Festival Charging Talks 'Constructive'

South Scotland MSP and Dumfries and Galloway Council's Events Champion Colin Smyth has described a meeting to discuss police charges for festivals in the region as "constructive".

FESTIVAL CHARGING TALKS "CONSTRUCTIVE" SAYS LOCAL MSP

South Scotland MSP and Dumfries and Galloway Council's Events Champion Colin Smyth has described a meeting to discuss police charges for festivals in the region as "constructive".

The meeting between the local MSP and Police Scotland , festival organisers from the Eden Festival, Electric Fields and Knockengorroch and Dumfries and Galloway council was held yesterday following recent concerns that charges from Police Scotland for local festivals had risen by as much as 300%. 

The issue was raised in the Scottish Parliament by Colin Smyth recently during a debate on Scotland as the perfect stage for events. Colin Smyth told Parliament that in 2015, the policing bill for the Eden festival was £12,000 for a licensed audience of 8,000 but had risen to £38,000 this year. The Electric Fields festival had a bill of £1,600 for 2,000 people last year but this had risen to £19,000 this year for an audience of 5,000, albeit over two days. 5,000 people have no signed a petition calling for an end to spiralling police charges for music festivals in Dumfries and Galloway.

Speaking after the meeting yesterday Colin Smyth MSP said:

"The meeting was a good opportunity for everyone involved to share their views on the issue and it was a very robust discussion. Police Scotland made the point that their number one priority was public safety and the festival organisers fully supported this. At the same time the organisers rightly expressed concern that costs had risen so much, often at a late stage in the planning process, so couldn't be taken into account when setting ticket prices. They were also concerned that there was inconsistency in how Police Scotland's policy was enforced with indications that festivals in other parts of Scotland had not been hit by such a significant rise in charges. What has become clear is the fact that under Police Scotland the charging regime has changed since the days of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. Discounts that may have been given in the past, for not for profit events, sadly don't seem to apply anymore despite the huge economic benefits these events bring to the region and this appears to partly explain the rise in police charges. It's disappointing that not for profit events and charities are treated the same way as big business when it comes to charges. This clearly puts real pressure on organisers who are running events such as this on very tight margins."

"However, what was encouraging was a recognition by everyone of the huge importance of events and festivals to the economy of Dumfries and Galloway and the fact we have built a fantastic reputation in the region for hosting major events that we want to maintain. There was a commitment by everyone to work together to find a way forward. "

"The Police will meet event organisers at as early stage in the planning process as possible for next year's events to thrash out a policing plan. That could allow organisers for example to tweak stewarding plans with advice from the police to possibly minimise police costs, so from that point of view the meeting was constructive. The Council have agreed to help facilitate those discussions as we don't want to be sitting here at the same time next year having the same discussion or worse still finding ourselves with another festival in the region ending. There is clearly still a massive concern that the charging regime is impacting on events and festivals and there is now a real need for the Scottish Government to intervene."

"One part of Government is quick to say Scotland is the perfect stage for events yet another part is making that very difficult in rural areas such as ours where events are run not for profit but because of the huge commitment of the organisers. "

ENDS

You can read the full petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/hold-the-police-to-account-to-keep-major-events-in-dumfries-and-galloway

 You can read the full debate in the Scottish Parliament here:

http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10532&i=96962

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