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Scottish government’s T In The Park grant was all fine, says Audit Scotland

By | Published on Wednesday 30 March 2016

T In The Park

Audit Scotland last week cleared Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop of any wrongdoing over her department’s decision to award a government grant to T In The Park promoter DF Concerts, a Live Nation company, to assist in the move of its big annual festival to a new site last year.

As previously reported, Hyslop was criticised by political rivals for providing the funding to DF. Some questioned why such a popular commercial event needed state funding at all, while others accused the SNP minister of “cronyism”, because an initial meeting between the Scottish government and DF was set up by a one-time aide of former SNP leader Alex Salmond, who was working for the live music firm at the time.

In the wake of that criticism, Audit Scotland announced last November that it was reviewing the decision making behind the funding. But last week the public spending watchdog said that there had been “clear rationale for the grant”, and that Hyslop’s department had attached clear and appropriate conditions to the financial award.

In a letter to an unnamed MSP, Audit Scotland wrote that “the Scottish government had the legal authority to make the grant. The decision to award the grant to DF Concerts was a legitimate policy decision for the Cabinet Secretary, and was consistent with advice she received from Scottish government officials”.

It went on: “There is evidence that the DF Concerts consultants’ costs associated with gaining planning consent incurred in 2014 and 2015 for the 2015 event, together with the increase in venue costs, exceeded the grant Scottish government provided. There is also evidence that Scottish government has taken steps to confirm that the money was spent in line with the grant conditions through its review of the final report provided by DF Concerts and related invoices”.

Despite clearing Hyslop and her team of any wrongdoing, Audit Scotland did say that ministers should provide greater “internal clarity and evidence to support decision-making” when dishing out similar grants in the future, so to assure the public that the correct procedures have been gone through before any financial support is provided to such projects.

Beyond the mini-controversy in Holyrood, T In The Park’s move to Strathallan Castle was also newsworthy because of the various logistical issues that occurred during the first edition of the festival on the new site, which resulted in a range of criticisms from the local council. T bosses have already announced a number of measures which they hope will address those issues this summer, and have now filed those plans with Perth & Kinross Council in the hope it will overcome concerns and assure them a licence for this year’s event.