May 18 2011 by Johnathon Menzies, Stirling Observer Wednesday
COUNCILLORS have been warned of a “vicious cycle of decline” if they decide to scrap Stirling’s Hogmanay celebrations.
Elected members will convene tomorrow night (Thursday) to discuss the ramifications of holding the annual December 31 party.
Stirling Council’s executive was recently told official New Year’s Eve events have cost the local authority £750,000 in the last decade.
The figure came to light as the SNP-led administration attempted to press ahead with the organisation of the 2011 version, only to be reined in by political rivals.
And Stuart Watt, the commercial director of Belhaven Pubs, recently submitted a letter to the Observer outlining a series of concerns he said would rear their head if the showpiece is axed.
Mr Watt said removing the annual extravaganza from the calendar could have serious cultural implications.
“While I fully understand that there are some tough decisions required by the council in relation to expenditure, I wish to point out that the impact of cancelling the Hogmanay celebrations may have unintended consequences that reach further than simply realising savings on a balance sheet,” he said.
“If Hogmanay is effectively switched-off, then it is highly likely that the traditional ‘white season’ promoted by tourism groups like VisitScotland will be scaled back.
“Visibility within traditional media will evaporate, particularly as other cities take advantage of a lapse in presence at Hogmanay.
“I also feel a vicious circle of decline may commence, which will inevitably impact on many businesses in Stirling who rely on the boost to trade that Hogmanay visitors bring.
“And, finally, such a decline will put off existing traders from investing further in Stirling, or indeed, may prevent new inward investment.”
SNP councillor Steven Paterson said any decision to scrap the showpiece event would be short-sighted.
He added: “Stirling’s Hogmanay celebration is a high-profile event that markets the city around the country boosting the local economy.
“As we look forward to the leading part Stirling can play in Scotland’s second year of Homecoming in 2014 – as we mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn – cutting such an important event sends out entirely the wrong signal.
“I acknowledge that there were problems with last year’s event, albeit mainly outwith the control of organisers, but we should be aiming to expand the range of events and across the New Year period.”
Backed by the Liberal Democrats, Tories called for the latest Hogmanay proposals to be debated at tomorrow’s full council meeting when the executive gathered last month.
At the time, Councillor Neil Benny said: “An expensive party catering for a tiny minority, and with a record of failure like this one, seems like throwing good money after bad.
“The SNP must remember that this is not our money. Taxpayers have a right to know what we are spending their money on.”
Councillor Paterson also said local residents are petitioning to keep the Stirling Castle Esplanade event.