AN international tartan festival that had been officially endorsed by VisitScotland has been cancelled at the last minute, leading to fears that exhibitors will lose out on thousands of pounds.
The Homecoming Scotland 2014 event, supported by the national tourism body, had been due to take place at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow today and tomorrow.
However, a message posted on Facebook yesterday said it had been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. The decision was greeted with dismay by exhibitors, some of whom had paid up to £1000 to display their designs for visitors.
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Melanie Grieve, a milliner from Edinburgh, said she had been working until 2am for several weeks to have her designs ready. The teacher paid £500 for a place at the festival and said she had been left £2500 out of pocket.
She added: "I thought it was an opportunity to make a big impact and to launch the business properly. It looked amazing, they had a promo video done and it had all these huge sponsors. It was marketed as this huge thing for Scotland. I'm gutted to have been ripped off.
"I called the hotel and they said the organiser had cancelled by email at 12 o'clock. People were allowed to set up on Friday so they've had to be turned away."
Event organiser Azra Mansha claimed that the festival had been sabotaged by former associates, leading to key sponsors pulling out and a deluge of cancellations from those taking part.
Ms Mansha said that the number of exhibitors had fallen from 32 to 11 in recent days and key investors had pulled out.
She has also appealed to Homecoming Scotland and the Scottish Government for emergency funding.
She pledged to help exhibitors who were left out of pocket but said those who had already pulled out would not get their money back. "I've worked really hard for the last 18 months on this," she said. "I'm heartbroken at what's happened. I've fought tooth and nail to create something and I feel like I've been punched in the face."