Stirling’s decision may prove costly

I AM astonished by Stirling Council’s decision to host National Armed Forces Day on the same weekend as the Battle of Bannockburn anniversary celebrations (your report, 19 December).

NAFD attracted 100,000 people when it was held in Nottingham last year and estimates for the Bannockburn celebrations are for in excess of 15,000 per day (45,000 in total). How is Stirling to get maximum benefit from these two great events? I would suggest that Stirling and the locale will lose out as the city as it does not have the capacity to merge such events and the commercial implications are a disaster for local business, Stirling Council and the credibility of the city, as well as putting huge additional strain on our police and other essential services.

Haven taken statistics from two sources both freely available to councillors, Stirling has 1,144 hotel/B&B/guest-house rooms available, with a further 1,816 available in the outlying areas. Visit Scotland states that in June 2012 the room occupancy rate was 
72 per cent for the Stirling area. So, in a “normal” June some 2,200 out of a potential 2,944 rooms would be occupied. The average spend for room occupancy and other spend is £64.41 per person per night.

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This all adds up to a potential huge loss to Stirling as it could easily held these events at different times, allowing the business’s in the area to benefit twice. Instead, during this special weekend, we will have a large mass of people not getting the service we know Stirling can deliver under “normal” circumstances. The council’s own audit states that under normal circumstances there are “insufficient rooms to meet demand” and “the city itself could be losing out with demand going elsewhere due to lack of bed spaces”. The people of Stirling have every right to ask their councillors and provost what is going on: who made the decisions and why?

Were there consultations with Police Scotland, Historic Scotland, Visit Scotland, clan societies, Bannockburn event organisers and Stirling businesses? If there were, all parties made fully aware of both events being run together?

It cost Nottingham £300,000+ to host NAFD and Edinburgh £425,000. Are we to pay the same? The financial loss in these times of severe cuts to Stirling city and surrounding area could, I fear, exceed £1 million, never mind the reputational damage created by visitors from around the world being left disappointed.

Kenneth Wills