TITP: Letter demands Fiona Hyslop go before committee

CULTURE Secretary Fiona Hyslop is facing fresh calls to go back before a Holyrood committee, with opposition MSPs saying questions remain unanswered over a government grant of £150,000 to the T in the Park music festival.
Fiona Hyslop faces being recalled before a Holyrood committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish ParliamentFiona Hyslop faces being recalled before a Holyrood committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Fiona Hyslop faces being recalled before a Holyrood committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Opposition members on the Education and Culture Committee have written to convener Stewart Maxwell asking for the government minister to be recalled to answer further questions from MSPs.

They said they do not believe that the committee or parliament has been provided with “satisfactory and detailed responses to the questions that remain outstanding” following Ms Hyslop’s appearance before the committee on Tuesday.

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In the joint letter, Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur, the Conservatives’ Liz Smith, and John Pentland and Mark Griffin for Labour said: “The reasons behind the decision to grant £150,000 in state aid to a profitable music festival are of significant interest to both the committee and the public.

“We are not satisfied that it has been scrutinised to the extent required and to which the public would expect. We therefore request that the Cabinet Secretary be recalled to give evidence to the committee at the earliest opportunity.”

Accusations of “cronyism” have been made after the Culture Secretary approved the six-figure sum to help the event move to a new site.

She has faced questions over why the Scottish Government provided state aid to a profitable company with a major corporate sponsor, and over the role of former Scottish Government special adviser Jennifer Dempsie in facilitating key meetings.

During last week’s hearing, Ms Hyslop said T in the Park organisers had warned they could move out of Scotland unless they could address the “severely reduced revenues” associated with the festival’s relocation from Balado to Strathallan before the state aid was awarded.

In the letter to Mr Maxwell, the four MSPs called for answers from the minister to several questions, including whether all other revenue streams were exhausted before £150,000 of public money was sought and granted, what knowledge the Cabinet Secretary had regarding ticket sales, and the extent to which profitability comes into consideration when granting state aid to other major cultural events.

They also urged the Scottish Government to see what other documents can be released about the award, stating that “the publication of 600 pages of largely redacted documents just hours before the Committee met was wholly inadequate and demonstrated, we believe, contempt for Parliament”.

A spokesman for Ms Hyslop said: “The Education and Culture Committee’s busy remit covers a range of important issues such as school attainment and improving access to childcare - yet opposition parties seem more interested in pursuing conspiracy theories that have already been comprehensively refuted.

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“Ms Hyslop has already answered questions from the opposition for well over an hour on this and stayed on until no members had any questions left to ask.

“She has also answered questions on T in the Park both in writing and in the Scottish Parliament chamber, as well as publishing over 600 pages of relevant documents.

“The reality is that the opposition have nothing positive to offer, and whilst they play partisan politics we will get on with the job of improving education and supporting our cultural industries.”