Min­is­ter was warned of ‘lim­ited scope’ to hand money to T in the Park

Dossier re­veals of­fi­cials’ con­cerns over £150,000 grant

Scottish Daily Mail - - Labour In Brighton - By Alan Ro­den Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Editor

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

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