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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Gathering - who should pay the debts?

Lord Jamie Sempill thinks we the Scottish taxpayers should pick up the cost of the £600,000 loss The Gathering made earlier this year, although he forgets we already are paying for most of it as it is.

He claims that the two and a half million taxpayers in Scotland only had to contribute 43p per head for The Gathering to take place which is what the £500,000 public funding came to.

I didn't go, so who wants to pay my 43p for me? because unfortunately Lord Jamie Sempill that is what most people across Scotland will say, or worse, they never even wanted The Gathering so who will pay their 43p? Will you pick up the slack personally?

However, back to the loss £300,000 has already been written off (and therefore already paid for by the taxpayer) by the Scottish Ambulance Service, Lothian and Borders Police and the Scottish Government.

Is that included within the 43p, or is this to be added on?

Is it right that in the height of a recession the Police and Ambulance Service are having to cover losses in this manner? In fact sod the recession, should they ever at all have to cover losses like this for any public event again?

There is always the counter argument about the amount the people attending a major event actually bring into the economy, and arguably that is right, the amounts being claimed for The Gathering are £8.8million for Edinburgh and £10.4million for Scotland.

Do these figures justify the claim from Lord Jamie Sempill that the next Gathering needs to be bigger and the investment from the Scottish Government and taxpayer needs to be much bigger. Should there even be talk of another Gathering?

My counter argument and questions to Lord Jamie Sempill are here;

1. Your first event made a substantial loss, despite all of the media hype and mass marketing. What plans would you put in place for another event for this to avoided again.

2. The Gathering only drew in crowds of 47,000 across the event. In your opinion as one of the organisers Lord Jamie Sempill, how many people do need to attend for the event to (a) break even and (b) make a profit of 10%?

3. What safeguards will you and the organisers introduce to prevent a second event making a loss, especially for the public bodies such as the Scottish Ambulance Service and Lothian & Borders Police?

4. What market research do you propose to do in Scotland to see why more people from Scotland did not attend and what would make them attend?

5. What business plan was in place for The Gathering and who signed it off for The Gathering 2009 Limited? Did each and every sponsor, investor and company providing services also see this business plan?

The responsibility for the debt has now been handed over to the recently formed Destination Edinburgh Marketing Alliance (DEMA) but this has hit the buffers already. Norman Springford who is one of the key DEMA figures has quit because he was never consulted about DEMA taking these debts on.

The Scottish Government has admitted that DEMA had not been involved in any of the discussions to both take over the event but also inherit this massive debt racked up the event organisers.

My other concern is that the SNP have politicised The Gathering and Homecoming 2009 way too much so therefore the blood and debts of The Gathering must also be on their hands, as usual though we are met with deafening silence from the First Minister and his Party.

We only ever hear from him and his chums when it is going well.

The Gathering has left a bitter taste in many peoples mouths, rightly or wrongly. But Lord Jamie Sempill and Jenny Gilmour have to answer the outstanding questions and their critics, hiding behind a website that was apparently also paid a sum from The Gathering 2009 Limited is no longer an option.

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