Government warned Scottish festivals, concerts and conferences may go to England due to lockdown caution

Scottish event organisers are pleading with Nicola Sturgeon not to leave them lagging behind England when the country's route map out of lockdown is revealed this month.

Fears are growing that some events, including concerts, festivals and conferences, could relocate out of the country if it persists with curbs on events long after restrictions are lifted south of the border.

Industry leaders claim they are being crippled by an “information vacuum” two weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out provisional dates for large-scale outdoor events and indoor venues to return from May.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who is expected to set out plans to ease restrictions next week, has been asked to ensure that Scotland’s events industry, which is worth around £6 billion a year, is treated “fairly and equitably” with other key sectors.

The SSE Hydro was the second busiest entertainment venue in the world before being shut down by the pandemic last March. Picture: Andrew Milligan
The SSE Hydro was the second busiest entertainment venue in the world before being shut down by the pandemic last March. Picture: Andrew Milligan

Organisers are also trying to resist the imposition of “artificial capacity limits” on events and venues.

The government’s own events industry advisory group has warned that event organisers and supply chain companies are facing "significant disadvantages" to their counterparts south of the border because they have been given no idea of when and how live events will be able resume.They are lobbying for a rethink of the criteria for allowing events to resume under the Scotland's controversial levels system of restrictions, after the previous rules meant that indoor events were only allowed in areas with the lowest infection rates.

Peter Duthie, chief executive of the SSE Hydro, the SEC Centre and the Armadillo in Glasgow is chair Scotland’s Events Industry Advisory Group.

In an exclusive interview with The Scotsman, Mr Duthie said: “There is a lot of optimism around about the vaccination programme, but the government seems to be sticking to a timeframe about which they can reasonably certain. You’re talking three or four weeks.

Live concerts were brought to a half by the Scottish Government nearly a year ago due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Picture: David Wilkinson

“But if you’re trying to plan months ahead, as many in the industry are, an insight into the government’s thinking would be hugely beneficial.

"The government says it will be driven by data, which is absolutely sensible. But we need to have some understanding of what the data has to say for the lifting of restrictions, particularly over social distancing.

“People are still looking at doing events in the summer, but it’s important to get a picture of what that might look like. At the moment we’re all operating in an information vacuum.

"We need wider sharing of information and an outline of a timetable, albeit it with dates that everybody understands there’s no certainty over.

"We’re pushing for a four nations approach where it’s possible. If there’s a more optimistic view in England there’s a real danger of losing events from Scotland. There is a higher degree of confidence that events will be able to take place in England in a shorter timescale. It is focusing the attention of event organisers and artists.

“The industry isn’t looking for special treatment, but is looking to be treated fairly and equitably with other sectors. It’s highly-regulated and is used to managing risk."

Paul Bush, chief executive of government agency EventScotland, said: “The advisory group continues to engage robustly and constructively during what is an extremely difficult time for the sector. It recognises that the delivery of timely information and an ability to forward plan as effectively as possible is vital for the return of events in Scotland.

"It was pleasing to hear the group take a continued solutions-focused approach in agreeing to raise with the First Minister ahead of the strategic framework review.

"I have no doubt the ongoing work of the group will not only prove to be of benefit to the events and festivals sector in the short term as part of Covid-19 recovery but in the long term as we build Scotland back to a world-leading events destination.”

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