The news that a petition calling for an end to spiralling police charges for music festivals in Dumfries and Galloway has been backed by more than 5,000 people, has been welcomed by South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth.

The petition was launched by a volunteer at the Eden Festival after Colin Smyth raised concerns in the Scottish Parliament over the rise in police charges for music festivals in Dumfries and Galloway since the establishment of Police Scotland.

Speaking in a debate on Scotland as the perfect stage for events in September, Colin Smyth told Parliament:

“In 2015, the policing bill for the Eden festival was £12,000 for a licensed audience of 8,000. This year it is £38,000, an increase of more than 300 per cent. The Electric Fields festival had a bill of £1,600 for 2,000 people last year; this year it is £19,000 for an audience of 5,000, albeit over two days. Notwithstanding the perception of over policing, the charges by Police Scotland are well above those in England, undermining and risking events in rural areas and putting Scotland at a competitive disadvantage with our near neighbours”.

Along with organisers from the Eden Festival and Electric Fields Festival and Council Officers, Colin Smyth will be meeting with the local police next week to discuss the concerns over rising charges.

Colin Smyth said:

“The petition came out of the blue after I raised my concerns in Parliament over the police costs for local festivals, which have increased dramatically since the inception of Police Scotland. The fact over 5,000 people have now signed the petition shows the huge level of support for my call for a cut in charges and that call is gaining real momentum. That’s why I’ll be meeting the police next week to emphasis the scale of support for this campaign and to highlight just how much spiralling police charges are impacting on local festivals. Everyone accepts organisers of a festival have to pay for policing. But these festivals involve a few thousand people, not tens of thousands, so the line between breaking even and making a loss is very fine. An excessive police bill could result in a festival simply going out of business”.

“Our proximity to the border also means a festival could very easily move to England where police charges are lot less and that would be a huge loss to our region. I’m also concerned there seems to be an inconsistency in that police charges for similar events in other parts of Scotland appear to be lower than those faced by festivals in Dumfries and Galloway and that needs to be tackled”.

Meanwhile the local MSP is angry at the failure of the Scottish Government to intervene on the issue. During the debate in September, Sports Minister Aileen Campbell said:

“Colin Smyth made interesting points about police charging. He was right to raise the issue, on which we are working with Police Scotland”.

To seek clarification on how the Government is working with Police Scotland on the matter, Colin Smyth tabled a Parliamentary Question. A response came from Justice Secretary Michael Matheson who selectively said he hadn’t made any representations but failed to say if any other Government Minister had. Colin Smyth has now tabled a further question demanding to know if any Government Minister has made representations or were claims in Parliament that the Government was working with Police Scotland on the matter untrue .

Colin Smyth added:

“It is unbelievable a Government Minister told Parliament that they were working with Police Scotland on the issue but when I followed this up by asking the Government what representations they had actually made, they tried to duck the issue with an answer from just one Government Minister who said he hadn’t made any representations . Frankly if I have to follow this up by submitting questions to every single Minsters to find out whether what was claimed in Parliament was true I will. However, all I really want is for the Government to make clear to Police Scotland these increased charges are unacceptable and ensure we make progress on cutting them. At the end of the day Police Scotland are accountable to the Government and the Government can’t duck their responsibiliti

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