Council funding for West Lothian gala season questioned by Linlithgow councillor

A senior West Lothian councillor has questioned whether the council should be funding any community festivals for 2021 amid the ongoing restrictions.

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 5:00 am
18-06-2019. Picture Michael Gillen. LINLITHGOW. Linlithgow Marches 2019.

The Covid lockdown has led some communities to scrap galas for a second year running, including Linlithgow Marches.

Councillor Tom Conn first raised the issue almost a year ago – just a few days before the first lockdown was announced.

He told a meeting of the same committee – the Voluntary Organisations Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel- last week: ”I think we all want our communities to get back to normal, but at the moment we have got a situation, and we need to make a decision now. Before events overtake us again.”

Councillor Conn, who represents Linlithgow, suggested that the committee should take account of the fact that a lot of community groups are now at the stage where they are thinking about events in the early summer.

He said: “The First Minister is basically saying don’t go on summer holidays, don’t go away and mix with people. We have community events which will attract people and attract people in from other communities at a time when there is still a need for a social bubble.

“Do we make grants available? We may well then be putting money into an event that could possibly be the cause of a spike in Covid in a community, or the wider community.

“I think we need to seriously think about how we’re approaching gala day grants. And I think we best do it before the season starts, so that we are clear as to what we are saying to organisers of events.”

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Kirsteen Sullivan acknowledged that Councillor Conn had raised the issue a year ago, and she agreed there needed to be a consistent approach. Regeneration Team Leader Dougie Grierson had told the meeting that “anecdotally” he had heard of some galas not going ahead, and that a decision would have to be taken about the annual funding package.

Head of Planning and Economic Development, Craig McCorriston reminded that committee that it was not empowered to take decisions on funding. These would have to be made by either the council’s Executive or by a meeting of the full council.

Mr McCorriston said: “ I don’t disagree with anything Councillor Conn has said.”

He added that it was important to make the distinction between the decisions that would be made by community groups on whether to hold gala days and decisions on funding that would be made by the council.

“The only thing we could do would be advise. The decisions are for community groups themselves.

"We would need to be very careful that if funding is available it is not seen as to encourage public events just because the money is available.”