the public.
She added: “The 2011 daytime Hogmanay celebrations was a great success attracting more than 10,000 people to George Square. This compared with just 4,500 people who attended the last ‘midnight celebration’ in George Square in 2010.
“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 Glasgwegians and visitors to the city one of the best nights out in Europe.”
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Hogmanay in Scotland is something special.
As part of this, EventScotland, the events directorate of VisitScotland, is supporting events through the winter festivals programme.
“From massive street celebrations in Edinburgh to the traditional events in Stonehaven - there really is something for everyone.
“Whether people come here from across the globe or are enjoying the events in their local town, these celebrations offer a tremendous boost for Scotland’s tourism industry.”
A spokeswoman for the government’s winter festivals campaign, said: “The overarching aim of the programme is to develop a vibrant and distinctive co-ordinated events programme to maximise the opportunity presented by the unique combination of our three national days - St Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night.
“The programme brings together people from all over the world to celebrate Scotland’s modern culture and traditions through the best of Scottish music, arts, food and drink, and entertainment.”