TRNSMT festival boss warns summer ban on events in Scotland while they go ahead in England would be 'untenable'

Scotland's biggest concert promoter has warned the Scottish Government it would be "untenable" to keep curbs on live events in place months after they are lifted in England.

Geoff Ellis, chief executive of DF Concerts and director of Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival, said Scotland was at risk of losing “world-class events” completely if First Minister Nicola Sturgeon failed to deliver a road map for reviving festivals and concerts in line with Boris Johnson’s decision.

He has called for the government to pledge to lift all social distancing restrictions once the vaccine roll-out has been completed, warning it would take Scotland’s events sector years, or possibly a generation, to recover if they were kept in place indefinitely.

Mr Ellis said there were fears across the entire Scottish nightlife and events sectors that Ms Sturgeon’s government wanted to pursue "zero Covid" before restrictions on them are lifted.

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    He predicted that England stands to "receive a boost from Scotland's losses" unless restrictions are eased in line with Boris Johnson's promised road map, which would test events take place from April, major outdoor events return with restricted capacity and social distancing in place from mid-May and full-capacity events staged from 21 June.

    Mr Ellis, whose company is behind the Summer Sessions shows in Edinburgh, described the prospect of the government keeping Scotland's events and festivals in lockdown while they go ahead in England as "trying to hold a giant wave back with a sieve."

    He told The Scotsman: “Following on from the confidence and certainty, with some obvious caveats, given to English events it’s essential that the Scottish events industry is given very similar indications.

    "The impact on the wider tourism, hospitality and travel industries is also vital and urgent from a planning perspective.

    DF Concerts boss Geoff Ellis has described the prospect of restrictions on events being kept in place months after they are lifted in England as 'untenable.' Picture: John Devlin

    “Music isn’t just ‘good for the soul,’ it’s essential for all of our mental health and well being and, in the summer, when it’s safe to do so, Scotland needs to be properly open too with music and events taking place without restrictions on physical distancing.

    “To be open however, we need to plan now - therefore clarity, indicative dates and any conditions needed to deliver those dates are urgently needed.

    “I’m concerned that a road map with dates is not forthcoming and that Scotland loses out on its world class events programme as a result.

    “The events industry and night-time economy is worried that the government wants to pursue zero Covid before all restrictions are lifted.”

    The TRNSMT festival is still due to go ahead on Glasgow Green in July. Picture: Gaelle Beri

    Asked about the prospect of restrictions on festivals and events being kept in place in Scotland while they went ahead in England, Mr Ellis said: “That simply cannot happen – it would be untenable. It would be like trying to hold a giant wave back with a sieve. Meanwhile England would receive a further boost from Scotland’s losses.

    “Once all adults have had the opportunity to be vaccinated it is vital that ALL physical distancing is removed. This could be outdoors first before indoors, but indoors should follow not too long behind.

    “If social distancing remains it would be disastrous and it’s something that would take Scotland years to recover from, perhaps even a generation.

    “Scotland having the largest arts festival in the world in Edinburgh did not happen overnight and it could well take years to get that back.”

    Sir Tom Jones, Travis, DMA’s, Michael Kiwanuka, Lionel Richie and Simple Minds are due to appear at DF Concerts' Summer Sessions shows in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh in August. Picture: Ryan Johnston

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