Hyslop defends T in the Park cash decision

Fiona Hyslop MSP faced tough questions at the Scottish Parliament
Fiona Hyslop MSP faced tough questions at the Scottish Parliament

Fiona Hyslop has defended her decision to pay “state aid” to musical festival organisers and has avoided facing more questions from MSPs.

The Linlithgow MSP and Culture Secretary came under scrutiny for handing £150,000 of public money to DF Concerts after its move from Balado to Strathallan.

Opposition MSPs on the committee demanded that she was recalled as she had provided “unsatisfactory answers” on issues like ticket sales but this was rejected by the SNP majority on the committee on Tuesday.

Committee convener, Stewart Maxwell said: “After a discussion at today’s committee meeting, the committee unanimously agreed to follow its normal practice and follow up the evidence session with the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs in writing.

“This letter will be issued today and we will await the Cabinet Secretary’s response.”

The controversial payment hit the headlines after it emerged that former SNP advisor Jennifer Dempsie had set up the meeting which resulted in the grant being handed over.

Company accounts showed the firm had paid shareholder dividends of £5 million in a year of record profits of £6.2m, despite extra costs of moving to a new site in Strathallan in Perthshire.

Ms Hyslop said that although she was aware the company was profitable overall, DF Concerts had threatened it could pull the music festival from Scotland if it did not turn a profit at its new home in Perthshire.

The grant from the Scottish Government, described as “state aid”, was handed over to “help ensure the successful transition” of the event to its new site after safety fears were raised about an underground oil pipe in Balado.

She also pointed to funding given to other events such as the Mobos and the MTV awards.

She said: “The issue was about the profitability of the event rather than the company.

“It is very important that we keep T in the Park as a multi-stage, multi-day festival.

“If for the profits of that company it was moved to a single-stage, single-day event or indeed potentially moved out of Scotland, it would have put the T in the Park that we know in question. That is what was put to us.”

Scottish Conservative culture spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP said: “The Scottish Government still have a lot of explaining to do surrounding the criteria by which £150,000 of taxpayers’ money was given to a successful and profit-making company.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said it was “not unusual” for the government to support major events.