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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 14/09/2020

Scotland’s first national Event Industry Advisory Group was formed earlier this year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown and immediate halt to all event and festivals sector activity.

For the past four months, the Event Industry Advisory Group comprising 17 senior representatives from across the sector, has been engaging key stakeholders including The Scottish Government and EventScotland to represent the views of the sector and advocate a return for events as soon as it is safe to do so.

Despite some progress in the delivery of pilot events, including the return of 700 fans at BT Murrayfield for a recent rugby match between Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors, the group insists there is a long way to go to secure the future of the country’s diverse events industry.

Here Peter Duthie, Chief Executive of the SEC and Chair of the Event Industry Advisory Group, outlines the work of the group to date and the challenges still facing the sector as the country progresses through the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 Route Map to Recovery.

Q. What is the role of the Event Industry Advisory Group and why it is important in the current situation?

A. The immediate and devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted an urgent need to establish a group to represent the sector as the country began its response and recovery planning efforts. The role of the group has been to ensure that the voice of Scotland’s vital events and festivals sector is heard and receives due prominence in the decisions being taken to steer Scotland through its recovery. The diverse membership of the group has allowed us to collectively represent the views of our wide-ranging industry, communicate the challenges facing our businesses and advocate the importance of the sector to Scotland.

Q. What has been the focus and key activities of the group in the first three months?

A. The focus of the group has always been to advocate for the safe return of events as soon as it is possible to do so and to push for support for the sector until that time. To achieve this our activity has been focussed on a number of key areas with workstreams set up to progress areas of funding; health & wellbeing; hygiene, physical distancing and guidance; communication and public mood; innovation and good practice; and government engagement.

Q. What have been the key successes so far?

A. While it is early to talk about successes with our industry still facing an extremely uncertain future, we have made progress in the key area of funding with the introduction of a £6 million Events Industry Support Fund to help address the immediate crisis in the industry supply chain. Discussions are ongoing about accessing additional support for events through other funding streams. The group has supported the submission of plans to run and deliver important pilot events including the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and AIG Women’s Open behind closed doors and the return of 700 fans to BT Murrayfield for Edinburgh Rugby v Glasgow Warriors. The Hygiene & Physical Distancing workstream has also been pivotal in developing a wider pilot event programme, providing confidence that the expertise exists within our industry to run events safely in line with Scottish Government guidelines.  We have also had a regular and positive dialogue with the Scottish Government including direct discussions with Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture who is understanding of the significant difficulties facing our sector and supportive of a resumption of events as soon as it is possible.

Q. What challenges does the group and the event industry as a whole still face?

A. We’ve continually made the point that the events and festivals sector will be among the hardest hit as it was one of the first to come to a halt and will be one of the last to fully resume with the current guidelines in place. Despite the resumption of some events and the successful staging of pilot events, it is clear that events are not sustainable under the current restrictions. While the addition of the funding packages to date has been welcomed, they are not enough to support such a diverse sector while our businesses cannot generate any revenue. This means significant job losses and the failure of businesses is a very real and immediate concern. Without this skilled workforce there is a real prospect of there being no industry left to resume events and festivals when restrictions allow.

Q. What are the next steps?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A. Our immediate focus is on ramping up the delivery and scale of pilot events to show that events can be staged safely and that we have the required expertise in the industry for a safe resumption of the sector on a larger scale. In this way our businesses can begin generating revenue to give them a chance of survival, moving towards staging events on a financially viable basis. Further campaigning for enhanced and ongoing funding support for the sector will also be vital. We are stressing the important role that events play not just in the economy but also to the social fabric of our country.  Sport, live music, entertainment and cultural events all play a significant role in the general wellbeing of the population, lifting national morale. In addition, there are a wealth of community and volunteer led events that make places vibrant, and which also face the same challenges.

More information on the Event Industry Advisory Group, including the group’s terms of reference and membership, is available here. Agendas and summary meeting notes will also shortly be published at this link. Anyone working in the events and festivals sector can highlight issues to the group via EIAG@eventscotland.org.