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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, September 22, 2016

Meeting of the Parliament 22 September 2016

Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Standing Safe Campaign, Business Motion, Local Taxation, Events, General Question Time, Decision Time



The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-01581, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on securing Scotland’s place as a perfect stage for events. I call Fiona Hyslop to speak to and move the motion.


As well as celebrating successes and acknowledging how far Scotland has come as an events destination, today’s debate allows us to highlight the challenges that are faced in the ever more competitive global events marketplace. I stress the importance of the collaborative effort that is required across the industry and the public sector to support the ambition that is set out in the national events strategy, to ensure that

“Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events is recognised nationally and internationally”.

Scotland is already widely recognised as a world-leading events destination. In 2015, our visitor spend reached almost £9 billion, with £4.9 billion of that total spend coming from our overnight visitors. We aim to grow that to at least £5.5 billion by 2020. Our continuing to offer a strong portfolio of events that attract visitors from outside Scotland is essential if we are to achieve that goal.

At a time when the importance of ensuring that we are viewed internationally as a welcoming nation is critical, our events play an important role in supporting communities and in sharing and celebrating cultural heritage. Our work with BEMIS to ensure that all Scotland’s black and ethnic minority communities are encouraged to join in the themed year and winter festival celebrations is proving to be successful, with a growing number of events participating year on year.

The value of our events cannot be underestimated. Whether it is our reputation as the home of golf, which helps us to stage some of the world’s greatest golfing events, or our capital’s place as the world’s leading festival city, attracting more than a million people every year, we simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Competition around the world is fierce. Events that presently call Scotland home, such as the mountain bike world cup and the world pipe band championships, could be staged elsewhere. To stave off challenges, we must continue to innovate, create authentic event experiences and ensure that attendances remain strong.

We have just had a fantastic summer of sports events in Scotland, and we have also witnessed some amazing performances by Scots at events outside Scotland. I am sure that members across the chamber will wish to join me in paying tribute to all of team Great Britain who competed in Rio at the Olympics and the Paralympics over the past few weeks. The strength of our sporting events programme has already seen many Olympians from Rio—Scots and others—take part in events here. No fewer than eight medal winners from cycling at the Olympics took part in the tour of Britain, and seven Olympians competed in the Blair castle international horse trials. The European judo open championship, the UCI track cycling world cup and the Scottish open badminton grand prix, which are all being staged at the Emirates arena later this year, will see Scotland welcome yet more Olympians.

Our world-class sporting events are matched by our cultural events and festivals. The Edinburgh International Festival welcomed artists from 36 nations and audiences from 84 countries, and took in more than £4 million in ticket sales for the first time. Initial figures from the Edinburgh festival fringe show a 7.7 per cent rise in ticket sales.

It is strange that the Conservative amendment singles out the United Kingdom Government’s support for the Edinburgh international culture summit. The event was a success, with 41 Government delegates taking part. The UK was meant to be an equal partner with the Scottish Government and others right from the start, but it provided no financial contribution to the 2012 or 2014 summits. It provided a very welcome £50,000 to this year’s summit, but that amount is very small compared with the Scottish Government’s contributions over the years. The contribution came late and only after a bit of persuasion and cajoling. I have to date exercised discretion in not making that public—unfortunately, the Conservative amendment requires a response. The Conservatives in this Parliament have to remember that they are here to stand up for Scotland, not merely to be cheerleaders-in-chief for the UK Government.

“Scotland the Perfect Stage: Scotland’s Events Strategy 2015-2025”, which was launched this time last year, reaffirms the shared commitment that exists across the public, private and third sector to delivery of a “one Scotland approach” to building a strong and dynamic industry, and to producing a portfolio of events and festivals that deliver a sustainable impact and an international profile. The strategy covers everyone who is involved in Scotland’s diverse events portfolio. We, as a Government, are committed to doing our part, from promoting the importance of communities and partnerships to support the successful delivery of events of all sizes, to securing the major one-offs such as the 2018 European championships, the 2019 Solheim cup and the Union of European Football Associations Euro 2020 championships.

Following the strategy’s launch, I wrote to all public sector bodies inviting them to consider how they can play their part in the process. Some early examples of that include the alignment of organisational and local authority strategies, the commissioning of research to underpin a national drive to maximise economic growth through the hosting of business events, the targeting of major international brands to improve further the availability of quality accommodation stock, and continued use of Public Contracts Scotland as a vehicle for access to major event business opportunities.

The events industry’s commitment to delivering the strategy is welcome, and I am delighted that the Scottish Tourism Alliance has supported the establishment of the events and festivals industry group. The group is determined to give the sector a stronger voice and to provide a forum for collaboration to support its further development.

Our programme of themed years has been successful in giving tourism an edge, in galvanising partners and in working across sectoral boundaries to create a strong collaborative platform to promote Scotland. During our current year of innovation, architecture and design, 30 funded events and 115 partner programme events have been delivered, and an estimated 650,000 people have already engaged in the centenary celebrations of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s festival of architecture, which includes more than 400 additional events taking place across the country.

Planning for Scotland’s 2017 year of history, heritage and archaeology is well under way, and links will be made with Festivals Edinburgh’s developing plans to celebrate the Edinburgh International Festival’s 70th anniversary in 2017. In addition, in 2018, Scotland will lead a global first by having a year-long celebration of the very best of Scotland and its young people.

This Scottish Government remains committed to the themed year programme, given their impact and profile and the enabling effect the years have had in supporting partnership working to the benefit of all Scotland’s communities. However, the time is right to test support for the programme’s continuation, so my thanks go to VisitScotland, which has been gathering industry views on whether the current model remains fit for purpose. That will help to ensure that future plans are informed by what industry and delivery partners feel best supports and builds on the economic, social, cultural and reputational benefits that the programme has helped to deliver. I look forward to confirming the outcome of that process in the coming months.

Events tourism is very much part and parcel of Scotland’s offer. We have an international profile and we are reaching into communities; we are seeing the benefits of communities themselves taking on board the importance of events to help their local economies. I recognise the last part of the Conservatives’ amendment in that regard, and the challenge that that might sometimes bring to communities.

I welcome the opportunity that today’s debate provides to acknowledge the growth, ambition and innovation of our events industry and the benefits that are being achieved through securing Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events. We cannot rest on our laurels; we must drive forward and, in doing so, make sure that we use the many and varied talents of everyone in all the sectors to deliver that.

I move,

That the Parliament recognises the strength of Scotland’s annual portfolio of events and its positive impact on the economy, tourism and in communities across Scotland; celebrates the recent successes of the summer sporting and cultural events and festivals; supports the continued ambition, as set out in the 2015 national events strategy, that Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events is recognised nationally and internationally; notes the importance of effective partnerships and collaboration by the industry, the Scottish Government, its relevant agencies and non-departmental public bodies and local authorities in delivering the strategy and planning for shared initiatives such as the themed years; welcomes the establishment of the Events and Festivals Industry Group, which has been brought together by the Scottish Tourism Alliance to facilitate a collective industry response to the strategy, and recognises the future opportunities for Scotland following the successful securing of major sporting events, including the 2018 European Championships, the 2019 Solheim Cup and the 2020 UEFA European Football Championships.


I whole-heartedly acknowledge the strength of Scotland’s annual portfolio of events and believe that its positive and growing contribution to the Scottish economy will generate further room for growth in the Scottish tourism sector. The economic impact of visitor spend spreads out from the traditional parts of the tourism industry into other sectors including arts and crafts, food and drink, cultural events, sports events and business and retail. As part of a collaboration between the Scottish Government and the public, private and third sectors, a 10-year national events strategy, aptly entitled “Scotland: The Perfect Stage”, was published last year.

Members should not expect me to hold back on selling Scotland’s unique offering—its rich and ancient history, its strikingly beautiful scenery, particularly in the south of Scotland, of course, and delicious food and drink that are lovingly produced from our rolling fields and our plentiful shores. As demonstrated by that long list, the events sector is incredibly diverse. It covers trade fairs, conferences, outdoor and indoor entertainment events and business tourism.

Other Scottish regions could learn from Perthshire businesses. With support from VisitScotland and Perth and Kinross Council, Perthshire business tourism group created the Perthshire agency challenge—the first of its kind—which put a group of seven UK buyers through their paces in a series of challenges to encourage more business visitors to the area. In a unique move, which differs from the usual familiarisation trip that buyers experience, they not only learned first hand from each venue of the possibilities for corporate conferences, events and incentives, but were pitted against each other in a series of mental and physical challenges at BlueSky Experiences, which culminated in a mini Highland games and a visit to Perth racecourse.

Our rural partners in vibrant towns and villages set the stage and provide the scenery for over 16 million visitors to Scotland every year. Undoubtedly, Scotland’s reputation as the perfect stage for events is recognised nationally and internationally. The Scottish Conservatives support Fiona Hyslop’s motion and hope that she will support our amendment, which sets out the importance of good infrastructure and transport systems—particularly in rural and semi-rural areas—for improving access to large events for people throughout Scotland. I will touch on that later.

It is important that the Scottish Government continue to support events outside Edinburgh and Glasgow to grow Scotland’s wider economic benefit. It is well known that international visitors tend to concentrate their activities on larger cities due to access to transport and good road networks. It is important to nurture events that are not headline grabbers. Rural communities can offer a different experience: communities with personality that attract customers who are looking for a destination with unique character.

As a former Roxburghe curler, I am delighted that the 2016 Le Gruyère European curling championships will be held at the Braehead ice rink in November. Scotland will welcome more than 25 nations to one of the biggest sporting events this year, which will form the pathway to Olympic qualification for the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea. It is only right that we bring the roaring game to Scotland. After all, it is recognised that curling clubs were formed in Scotland; during the 19th century, the game was exported wherever Scots settled around the world in cold climates—most notably Canada, the USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand.

A speech on events could not fail to mention golf, as Fiona Hyslop did. The modern game of golf is generally considered to have been invented in Scotland. I will give members a little bit of political trivia: the first documented mention of it in Scotland appears in a 1457 act of the Parliament of Scotland, which was an edict issued by King James II prohibiting the playing of golf and football because they were a distraction from archery practice for military purposes. In 2020, Scotland will be honoured to host the women’s British open championship. The venue is still to be announced: I hope that it will be Muirfield, for obvious reasons.

I will use East Lothian as an example to explain the Scottish Conservative amendment. The region, which is otherwise known as the golf coast, attracts golfers from around the world because it provides high-quality links courses. There was a will for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to take the Scottish open championship throughout Scotland and it was the intention that rural communities would benefit. Gullane fitted the criteria. Independent research confirmed that the championship delivered £17.6 million benefit to East Lothian, plus considerable marketing benefits derived from promotional exposure across 104 television channels with a global audience reach of 500 million households. However, a local golfer told me that public transport was not fit to support such events and that road access to accommodate extra visitors required investment. That raises the question whether a lack of infrastructure is a barrier to attracting international events, particularly in rural areas. It will come as no surprise to the cabinet secretary to hear that infrastructure investment must be taken seriously if destinations are to fit the criteria for event selection. I would like to offer a solution to the Scottish Government: it should fast-track the reinstatement of East Linton and Reston stations to ease overcrowding and promote accessibility. Those investments should be part of a long-term strategy to deal with 10,000 new homes and an increase in population.

The Scottish Government and the tourism industry’s 10-year strategy is welcome, but it is mainly aspirational and there are a number of actions that the Scottish Government could be taking to make Scotland more attractive, including investment in infrastructure and roads. I would be delighted if the cabinet secretary would support my amendment to acknowledge the vital investment that is required in our road network, especially for rural communities throughout Scotland. We believe that the Government should maintain the share of the budget that goes to road investment. Upgrading rural roads would provide a huge boost to residents, visitors and businesses in those areas. To put the issue into context, the SNP must be careful not to kill the goose that lays the golden egg by choking it to death.

I move amendment S5M-01581.1, to leave out from “establishment” to end and insert:

“support for events such as the Edinburgh International Culture Summit given by the UK Government; further welcomes the establishment of the Events and Festivals Industry Group, which has been brought together by the Scottish Tourism Alliance to facilitate a collective industry response to the strategy; recognises the future opportunities for Scotland following the successful securing of major sporting events, including the 2018 European Championships, the 2019 Solheim Cup and the 2020 UEFA European Football Championships, and notes the importance of good infrastructure and transport systems, particularly in rural and semi-rural areas, to improving access to large events for people across Scotland.”


We welcome the debate, and we wholly endorse the proposition that Scotland’s major events strategy should be based on a collaborative partnership approach.

The first such strategy post devolution was launched by the Labour-led Scottish Executive in 2002. It set out a vision for making Scotland

“one of the world’s foremost events destinations by 2015.”

That strategy was about

“Competing on an international stage”,

and the tagline of providing a stage for events was continued in the most recent strategy, which was published by the current Government in 2015. Then, as now, the strategy was developed in consultation with the Scottish Government’s agencies for culture, sport and tourism, and with local government. That broad alliance is mirrored in the current strategy’s emphasis on the “one Scotland approach”. EventScotland was set up to implement the original strategy in 2003.

Therefore, the principles that underlie the Government’s motion are ones that command broad support, and the strategy builds on an approach that was first laid out by Labour ministers. So far, so good—but, of course, any successful strategy requires not only a plan and a dedicated agency working with partners, but the necessary resources to make it happen. That is where legitimate concerns exist.

Scotland’s events strategy is not just about the major international sporting events that are mentioned in the cabinet secretary’s motion; it must also be about events of all sizes in a wide range of fields of human activity, from the book festival in Wigtown to the boat festival in Portsoy. Many of those events depend on local councils for support, and local government faces the reality of funding cuts that have already been made and others that are still to come. Given the overall cut in funding of 11 per cent that the Accounts Commission has reported, which has already been mentioned, it perhaps comes as no surprise to learn that the best figures that are available to the Scottish Parliament information centre suggest that net revenue expenditure on cultural and related services by Scottish local councils together fell by nearly 10 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15.

Local government finance has already been debated. We will continue to call on ministers to use the powers that they have to secure the resources that we need to achieve our ambitions as a country, whether in schools, in healthcare or in delivering the major events strategy that we are debating. We will also continue to make the case for local authorities to have the power to raise local finance in order to deliver local priorities, and to have real choices about what revenues they raise and how.

Councils that want to maintain and strengthen their events offer should be able to raise money by way of a tourism tax, as is done in leading European destinations such as Paris and Barcelona. Of course, a tourism tax would not work everywhere. In some places, it might be counterproductive, but the parts of the country that have the strongest offer for visitors are also often the ones that are the most open to the idea of a tourism tax to enable them to get the investment that they need.

Julia Amour, who is the head of Festivals Edinburgh, said in February that

“There needs to be a very realistic public debate”

on how to fund future events. Only this week, Rita Marcella, who is the dean of Aberdeen business school at the Robert Gordon University, wrote:

“There is general consensus that Aberdeen and the north-east more widely need to diversify and grow our sources of revenue across a range of sectors”.

She also highlighted the potential for a tourism tax to support Aberdeen’s

“growing and vibrant festival programme.”

We want Scotland’s major events strategy to succeed, but that needs ambition, partnership and investment, which must include investment by local authorities empowered by ministers to raise local revenues, set local priorities and fund local investment. That way, everyone has a stake in success, and Scotland’s ability to compete on the world stage can go from strength to strength.

We move to the open debate. I have to tell everyone that we are going to have to be very strict with time, because we cannot compromise the adjourned section of general questions, which we will have before decision time.


I am very pleased that we are having this debate. I just wish that it had been a bit longer, because this is a very important area for the Scottish economy.

I compliment the cabinet secretary Fiona Hyslop on the development of “Scotland the Perfect Stage: Scotland’s Events Strategy 2015-2025”. The strategy’s ingredients—our people, our cultural identity and heritage, our natural and built environments and our signature events—are exactly the right ones, and I am glad that the strategy itself is aligned with the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s strategy for growing Scotland’s tourism product up to 2020. It is no wonder that this area is so important; after all, it attracts about £3.5 billion in spending in events alone. The impact on tourism is therefore significant, and I want to concentrate on that impact in my short contribution this afternoon.

Looking back quickly to 2014, which was the year of homecoming and the year in which we had the Commonwealth games and the remarkable Ryder cup at Gleneagles, I know that the Stirling economy benefited significantly from those events. However, Stirling itself did not stand still with them; it had a fantastically successful Bannockburn day, which was supported by the Scottish Government, and the national armed forces day.

I mention those events because, having spoken to hoteliers and restaurateurs, I know that, as Murdo Fraser said in a debate earlier this week, the feel-good factor is certainly out there, given the number of people who appear to be attending events in Scotland just now and who are filling up our hotels and restaurants. The evidence might be anecdotal at this stage, and I hope that the figures will come through to show that that is the case, but I have begun to wonder how much of the activity that is taking place in my constituency is a legacy of the investment that was made during the 2014 year of homecoming. That will be difficult to prove, but I suspect that there is truth in there.

As the Tories have recognised in their amendment, all good events need infrastructure and, if I have time—I doubt that I will—I will come back to that issue. However, I make no apology for talking about the built environment, which is one of the strategy’s key themes. Stirling city is on the verge of submitting a bid for a new city deal to the Scottish and United Kingdom Governments, and I have been very impressed by the highly professional documentation that has been put forward in the bid. The deal will transform the city; we already have the background of the fantastic Wallace monument, the castle and Bannockburn, but the transformation process will give a much more modern feel. I hope that the bid is successful, because it will in its own way help to draw in more events in the future.

On the issue of cultural identity and heritage, I do not think that everything is down to the Scottish Government. I do not think that the Government has put any money into, for example, Bloody Scotland, the international crime writing festival in Stirling; it might have—and, if so, well done. That festival has grown year in, year out, with not a great deal of support from the public purse; a lot of the support for what is now a hugely successful international conference in Stirling comes from private industry.

Wrapped around the local product on the ground, we also have a remarkable number of Highland games. Again, they do not always attract much money from the public purse, but they continue to be successful and attract tourists wherever they are. After all, that is what tourists want when they come to Scotland.

I applaud the cabinet secretary on her strategy.


The events that Scotland has attracted have been a real coup and they show the high regard in which Scotland is held in the world today. The list of events that we are going to host in the next few years is remarkable in both its size and its scope. Some examples are the 2016 European curling championships, which will be held at Braehead in my region of West Scotland in November, and which Rachael Hamilton mentioned; the women’s British open, which will be held at Kingsbarns next year; and the Euros at Hampden in 2020. Of course, the last will be even better if Scotland can qualify. In addition, several sailing events are held annually on the Firth of Clyde and attract both national and international participants from all age groups.

Another benefit of Scotland hosting large international events, and particularly sporting events, is that they not only provide economic benefits for the areas in which they are held but are great for our young people as they give them the opportunity to see world-class athletes competing here in Scotland, which we hope inspires them to get out there and try new sports.

The same goes for other sorts of events. For example, when Edinburgh hosts the festival, we have people performing here who are the very best at what they do. Actors, musicians and comedians who are among the best in the world visit and perform in Scotland. The Edinburgh festival is certainly rich in talent.

Another example is the tattoo that is held at Edinburgh castle every year, which gives our armed forces a chance to show their work to the Scottish people and people from abroad. As members know, the tattoo is now exported to other countries overseas, so successful has it been. Every year, people who go up to the castle to watch it see the services at their best, showing the professionalism, tradition, dedication and determination that make them the very best in the world. That is why, every year, thousands travel from all over the world to watch.

The reason why we are having success in bringing events to Scotland is that people are working together in organisations such as the events and festivals industry group, which was set up by the Scottish Tourism Alliance. It was also right for my colleague Rachael Hamilton to mention in her amendment to the Scottish Government’s motion the support that the UK Government can provide and has provided in Scotland.

Infrastructure is also vital to such events, and Rachael Hamilton was again correct to emphasise its particular importance in her amendment. We need it not just to get people to events, but to get them around to other parts of Scotland. While people are here in Edinburgh or in Glasgow, they can travel to the west of Scotland and enjoy the many fine attractions that we have in our part of the world.

Thank you for your brevity, Mr Corry. It is very much appreciated.


I declare an interest as a councillor in Dumfries and Galloway Council, where I have the privilege of carrying out a voluntary role as events champion for the region, which has a rich tapestry of events and festivals.

Dumfries and Galloway’s reputation as the rural location of choice for many international-quality events is in no small part thanks to the unique major festivals and events strategies that the council has adopted over the past decade, the most recent being agreed in 2014. It recognises that events are real business, cultural and sporting assets that bring thousands of people to the area every year. When Dumfries hosted the world curling seniors and mixed doubles championships in 2014, more than 70 nations participated and the net economic value was more than £650,000.

What does the strategy mean in practice? It very much aligns with the national perfect stage strategy. It promotes collaboration between the events sector, bringing together events organisers, the local authority, VisitScotland, EventScotland and local organisations such as the Holywood Trust. The excellent relationship between those stakeholders is vital in helping to support and fund events, with EventScotland investing £500,000 since the start of the strategies—something that I congratulate it on. The strategy also engages local communities, building the region’s volunteer base and developing young talent across sport, the arts and culture.

This weekend, I will have the pleasure of attending the fantastic Lockerbie jazz festival, which will include a performance by the new Lockerbie youth jazz choir, which has come together as a result of the festival.

The strategy adds value to the outstanding range of events and festivals that take place across Dumfries and Galloway, such as last year’s women’s world ice hockey championship, which Ied to Dumfries becoming the only town in Scotland to have a women’s ice hockey team. In case members are wondering, I add that it plays teams in England.

The work between the council and the Scottish rally, which is held in Dumfries and Galloway, has helped it to become one of the rounds of the newly re-established British rally championship. In addition, earlier this month, I had the privilege of presenting the first stage winning trophy when the tour of Britain cycle race held its only Scottish stage finish in Castle Douglas—its eighth visit to Dumfries and Galloway.

There are also successful cultural events in the region, such as spring fling, which has helped Dumfries and Galloway, it is widely believed, to become the region of Scotland with the most artists and craft makers per head of population. Dumfries and Galloway has also become Scotland’s outdoor music festivals destination with the Wickerman festival, which we hope will return in 2017, and other festivals such as Electric Fields, the Eden festival and the Knockengorroch festival, to name just a few.

I would like to raise with the cabinet secretary a concern that organisers have: the spiralling cost of policing events. I will give members just two examples. 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 overpolicing, 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. There are also challenges when it comes to accommodation, limited venues, transport links and, of course, cuts to local council budgets. However, I am happy to endorse the motion and amendment. There is no doubt that Dumfries and Galloway—like Scotland as a whole—is the perfect stage for events and they make an outstanding contribution to the cultural, social and economic life of our communities.

In 1999, this Parliament awarded Wigtown the status of Scotland’s book town. This weekend the Wigtown book festival will kick off, with two weeks of fantastic events. I will be going along, and I am sure that all members will be made most welcome.


I am only too pleased to speak in a debate such as this, because I am aware of the cultural impact of events throughout Scotland, and particularly in my own home town of Paisley. I know that many members will be surprised to hear that all roads lead to Paisley, but on this occasion it is quite apt, as Paisley is trying to achieve United Kingdom city of culture status in 2021. We must consider the ambition of that bid. A lot of it stems from a time when I was on the local authority and Derek Mackay, my friend and colleague and now cabinet secretary, was leader of the council, when we brought events back into the town centre and ensured that, whether it was fireworks events or switching on the Christmas lights, there would be a major crowd there for our retailers and for the nighttime economy.

We know that that was a good starting point, and when we talk about cultural planning and regeneration, I think of events such as the Renfrewshire witch hunt, which the cabinet secretary will be aware of, as the participants all came here dressed in their clothing from 1697. Many people might not know that Paisley was the last town in the whole of Scotland to try someone for witchcraft and kill them for it, and they might ask why we should celebrate something like that. If we talk about our past, the good and the bad, we can make sure that we know where we are. It was good to have local groups getting involved in that event. It ensured that young people learned more about their culture and their future in Paisley, and such events can make a difference in showing that we can be confident. Yes, Paisley is a post-industrial town that has the same challenges as other post-industrial towns, but we have the ambition in Paisley to go for UK city of culture in 2021.

I have heard some people say that Paisley is a large town, not a city, but with 77,000 members of the public it has a large enough populace to be a city in its own right. We are led in Paisley by Jean Cameron, who is pushing those events forward for us, and we hope next year to gain that status as UK city of culture. Why would we not want that? After all, Paisley is the town that gave us Doctor Who, both the actor David Tennant and the executive producer and showrunner Steven Moffat, as well as Gerard Butler, Gerry Rafferty, Paulo Nutini, Robert Tannahill the poet and John Byrne the playwright. Why would a town with such a cultural background not want to tell the world exactly what we have got and what we have given the world?

That is why Paisley’s bold, innovative bid for UK city of culture can, in my view, be successful. It shows that we can go forward and can use culture and events as a way of regenerating our town and our town centre, so much so that my dearly beloved fan-owned Paisley St Mirren’s home has now been called the Paisley 2021 stadium. That shows how important the bid is to the great town of Paisley.

We have historic buildings and we are the birthplace of the Stewart dynasty and the final resting place of Marjory Bruce. Who would not want to come to the great town of Paisley to see everything that we have to offer?

We also have the PACE Theatre Company, which does events and offers young people access to drama and the arts. James McAvoy was one young person from Glasgow who turned up one day to tread the boards; he is now a world-famous actor, and it all began in Paisley.

We have to look at the way that Jean Cameron and her team are taking the bid forward. We are being bold and ambitious and, to paraphrase someone else, in the next year or so, as we count down to the bid, keep your eye on Paisley.

I think that we can all take it that you quite like Paisley, Mr Adam.

We move to the closing speeches.


It has been useful to focus on Scotland’s events strategy, however briefly we have been obliged to do so, and to consider the challenges that lie ahead.

Colin Smyth’s point about the cost of policing emphasised the important point about securing the resources to deliver the investments that a successful events strategy will need. Whether at local or at national level, money that has been invested well in cultural and sporting events will come back several times over as extra visitor spend and increased economic activity. Councils and public agencies need to be confident that they will have the resources they need and they need to command the public’s confidence.

Next year has been designated as the year of history, heritage and archaeology, so the spotlight will be turned firmly on all the agencies that are engaged in the field, whether national, local or in the third sector. Questions were raised this week about Historic Environment Scotland, and access to Maeshowe. I know that the cabinet secretary is alert to that issue. Confidence in HES’s stewardship of our historic and prehistoric sites will be essential next year and beyond.

Our museums will also have an important role to play in enhancing the historic and heritage events that will happen up and down the country in 2017. In December, the Museums Association surveyed its members across the UK, including those in Scotland. One museum professional raised concern about prospective cuts to funding of between 25 and 40 per cent, while another talked of the local museums service having to review its estate and its opening hours in order to “focus on priorities.” Councils must be able to set and focus on priorities and to secure the resources that they need to meet those priorities. That is why we argue for much greater flexibility and choice in the future funding of local government.

As far as today’s motion and amendment are concerned, there is little of substance with which to disagree. Rachael Hamilton is right to highlight the importance of good infrastructure and transport systems to allow people to access major events, although that is true for our towns and cities as well as for more rural areas.

I was able to attend part of the Edinburgh international culture summit this summer, and a very good event it was too, although of course the British Council, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Parliament are partners in that, alongside the Scottish and UK Governments.

The motion in the cabinet secretary’s name notes the importance of cross-agency working and welcomes the establishment of the events and festivals industry group by the Scottish Tourism Alliance. I am happy to endorse those points.

A number of members have highlighted just how important events are to their local economies and communities. Colin Smyth has his own words of wisdom quoted on page 29 of “Scotland the Perfect Stage”, and he has again today highlighted the contribution of festivals and events to the cultural and sporting life of his part of Scotland. In my region of North East Scotland, such events are equally important, whether it be True North, Aberdeen’s festival of music and song, which starts today, or the 20,000 people who will gather at Pittodrie on Sunday for the visit of Rangers FC.

Sport or culture, old or new, large or small, north or south, Scotland’s events calendar is jammed full of great occasions for people to come together and enjoy themselves, and some of the memories will last a lifetime. We should of course engage in realistic debate about what and how, but we should also celebrate 14 years of strategic vision and growth, and look to the future.


I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests as a serving councillor on Perth and Kinross Council.

Securing Scotland’s position as the perfect stage for events is right because a perfect stage and Scotland are synonymous. We have the people and we have the ambition, and I pay tribute to everybody who is actively involved in all the events that we have heard about today. VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance also have a major part to play. I commend and congratulate team GB for their efforts at the Olympics and the Paralympics; they are real heroes for us and we look forward to welcoming them back soon.

Bruce Crawford made some very good points about the contribution that is made to the tourism product and I very much agree with him on that. Lewis Macdonald said so far, so good, and we can acknowledge that that is the way that we are going.

The title of the debate sums up my feelings on the issue—Scotland really is the perfect stage for events and that is recognised throughout the world. We have the people, we have the places and we have the perfect opportunity to extend a warm welcome to visitors from across the world and the United Kingdom.

Colin Smyth made a valid point when he talked about the policing of events, because that has a massive impact on some local areas and what they can achieve.

There is no doubt that our stunning landscapes and historic buildings are an integral part of what we can have within our sectors here in Scotland and there is no doubt about the contribution that tourism makes to the economy when tourists spend around £12 billion—about 5 per cent of Scottish gross domestic product. That is very important as we move forward.

In my region of Mid Scotland and Fife, we are renowned for our hospitality and for the location that I represent. The famous T in the Park festival, despite some concerns about policing and public safety since its relocation to Strathallan castle, attracts tens of thousands of revellers and Perthshire and Kinross-shire have both benefited immensely from that festival—it really is the jewel in the crown for Perth and Kinross and also for Scotland.

Recently, Perth had the privilege of displaying, at the Black Watch museum, the poppies that are part of the weeping window tour. That has generated in excess of 100,000 visitors to that event, which is fantastic. If anyone gets the opportunity to see it before it disappears, I would recommend it.

Other events, such as Rewind in Scone, the royal military tattoo and all the other festivals that we have heard about today, make a massive contribution. Events that will take place over the next four years are also fantastic. Later this year, the cycling world cup is coming to Glasgow. In 2017, we have the European rugby championships in Edinburgh. In 2018, we have the world junior curling championships in Aberdeen and in 2019 the Solheim cup is coming to Gleneagles. Those events will give us a huge opportunity to promote Scotland worldwide and to show what we do best. They are a great opportunity for us.

We cannot talk about events without talking about St Andrews and golf, because they are synonymous. St Andrews is the home of golf and represents the history of golf. We have had some fantastic events there down the years and I am sure that we will continue to see many in the future. There is also Gleneagles—who can forget the Ryder cup? When we had that fantastic event there two years ago, the weather was perfect, the location was perfect, and of course we won.

It is important that the 10-year strategy is welcomed. We welcome it, but we also have to be very aware that things do not always tally up in this Administration. We must acknowledge that there has been a cut in spending on culture of 11 per cent in one single year. Spending on culture is not the sole indicator of success for international events, but we must take on board that it has an impact and it is important to acknowledge that.

The member must be aware that a great deal of the reduction in the culture budget was because we had already spent capital funding that delivered the completed Theatre Royal, for example, and other buildings. We cannot spend that money twice, hence that level of reduction.

The cabinet secretary must acknowledge that there was a funding reduction in Creative Scotland of £1.2 million and that is planned for this year as well. We have seen things happen, but at the same time we have to acknowledge where we are.

We must all play our part and do the best that we can to ensure that Scotland gets all that it wants. Infrastructure is essential and the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party believes that the Government should maintain the present share of budget that goes into road investment. That is crucial, but it is also crucial that we look at infrastructure and connectivity. We cannot have events taking place without individuals being able to switch on their broadband and move forward.

Scotland is proud of its location, we are proud of our brand, and we are proud of our welcome and our reputation. However, we have to maintain that and I look forward to working with everyone across the chamber to ensure that that happens.

I call Aileen Campbell. I will cut your time down to around seven minutes if I may, minister.


It is my pleasure to close this lively and celebratory debate on Scotland being the perfect stage for events. As many members have noted, the debate comes after a stunning display of sporting success from our 86 Scottish Olympians and Paralympians who were part of team GB competing in Rio.

I look forward to celebrating that success along with the First Minister at the Oriam, our national sports performance centre at Heriot-Watt University. The celebration will include schoolchildren, members of community sport hubs, young ambassadors, the young people’s sport panel and members of the public. It will be a further opportunity for our athletes to inspire the next generation of Scottish Olympians.

In my closing remarks, I will discuss the wider societal and economic benefits that our successes can bring to our nation. Legacy is crucial to our flourishing events industry, and it requires work, effort and dedication to ensure that that legacy is delivered on an on-going basis.

The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games and the 2014 Ryder cup brought societal, cultural and economic benefits to the whole of Scotland. Those benefits have been mentioned by many members in the debate—not least Bruce Crawford, who mentioned his constituency of Stirling. Between 2003 and September 2014, Scotland invested £10.9 million in golf events as part of the Ryder cup event legacy programme. A further £3.3 million has been invested since 2014, and over the next three years an additional £6.1 million will go into the programme.

As part of the Commonwealth games legacy, we set out to achieve 150 operational community sport hubs by 2016. We have not only achieved but surpassed that target, with 155 hubs now up and running. More than 180 projects have been awarded funding through the £10 million legacy 2014 active places fund, which aims to help communities to be more physically active.

Looking forward, we have an equally strong programme of national and international events taking place. Those include the European rugby champions cup, the European challenge cup and the world badminton championship in 2017; the 147th open championship in 2018; the world wheelchair curling championship and European indoor athletics in 2019; and in 2020 the world men’s curling championship, which Rachael Hamilton mentioned.

Our dependability as a world leader in the events industry has directly influenced the decisions that will lead to new and exciting multisports European championships in 2018 and the Solheim cup in 2019; and to UEFA Euro 2020 coming to Scotland.

Our programme for government sets out the detail of the substantial investment that the Scottish Government will provide to support delivery of those events during the current session of Parliament. Issues were raised by members during the debate in that respect. While we ensure that the economic benefits are fully realised, it will be critical to ensure that every effort is made by those involved in the planning and delivery of our major events programme to maximise the social and reputational benefits that each event has to offer.

The vision for the European championships is not only to let Scots see world-class athletes in action but to showcase Scotland and drive greater participation in sport. The event will be supported by a cultural programme that will have clear links to the exciting year of young people in 2018. Staging the Solheim cup not only offers us the opportunity to promote and celebrate our values, demonstrate our experience and innovation in hosting events and highlight our commitment to promoting the equality agenda, but it will help to cement Scotland’s reputation as the home of golf and to inspire a new generation of children—girls in particular—to take up the game that was invented in their home country and to get involved in sport more generally.

On the theme of encouraging more girls into sport, I am delighted to announce today that the Scottish Football Association intends to bid to host the women’s under-19 and under-17 European football championship in 2019. That tournament will help not only to promote the women’s game—which is in great shape, particularly after our national team qualified for the 2017 European championships—and our commitment to equality for all in Scotland, but to build momentum towards Glasgow’s hosting both group games and a round of 16 matches as part of the anniversary edition of the main tournament in 2020.

The outcome of the bid should be known in December. Although UEFA will fund the tournament, we will work to ensure that a one-Scotland approach is taken to both support and promote the event. Let us hope that the fantastic media coverage of women and sport that we saw during the Olympics and the Paralympics does not fall off a cliff edge, especially after our women have broken the near 20-year drought of our country’s involvement in football championships.

I turn to some of the excellent speeches that were made during the debate. Rachael Hamilton and Colin Smyth beautifully articulated the splendour of the south of Scotland, and given that my constituency is in that region, I have no trouble agreeing with those sentiments. However, as a Perthshire lass, I am glad that Rachael Hamilton mentioned the innovative work of Perth and Kinross Council, which has grabbed the thistle to maximise economic activity.

During 2015 and 2016, more than 77 per cent of the events that EventScotland supported were held outside Glasgow and Edinburgh. I hope that that reassures Rachael Hamilton that the events programme is not just about Glasgow, Edinburgh and the central belt.

Lewis Macdonald talked about the need for collaborative working. I agree on that. Much of what we have discussed today would not have happened had there not been a one-Scotland approach. However, we experienced difficulty with the homeless world cup, when visa hurdles for people from participating countries were not quickly addressed by the UK Government, which jeopardised the attendance of some of the competing countries. We need everyone to play their role in enabling things to be done timeously so that events can happen and be successful.

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

George Adam did a sterling job of promoting Paisley, as he always does. I know that the Paisley 2021 stadium is a crucial part of the girls football bid—although I am sure that Alexander Stewart has views of his own about the competition to be the city of culture.

We have a lot to be proud of and to celebrate. Regardless of the party-political divide, members are united in our belief that Scotland is and always will be the perfect stage on which to hold major events.