Event organisers face a fraught few weeks while Scotland's Covid anomalies remain intact - Brian Ferguson

It took a while for the dust to settle around the Scottish culture sector following Nicola Sturgeon’s much-anticipated announcement this week.

Despite delays to the pre-election-promised review of social distancing rules for live events and two separate pledges last week by the First Minister to address “anomalies” and “inconsistencies” in Scotland’s Covid restrictions, if the performing arts got a mention in the Scottish Parliament I must have missed it.

Instead of bringing the events sector into line with hospitality with immediate effect, as the industry had been campaigning for since the spring, it was instead presented with the prospect of significant relaxations in July and August, more significant than many had anticipated.

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The big news, which inevitably dominated the headlines, was a provisional date for the lifting of all legal restrictions in Scotland, four months after Boris Johnson set out the date for his so-called “freedom day”.

There was also something of a surprise with the promise of distancing restrictions being completely lifted outdoors, including at organised events, by 19 July under the new timetable.

However those infuriating anomalies remain intact. Anyone organising an indoor or outdoor event before then must still inexplicably operate under far tighter distancing restrictions than cafes, bars and restaurants.

Until all restrictions are hopefully lifted in August, crowd limits for events will also be capped at 400 for indoor events and 2000 for outdoor events – unless special permission is sought from a local authority.

This is clearly a significant hurdle for any event organiser facing tight timescales, although one the football fanzone on Glasgow Green was able to clear shortly after the city emerged from lockdown.

Two metre social distancing must be enforced at all performing arts events in Scotland, including Pitlochry Festival Theatre's new outdoor venue.

Although venues and festivals will undoubtedly benefit if Scotland moves to Level 0, their reopening plans are effectively on until until a final decision is made the week before, while football fans are able to pack into the fanzone and pubs until the Euros finish just before then.

The needless limbo period is especially difficult for Edinburgh Festival Fringe venues desperately trying to plan ahead and fearful over any delays to the easing of restrictions.

While the prospect of a meaningful festival season in the city is tantalisingly within reach, the next few weeks promise to be both frantic and fraught, with outdoor shows and performances looking like a much safer bet.

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Scotland supporters react at the fanzone on Glasgow Green as Scotland took on Croatia. Picture: John Devlin

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