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Council clenching on to receipt for Perth St Andrew’s Day Festival

Big Country were among the acts who played at the free concert.
Big Country were among the acts who played at the free concert.

Perth and Kinross Council are remaining tight-lipped about how much they spent on celebrating Scotland’s Patron Saint.

The local authority put on a two-day St Andrew’s Day festival in the city centre at the end of November which drew in crowds, but bosses have refused to say how much they spent on the celebrations before a council meeting in March.

They said it is so the cost can be judged in the context of the whole Winter Festival programme.

Shoppers had the chance to watch Scottish performers such as Big Country, The Skids’ Richard Jobson, Red Hot Chilli Pipers and The Voice UK winner Stevie McCrorie perform in the car park beside Marks and Spencer, while a market was held outside Perth Concert Hall.

However, council bosses are refusing to reveal how much they paid the performers until the end of their Winter Festival is over. The council are also withholding the payment made to private parking firm Horizon.

The Winter Festival encompasses a string of council-run events such as the Halloween celebrations, Riverside Light Nights and Christmas Lights switch-on.

Already during this Winter Festival, council chiefs have knocked back requests to see the receipt for the Christmas Lights switch-on event.

Perth and Kinross Council have refused to reveal their payments through Freedom of Information for a second time, stating that it would be unfair to judge the entire Winter Festival by one of the component events.

Bosses say they will reveal the information once the festival is over and an economic impact assessment has been completed and “whilst the early disclosure of some information would satisfy the general right of access to information, it would also provide an inaccurate representation of the event as a whole.”

But Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart believes that being able to scrutinise taxpayer funding at each event within the Winter Festival is fundamentally in the public’s interest.

Pete Wishart said: “I don’t really buy the justification that there is no public interest in disclosing how much Perth and Kinross Council are spending on individual public events.

“It is all fine and well to say that they are part of a wider package of events, but the council will already hold the information as to how much each separate event cost the public purse.

“I would encourage Perth and Kinross Council to publish the data for these specific events, as I believe they have done in the past, as soon as they possibly can.

“Whilst these events are good for the city and tend to generate a net gain, it is clearly within the public interest to know how council tax money is being spent.”

In 2018/19, the local authority spent just over £430,000 on seven events throughout the winter festival, with just over half being spent on the Christmas lights switch-on.

A council spokesperson said: “We will report to a future meeting of Environment and Infrastructure Committee the full economic impact of the Perth and Kinross Winter Festival.

“This will include details on associated costs relating to each of the events but will also put them in context with the impact and benefit the entire programme of events has brought to Perth and Kinross.”

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