By Kristy Dorsey

Music promoter Geoff Ellis has blasted what he called the Scottish Government’s “project fear” approach to handling the pandemic while calling for a firm date when Scotland can drop social distancing measures that have crippled the industry.

The chief executive of DF Concerts also said he is “supremely confident” that Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival will go ahead in September. He further revealed that he is working on putting together at least three new events that will take place in 2022, which he predicted will be “one of the busiest on record” for Scotland.

Speaking at a virtual event organised by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Mr Ellis warned that Scotland is losing out to England, where June 21 has been given as the most likely date when social distancing will end. No such date has been given in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government think that the UK Government will fall on its face, that’s obvious and we all know that,” he said. “However, they have the confidence in England so even if there was a delay for a couple of weeks, even if other caveats come into play, the confidence is there.

“So what we are seeing is we are seeing artists, we are seeing suppliers taking work in England and not in Scotland because they can get the commitments in England post-June 21 that do not exist in Scotland. Conferences are moving to England because they can get assurances that they can take place in October, November December – those assurances nobody can give in Scotland.”

Although the massive Glastonbury Festival has been cancelled for a second year, tickets to events such as Manchester’s Parklife, Creamfields and the Reading and Leeds Festivals have sold out in record time with “record sales north of the Border”. By contrast, tickets sales in Scotland remain sluggish because of what Mr Ellis described as “project fear” led by National Clinical Director Jason Leitch.

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“In England, nightclubs have hope for re-opening,” he said. “In Scotland, not only do they not have hope of a date for re-opening, but they’re constantly referred to by Jason Leitch as dark, dingy basements.

“That’s not on, it’s not acceptable. A public official should not be saying that, should not be painting such a bleak picture of aspects of our events industry.”

He added: "We're not allowed to hope, we're not allowed to dream, we can't plan for any events without social distancing. Scotland needs that confidence, we need a four nations approach – it's essential because businesses are suffering unnecessarily."

The TRNSMT boss said he expects that once the UK Government confirms the date for lifting social distancing in England, Scotland will follow with its own date for two weeks thereafter. To do otherwise would not be rational, he explained, particularly when there are no restrictions on people travelling between England and Scotland.

“I think it would be completely unacceptable, but I also think it’s very untenable that Reading Festival could be going on with 90,000 people, most of them camping, with no social distancing, and us not allowed to do an event at the Hydro, or an event at the Royal Concert Hall for 2,000 people,” Mr Ellis said. “I don’t think the Scottish public would accept that.”

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He said he is “supremely confident” that TRNSMT – headlined by The Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and The Chemical Brothers – will take place this year at Glasgow Green. However, some type of Covid status certification will likely be required for those wanting to attend.

He said he is even more reassured about the situation next year, by which time the crucial issue of underwriting insurance for large events should hopefully be settled.

Mr Ellis had hoped to launch another festival “not on the scale of TRNSMT” this year, but those plans have been pushed back to 2022: “It’s going to be a bit of a refresh on a previous festival I’ve done in the past, so I’m very excited about that.”

He is also working on a couple of new smaller events for next year, one catering to about 7,000 and the other approximately 10,000 people. Meanwhile, “a lot of shows” originally meant to take place in 2020 – such as Green Day, Guns N Roses and The Killers – have also been moved to 2022.

“I know from trying to get dates at Murrayfield and Hampden as well, it’s going to be very, very busy next year,” Mr Ellis said. “There’s a lot to be announced, big event-wise, big festival, big outdoor concert-wise, so it’s probably going to be one of the busiest years on record for Scotland in 2022, and 2023 is looking very strong too.”