Minister was warned of ‘limited scope’ to hand money to T in the Park
Dossier reveals officials’ concerns over £150,000 grant
GOVERNMENT officials privately admitted there was ‘limited scope’ to hand taxpayers’ cash to the hugely profitable firm behind T in the Park, a dossier has revealed.
The Scottish Daily Mail last night secured access to more than 600 pages of emails and documents relating to the decision to award DF Concerts a £150,000 grant ahead of the event.
The release under the Freedom of Information Act, nearly a month overdue, comes as Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop prepares to face one of the toughest tests of her career when MSPs grill her on the scandal today.
DF Concerts (DFC) has consistently recorded pre-tax profits of more than £4.5million. But a former top aide to Alex Salmond, SNP activist Jennifer Dempsie who was employed by DFC, has faced criticism after she set up a meeting between the company and Miss Hyslop that led to the £150,000 grant. The Mail can reveal:
Government officials had sight of DFC accounts and knew how profitable the company was.
DFC managed to secure access to Miss Hyslop at the SNP spring conference.
Miss Dempsie was originally due to attend the key meeting between Miss Hys- lop and concert organiser Geoff Ellis.
Miss Hyslop was offered free tickets to T in the Park while the grant was being considered but chose not to attend.
The Scottish Government has decided to block the publication of vast swathes of information relating to the decision, including financial details about DFC.
Miss Dempsie was hired as a project manager to help with the event’s move from Balado, Kinross-shire, to Strathallan, Perthshire. The grant was made to aid this.
The Holyrood committee set to examine the deal today will not be able to apply any direct sanction on Miss Hyslop but opposition parties are expected to put her under pressure.
Labour MSP John Pentland said she must ‘ come clean’, adding: ‘At a time when the SNP is slashing the budget for local services, people will find it hard to understand how such a successful company needs £150,000 from the taxpayer.’
The dossier includes a ‘sensi-
‘Culture Secretary must come clean’
tive’ memo for Miss Hyslop, written by officials, ahead of her meeting with Mr Ellis on May 28. It states: ‘Ministers are aware of... the challenges DFC has faced in its transition from the Balado site to Strathallan.
‘T in The Park is a profitable commercial festival and as such, under normal circumstances there is limited scope for public financial support.’
However, much of the document has been redacted.
Meanwhile, an email reveals that Miss Hyslop ‘indicated’ during the meeting that ‘she had some sympathies’ with the challenges and costs DFC faced in the relocation.
Miss Dempsie originally planned to attend the meeting along with Mr Ellis, but ultimately did not do so. In an email in April, she wrote: ‘We caught up with Fiona at SNP conference but a lot has happened since then and [it] would be good to touch base.’
Mr Ellis wrote to Miss Hyslop on June 18, asking her to attend T in the Park but she turned down the invitation. The Culture Secretary agreed to the grant on June 26 and it was paid on July 24, after the concert had taken place.
Miss Hyslop said the award was ‘in line’ with cash given to other major events and met the Government’s ‘firm commitment to openness and transparency... in accordance with state aid rules’.
A Scottish Government spokesman said the ‘successful’ cultural event generated £15.4million for Scotland last year, and t he grant was ‘invested’ to ‘support its relocation and secure its future’.
Negotiations: SNP activist Jennifer Dempsie
Relocation: T in the Park was staged at Strathallan, Perthshire, for the first time
Redacted: A document obtained by the Mail
Fiona Hyslop: Faces a grilling today