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The Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG), which was established last year to represent the events and festivals sector amid the devastating impact of the pandemic, has appealed to the Scottish Government to provide a further financial boost and additional support for the sector.

EIAG is recommending an extra £40m in re-start funding be made available along with a raft of other initiatives including continuation of the Job Retention Scheme on a flexible basis from this September to March next year.

The group said that failure to act could cost the country its status as a world-class event destination and the sector’s associated £6bn annual visitor spend within the Scottish economy.

The EIAG has been lobbying Holyrood throughout the pandemic on behalf of the country’s events industry. Earlier this year it presented Scottish Government ministers with a submission detailing A Route Back to Scotland the Perfect Stage.

Now, following the proposed lifting of restrictions from August, the group has outlined detailed proposals in a white paper, Event Sector Stimulus Initiatives, aimed at creating a suitable environment to allow the safe return of the country’s events sector.

EIAG’s recommendations include:

  • A further £40m in restart grant funding to be made available to the end of 2022.
  • Access to essential staff training opportunities to address emerging skills and employment gaps.
  • Continued development and consistent application of relevant event guidance.
  • National promotional campaign/s to provide public reassurance and support for organised events.
  • Access to affordable event cancellation insurance including pandemic cover.
  • Continuation of the Job Retention Scheme on a flexible basis from September to March 2022.
  • Continuation of the VAT reduction on relevant event costs/sales. 
  • Continuation of non-domestic rates relief for event sector businesses.

According to the UK Events Report 2020, the event sector was estimated to have generated £6bn in direct spend for Scotland in 2019 but the seasonal nature of events means 90% of revenue is made during the peak summer window between May and September. The sector was shut down in March 2020 and still remains unable to trade.

Peter Duthie (pictured), chief executive of the Scottish Events Campus and Chair of the EIAG said, “Although welcome, the timing and circumstances surrounding the lifting of restrictions in August 2021 means only a small percentage of the sector will have the opportunity to generate some of the vital revenue required to survive before the peak season passes.

“Effectively the sector has missed its primary trading period for a second year, whilst continuing to incur basic running costs that have drained many organisations of financial reserves and the resources necessary to restart. It’s like being the driver of a car with an open road ahead but no fuel in the tank.

“Since March 2020 the sector has received £31m in direct grant support from Government, distributed through a range of funding programmes reaching more than 1,000 event business, individuals and organisations. We are enormously appreciative of that assistance. This equates to about 0.5% of the event sector contribution to GDP and has proved vital in sustaining the sector over the period to date, although inevitably there have still been many casualties.

“Having missed primary revenue opportunities and been drained of financial reserves, it is vital that Government provides additional industry support through to the end of 2022 that will give viable businesses the confidence to plan and deliver activity, which in turn will rebuild their financial base and return the wide range of economic, social and cultural benefits that events deliver for Scotland.”

21CC Group director Geoff Crow, who leads the EIAG sector stimulus sub-group said, “The sector has endured a devastating period of shutdown since March 2020. It has cost billions in lost revenue and many millions in hardship support, it has threatened the country’s entire event infrastructure, including Scotland’s viability and reputation as a world-class events destination.

“The recent announcement by the First Minister of the indicative timeframe for movement to and beyond Level 0, and the associated easing of restrictions, requires a shift in the nature of support from sustaining the sector during shutdown to stimulating the sector’s re-start.”