Following on from the latest Scottish Government announcement and in light of UK guidelines summarising clear plans for the return of the events industry south of the border, event industry leaders across Scotland have warned of a critical juncture in the recovery of the Scottish sector, as there still remains no indication of when gatherings of scale will be permitted and when social distancing parameters will be removed.
Whilst restrictions on retail and leisure are lifted in Scotland, the events sector remains largely locked down and unable to plan ahead under current policy and plans. The Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) pointed out that many events are not financially viable while social distancing remains in place, and under current conditions, event organisers stand to lose significant sums of money should they plan ahead, but find their event is cancelled due to social distancing restrictions. Without support to limit this risk of significant loss, events are simply not able to go ahead.
Geoff Crow (right photo), director of 21CC Group and member of EIAG comments, “We need consistency and clarity. The event sector in Scotland is at a standstill, which is difficult to watch when we see other sectors opening up and the rest of the UK and parts of the world gearing up for an imminent return. It doesn’t seem logical that gatherings and events can go ahead in England from July, but in Scotland we have no dates to be able to do the same.”
The frustrations follow on from the Scottish Government's decision not to work with the UK Governments plan or levels framework, but instead create their own, more cautious policy structure. Over the last few months successful pilot events and festivals have taken place around the world, including 5,000 people gatherings with no social distancing or masks. These pilot events have demonstrated that with sensible mitigation measures and testing, the risk of transmission can be less than the national average. In some cases, the risk was completely mitigated.
Geoff Crow continues, “From our understanding, there is yet to be a proven case of transmission of Covid19 as a result of outdoor activity, so we need to know what the current framework is based on in order to be able to understand it. As we rise out of Covid as a nation and particularly with the rollout of the vaccination across the country, we need the Scottish Government to take cognisance of the findings from these pilot events, to balance caution with optimism and create policies that consider health, society and the economy. Sadly, for some, any change now is already too late.”
At the end of April, the annual Rewind Festival at Scone Palace cancelled blaming current guidance and lack of clarity as to when social distancing would be removed. Meanwhile the Rewind North and the Rewind South festivals, both in England, are scheduled to go ahead as planned. Last week the Enchanted Forest event in Perthshire, scheduled for October 2021 also cancelled.
Peter Duthie (left photo), chief executive at the SEC and chair of EIAG comments, "The Event Industry Advisory Group fully appreciates the challenges faced by the Scottish Government in planning a way out of the pandemic and has consistently taken a proactive and constructive approach to our representations on behalf of the industry.
“Whilst recognising that no certainty can be provided, an understanding of how the Government’s data driven approach to the lifting of restrictions will operate is crucial for forward planning and decision making in the sector. Compared to most industries, the events sector requires much longer lead times to resume activity given the extensive planning involved.
“A consistent approach across the four nations is also required to ensure that events in Scotland are not disadvantaged. We hope to see more detail and clarity on this very soon, albeit we recognise that any roadmap would understandably have to feature significant caveats if the situation were to change.”
Geoff Crow concludes, “The trend of cancellation is going to have significant negative social and economic impact across many sectors, including events, hospitality, retail and tourism. We need the Scottish Government to urgently set a date for the removal of social distancing, or offer support in the event of cancellation, because socially, economically, and according to the economists, the event sector is well worth saving.”
Festivals and events such as the Solheim Cup, Edinburgh’s international festival, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, UEFA European Championships, the world cycling championships all play a vital role in attracting tourists to Scotland and enhance Scotland’s reputation globally. Tourism spending alone generates around £12billion for the Scottish economy, supporting more than 217,000 jobs (in 2015), which equates to 8.5% of the nation’s employment. The event industry has been recognised as a growth sector in the Scottish Government’s economic strategy.
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