T IN THE PARK chiefs warned they could move the landmark festival out of Scotland before securing a controversial £150,000 taxpayer funded grant Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop revealed today.
But the SNP minister came under fire from MSPs who claimed the handout was a “done deal” because a former SNP advisor was at the heart of the process.
Ms Hyslop even faced suggestions of “fraudulent” conduct on the part of the Scottish Government as she appeared before Holyrood’s culture committee today. She insisted that was not aware that former SNP special advisor Jennifer Dempsie had brokered a meeting with T in the park chiefs - despite meeting her at SNP conference in March when the issue was discussed.
Ms Hyslop claimed she was “standing up for T in the Park” when she approved the deal after organisers faced additional costs over the switch from its traditional Balado site earlier this year to Strathallan.
Tory MSP Mary Scanlon seized on the fact that the initial request from festival organisers DF Concerts was for “infrastructure” but this was ruled out by civil servants. The money was eventually given for venue hire and consultant costs.
Ms Scanlon said: “This was a done deal given the applicants close connections with the SNP - £150,000 to a company with multi-million pound profits.
“You decided to allocate the money then you scurried round the state aid - and there was more than £150,000 spent in officials’ time - to find which budget it might fit into.
“The request was for infrastructure and under no circumstances could this money be paid for infrastructure. So if this is not a fraudulent application I would like the cabinet secretary to tell us why.”
She said that DF Concerts had recorded profits of £4.5-5 million in each of the last three years.
The cabinet secretary insisted she had no knowledge of Ms Dempsie’s involvement in brokering the meeting with T in the Park chief Geoff Ellis.
She added that T in the Park faced more than £1 million of “unanticipated costs” to move to its new site at Strathallan and would face “severely reduced revenues” at the new venue.
“The event itself for this year certainly, and possibly for years going forward, would not be in a position that they would want to continue,” she added.
Ms Hyslop said the event could go from being a “multi-day, multi-stage festival” to a single day, single stage event in “other cities like Glasgow.”
She added: “Or indeed to move the festival itself away from Scotland - that would have the economic situation where the £15.4 million of economic benefit coming to Scotland would no longer be in Scotland.”
Ms Hyslop added: “I’m standing up for T in the park - I’m standing up for all the tens of thousands of people who go every year and the generations that have gone.
“It’s been a very important part of developing the music scene and indeed many of the important contemporary acts that have gone on to greater and wider success in Scotland.”