TRNSMT festival chief accuses Jason Leitch of casting doubt on return of Scotland's major events

The director of Scotland’s biggest music festival has accused national clinical director Jason Leitch of casting doubt on the return of major events this year and ‘undermining’ First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of promoters DF Concerts, which is planning to stage TRNSMT on Glasgow Green in September, is livid after Professor Leitch said people should only “pencil ini” 9 August as the date for lifting Scotland’s Covid restrictions.

He insisted that the date – announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament last week – was only “indicative,” and would depend on the impact of the vaccine roll-out and the presence of possible “hotspots.”

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However Mr Ellis said the messaging gave music fans “no confidence” that they would be able to see their favourite bands this summer and “cast doubt” that large events and festivals would be allowed at all this year.

TRNSMT, which was moved from from July to September to give it the best chance of going ahead this year, announced it would definitely be returning the day after the First Minister’s announcement.

Ms Sturgeon said the 9 August date had been chosen as it would ensure maximum protection for over-40s in Scotland, who are due to receive their second vaccine dose by 26 July.

She said: “Of course, we need to remember that vaccination doesn’t provide 100 per cent protection and it won’t be until later in September that all adults will have the protection of full vaccination.

"However, our assessment - on balance and assuming we meet the necessary conditions on vaccination and harm reduction - is that it would be possible and proportionate to lift the major remaining legal restrictions on 9 August.”

Glasgow's TRNSMT festival is planned to ahead in September. Picture: Gaelle Beri

Speaking on BBC Scotland on Sunday, Professor Leitch said: “I would write that (date) in your diary in pencil, rather than Sharpie marker, just now.”

Professor Leitch confirmed major events with large crowds were due to return in August.

But he added: “We’ve had to learn that new word remember, that ‘indicative’ word.

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"So we have given advice that says ‘with a fair wind, the trajectory we’re presently on with vaccinations.....this six weeks buys us quite a lot of vaccine time.’ So if we can get that in, and people come, that’s the important thing that people can do, then yes we hope that August 9th/10th can happen.”

Geoff Ellis is chief executive of DF Concerts. Picture: John Devlin

Pressed further on whether musical festivals and full football stadia would be back by 9 August, Professor Leitch added: “Yes, but you are making me sweat just a little.”

Mr Ellis, whose company are also due to stage a series of open-air concerts in Edinburgh in August, said: “Despite the positive news from the First Minister that physical distancing will be removed on 9 August, Professor Jason Leitch continues to cast doubt over the future of large events - in fact, events at any level - going ahead this year.

"By telling people to ‘pencil’ these events in their diary rather than using a ‘Sharpie marker’ instills no confidence to music fans that they will get to see their favourite artists at the end of this summer.

"The public need consistent messages to build confidence in the return of live music and right now.

Professor Jason Leitch is Scotland's national clinical director.

"Professor Leitch isn’t sticking to the script and is undermining the First Minister’s statements.”

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