A Scottish Government Minister has vowed to do all she can to protect the Scottish events industry against the headwinds of Brexit and dwindling financial resources.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, has said she will fight to retain Scotland’s place in Europe and to minimise any disruption caused by the vote to Leave the EU.
Speaking at the National Events Conference on Monday in Glasgow, she said: “Many of you will also be concerned about the impact of Brexit on the events industry; you may have staff from across the EU or count on European visitors attending your event. So let me reassure you that the Scottish Government is committed to protecting Scotland’s place in Europe and working with industry to secure the best possible outcomes for our economy and for the people of Scotland.”
Hyslop re-iterated concerns she raised at the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s annual conference earlier this year; the events sector and tourism are both closely linked – in terms of reliance on a large number of EU nationals. The future of EU citizens in the UK was made clearer by Prime Minister last month after she announced plans for EU citizens who have been resident in the country for five years to be granted ‘settled status’ – which will grant them the same rights as British citizens after Brexit.
Hyslop also pointed towards security fears around the events industry following the devastating terror attack on the Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande pop concert in May. And she raised concerns about the financial pressures on government resources, which she said is forcing the industry to be more innovative in the way it delivers events.
“While we have a strong pipeline of events to look forward to in the coming years there are financial constraints facing both the public and private sectors, so we will need to innovate, bring new ideas and work in new collaborations if we are to build on the current strengths of the events industry in Scotland,” she added.
“So, yes there are challenges but we can look back with pride on a year packed full of highlights for the events industry in Scotland, a year that has shown so well how you are all meeting those challenges.”
Hyslop was speaking at the Technology Innovation Centre in Glasgow to an audience of 300 events professionals who gathered for the bi-annual National Events Conference – at which key industry themes, trends and concerns emerge.
Ms Hyslop said she was pleased to look forward to the next themed year – Scotland’s Year of Young People – which kicks off on January 1. That theme was tied neatly into the overall content for the day which saw how the Millennials generation was positively impacting on the events industry.
She said: “Looking ahead I’m very, very excited about 2018. Scotland will see a world first with the Year of Young People. A full year has been dedicated to recognising and celebrating the important contribution that children and young people make to our country. The year will celebrate their achievement, value their contribution to communities and create new opportunities for them to shine locally, nationally and globally. We also want to make sure that young people are at the heart of everything we do for the year to ensure that everyone is on board with the co-design ethos, to design with and by young people and I want to continue to engage with children and young people as early as possible when planning activities and events.”
Young people have emerged as a key target group for VisitScotland to attract to the country and a video commissioned by the national tourism agency – featuring a race between two young free-runners and two cyclists in Edinburgh – went viral, reaching more than 2m viewers, after being released last Friday.
Hyslop, a former marketer herself, mentioned the upcoming European multi-sport championships – Glasgow 2018 – in the city in August next year, and also the Year of Young People, as being important markers in event terms which could help build a new younger audience for Scottish events; research shared at the conference indicated that Scotland’s overseas visitor profile is on the more ‘mature’ spectrum.
She said: “We want to build on that strong legacy of a major event as we invest to create a more inclusive society for all. With the Year of Young People and the European Championships, that’s a great opportunity for us; and we want to showcase Scotland not just to be the best place to be brought up in, and to live in for young people, but also to come to in terms of tourism and events. This is an opportunity to do something that I’m not sure any country has ever done before which is if we all focus and concentrate on what we want to say about our country internationally, to young people, and we want to make sure that those young people come to Scotland and to see that this is a place if I come to that they value young people – they have events and activities for young people helping them to feel welcome. Wouldn’t it be fantastic in terms of innovation and new approach if we can be a country that people want to visit if they are in their 20s and 30s. It’s a great opportunity for us and it’s something we should embrace and grab.”