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This advice has been prepared in response to the concerns in the events industry and is correct at the time of publication.  As the situation around coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to develop, this advice is specifically for the events industry and is based on current Scottish Government guidelines.   

Here you will find:

For wider advice for the tourism industry go to the VisitScotland coronavirus advice page.  

Current situation

Updated 7 October 2020

On 7 October, the Scottish Government announced temporary steps to tackle the record infection rates.  Further measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 are to come into effect on Friday 9 October until 25 October. These include restrictions on opening hours and selling alcohol across Scotland, with stricter restrictions, including on events, across the central belt. For the full list of measures read the Scottish Government update.

Please refer to the events sector guidance (updated 7 Oct) which includes further detailed definitions of outdoor events.

View the route map in full.

Background context

On 23 March both the UK and Scottish Governments called for an immediate stop to public gatherings of more than two people in a bid to flatten the curve of Covid-19 spread and protect the NHS. 

Following a meeting of the UK Government’s COBRA committee, an effective ban is in place on gatherings in public places, excluding household groups or in a work-related capacity. In Scotland, the Scottish Government has introduced emergency legislation from Thursday 26 March to enforce this. View the Scottish Government’s statement.

On the 23 April, the Scottish Government published the Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making, which sets out some of the challenges Scotland faces and outlines the approach and principles that will guide the decision being made about transitioning out of the current lockdown arrangements.

Under section 5 (Options for Easing or Imposing Restrictions) the paper says: “We are likely to require that gathering in groups, for example in pubs or at public events, is banned or restricted for some time to come.”

On the 21 May, the Scottish Government updated its Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making with the publication of a route map through and out of the crisis. The route map outlines a four-phase process on how Scotland will move carefully and gradually through the crisis, with the possibility of events featuring in phases three and four. In phase three live events may be able to take place with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions in place, while in phase four large-scale events and mass gatherings could resume in line with public health advice.

On the 9 July, the First Minister announced Scotland would official move to Phase 3, with changes being made in stages rather than all at once. On 20 July, the Scottish Government gave the green light for drive-in entertainment such as live concerts, comedy nights, theatre productions and local bingo events to take place. This followed drive-in cinema restarting on the 15 July and public health advice that considers the transmission risk associated with drive-in live events, where the audience remains in their parked cars, is sufficiently low to allow them to take place. Appropriate guidance and mitigations must be followed. 

At the Scottish Government three-weekly update to parliament on the 20 August, the First Minister confirmed certain outdoor live events involving open space or organised seating, with physical distancing and restricted numbers could proceed from Monday 24 August.

On 22 September, the Scottish Government announced further measures in Scotland to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures mainly focussed on households mixing indoors and some restrictions to opening hours for the hospitality industry. The approval of any further pilot events was also put on hold while plans for a limited number of spectators at golf and football events have been cancelled until further notice.

At the Scottish Government three-weekly review of the route map on 10 September an indicative date of 5 October was given for the resumption of the other elements including certain outdoor and indoor live events, indoor entertainment venues (e.g. theatres, music venues) and Stadia, however, following the additional measures announced these were not implemented.

Monitoring the impact

During this unprecedented period, it's important that we keep an eye on what our competitors are doing, how the industry is reacting and the sentiment and behaviours of our target audiences.

The VisitScotland Events Directorate has been holding a series of virtual forums with the Scottish events industry to gather insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the sector and to inform plans and guidance for recovery of the industry. Feedback and intelligence from these forums is available to view.

Take a look at our insights for further results from our industry surveys and our latest market intelligence report.

Advice for Events

If your event is not affected by the current Government advice and you have yet to take the decision to cancel or postpone, you should continue to monitor and follow Government advice in order to take the action appropriate to your event and the ongoing situation in relation to the COVID-19 virus. 

In preparation for a situation where you may have to cancel or postpone your event, it is advised that you consider the following so that you are well prepared to minimise disruption:  

  • Check your insurance policy for cancellation cover and make contact with your insurer to discuss the terms of your cover 

  • Engage in discussion early with key stakeholders and operational partners before deciding to cancel or postpone an event  

  • Review your budget and consider wider obligations to your contractors, suppliers and customers, to understand any financial implications linked to cancellation  

  • Consider potential impact on funding and commercial agreements 

  • Consider potential impacts on performers, participants, staff and volunteers 

  • Consider options to postpone or alternative delivery solutions e.g. behind closed doors approach, use of livestreaming 

  • Check your ticketing T&Cs and ensure that you are clear about your ticketing refund strategy and that the impact of cancellation or postponement is understood and communicated effectively to your customers  

  • If you do not have one in place, a communications strategy is advised in order to inform your stakeholders, staff, attendees / ticket holders, media, contractors, suppliers and general public 

  • Check that you have adequate staff available to be able to deal with refunds, enquiries and crisis communications 

  • Consider whether your website or ticketing systems are capable of handling increased traffic 

Event Industry Advisory Group

The Event Industry Advisory Group has been established to represent the events and festivals sector amid the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and provide a co-ordinated voice during the national response and recovery planning. More information, including membership of the group, is available, while the group’s terms of reference can be seen below.

Work is ongoing to share further outputs from the group. Businesses and individuals with issues to raise with the group or with specific questions should contact

Event Industry Advisory Group

Published June 2020

Terms of Reference for Event Industry Advisory Group

Industry Research and Guidance

We are working with partners across the industry to share the most relevant research and information during these difficult times. We hope some of the following links will be of use to you and your colleagues:

British Visits & Events Partnership – UK Events Report 2020

Published June 2020

How events deliver the UK's industrial strategy

World Health Organisation Guidance on Mass Gatherings

Published June 2020

Key planning recommendations for mass gatherings in the context of COVID-19

After the Interval Audience Survey - Wave 1 Findings

Published June 2020

Audience views on returning to live cultural events, booking tickets now and in the future, and missing out on events during lockdown.

After the Interval Audience Survey - Wave 2 Findings

Published June 2020

Audience views on returning to live cultural events, booking tickets now and in the future, and missing out on events during lockdown.

National Audience Research Findings - Act 2

Published July 2020

Audience views on booking tickets now, returning to live cultural events with social distancing, and experiencing culture in different formats.

Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak - a short guide

Published June 2020

A guide is aimed at all employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people

Working safely during COVID-19 in drive-in cinemas

Published June 2020

UK Cinema Association published guidance on 14 June for the re-opening of drive-in cinemas

Frequently asked questions 

Q: I don’t have a crisis communications plan, what should I do? 
A: We’ve prepared some guidance which provides some over-arching practical tips to help you prepare communications in the event of cancellation/ postponement.  

Communications advice - COVID-19

Published March 2020

Tips to help your event communications throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Q: My event has contracts in place with self-employed staff. What advice should I provide? 
A: This is a difficult time for employers and employees as well as those who are self-employed. The UK and Scottish Governments have introduced a number of support packages depending on your individual circumstances. See our coronavirus advice section for more information.

Q: In the event of cancellation, how do I deal with refunds? 
A: Check your ticketing T&C’s and speak to your insurers in the first instance and then plan how you communicate any decisions to ticket holders with the support from your ticket agents / box office team and ensure staff are in place to deal with enquiries and possible complaints.    

Q: I have received EventScotland grant funding and am planning to cancel my event. What should I do? 
A: Please contact your EventScotland Event Manager to discuss, they will be able to give you the most up to date advice specific to your event. 


If you have further questions, please email the EventScotland team at We aim to respond to your enquiry within 24hrs or the next working day Monday – Friday. 

For wider advice for the tourism industry go to the VisitScotland coronavirus advice page

Scottish Enterprise business helpline

Any business in Scotland seeking further general advice should contact the dedicated Scottish Enterprise helpline on 0300 303 0660.  

The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. 

Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team.