The row over the funding for this years relocated T In The Park festival intensified today, as the Scottish government’s culture secretary, Fiona Hyslop, was accused of treating Holyrood with contempt during a difficult committee hearing regarding her decision to give the festival £150,000 in state aid.
Fiona Hyslop approved the sum to help T In The Park move from its previous location at Balado airfield in Kinross to Strathallan Castle estate in Perthshire.
The festival was forced to move after safety concerns were raised about an oil pipe beneath the former festival site, and Hyslop defended the decision to award the £150,000 by stating festival organisers could be forced to leave Scotland due to the “severely reduced revenues” associated with moving the festival site.
I’m standing up for T in the Park. My interest is the economic interest of this country and the cultural offering we have got for generations of young people, and the development of the contemporary music scene in Scotland.
After the hearing, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur summed up the controversy surrounding the payment, saying:
We are still no closer to understanding why a profitable company received state aid, or whether all other revenue streams were exhausted, including from the event’s key sponsor, before seeking £150,000 of public money from the Scottish government.
The culture secretary’s go-to argument that festivals are important to the economy misses the point. Of course they are important, but so too is transparency in the way ministers act when handing out significant sums of public money.
That the Scottish government deemed it appropriate to release more than 600 pages of mostly redacted documents the night before the evidence session will lead many people to judge that ministers are treating parliament with contempt.