Test events could pave way for summer festival crowds to return in Scotland

Test events staged in England without social distancing or face masks could pave the way for the return of large crowds to venues and stadia in Scotland over the summer, Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

Around 5000 fans attended a test event without social distancing or face coverings at Sefton Park in Liverpool at the weekend. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Around 5000 fans attended a test event without social distancing or face coverings at Sefton Park in Liverpool at the weekend. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

The First Minister pledged that the culture would be at the “very heart” of the Scottish Government’s plans to recover from the pandemic if the SNP is returned to power in this week’s election.

And she said she hoped that that evidence gathered from a programme of pilots, which included a nightclubbing event and a music festival in Liverpool at the weekend, would help "more normal events" return in Scotland.

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Ms Sturgeon also underlined a pledge that controversial guidelines issued ahead of the planned reopening of entertainment venues later this month would be reviewed, after a furious backlash prompted an intervention from her culture secretary Fiona Hyslop last week.

Its manifesto includes a pledge to provide a three-year funding settlement for arts organisations to help them recover from the impact of the Covid.

However the SNP has stopped short of setting a date for when it envisages full-scale events resuming.

Organisers of the Edinburgh festivals and the Tattoo are still planning to go ahead this summer, but Fringe venue operators have warned their plans will be totally unviable under the proposed restrictions for the summer.

The TRNSMT, Hidden Door and Doune the Rabbit Hole music festivals have both moved their dates later in the calendar in the hope that social distancing restrictions will be lifted by then.

The Scottish Government has been under fire over new guidelines which insist that two metre social distancing must be enforced in venues after they are able to reopen from mid-May - in contrast to bars and restaurants, which can currently operate with one metre social distancing.

Festival organisers, nightclub owners and concert promoters have demanded the SNP follow the UK Government by confirming a date for the ending of social distancing restrictions, which is currently due to happen in England at the end of next month.

The Scottish Government has signalled that audiences of up to 400 indoors and 2000 outdoors will be permitted by the end of June under the current timetable for the easing of restrictions.

Event organisers are also able to submit plans to local authorities for events for up to 5000 people, while the Scottish Government will examine any proposals for crowds of more than 5000.

Liverpool staged the UK’s first clubbing event, for around 6000 people, on Friday, while around 5000 fans attended an open-air music festival in the city on Sunday.Ms Sturgeon said: “Culture is central to who we are as a nation.

"That’s why the SNP has placed it at the very heart of our plans for recovery from Covid.“I know just how difficult this last year has been for those in the creative and arts sector - not least because of the total lack of support for freelancers from Westminster - and I know that the challenges for the industry are not yet over.

“In Scotland, we’ve committed to review distancing and capacity limits for venues and to examine the evidence of events pilots in England and other countries, in the hope that we can see more normal events in the summer."

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