Councillors take free Tattoo tickets despite ban

Councillors have enjoyed free tickets for the Tattoo. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

Councillors have enjoyed free tickets for the Tattoo. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

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FREE tickets to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo are being snapped up by councillors every year despite strict rules banning them from accepting “repeated hospitality”.

Sources claim complementary passes to the spectacular have been available at City Chambers “for decades”, with some councillors even tapping into colleagues’ allocation to entertain friends and family for free.

The VIP tickets grant access to the Royal Gallery and include a free glass of champagne and gourmet canapés. Each ticket would cost £85 at the box office and are among the best seats at Edinburgh Castle.

But union chiefs have railed against the practice that breaches the code of conduct strictly forbidding councillors from accepting “repeated hospitality or repeated gifts from the same source”.

In total, 34 councillors accepted the perk this year but only one – finance chief Alasdair Rankin – declared his Tattoo tickets on the council’s register of interests. The total value of the council’s allocation for this Tattoo run would be at least £5780.

While there is no suggestion of impropriety, the Tattoo enjoys a close relationship with City Chambers and organisers rely on councillors rubberstamping its entertainments licence each year.

The city provided Tattoo chiefs with £3 million in 2010 to help bankroll new grandstands and it leases offices to Tattoo chiefs.

John Stevenson, a spokesman for Unison Edinburgh – the largest staff union at Edinburgh City Council – said the free ticket tradition was another example of double standards for elected members.

“For people working in the council, who have been asked to take a one per cent pay increase this year on the back of effectively a pay cut, it will always seem to people that it’s one rule for the bosses and another for the workers,” he said.

“I don’t think there are many workers in the council who get free tickets for anything.”

In May, the Lord Provost’s office circulated a letter to councillors inviting them to apply for up to two complimentary tickets per person.

But the Evening News understands several obtained up to six free tickets in a single year – a face value of at least £510 – by using a colleague’s allocation as well as their own.

The Councillor’s Code of Conduct, which is governed by the Standards Commission for Scotland, has strict rules on accepting hospitality and also insists that “it is usually appropriate to refuse offers except isolated gifts of a trivial character, the value of which must not exceed £50.”

Sanctions for breaching the code range from a warning to being disqualified as a councillor – a move that bars a politician from standing for election for up to five years.

Hospitality tickets to the 
Tattoo are sold separately from regular seats, and promise the bearer “the best seat in the house” in the Royal Gallery.

Access to the Royal Gallery has a number of perks as standard, including a comfortable upholstered seat and a complimentary tartan wool blanket.

A full hospitality package, costing up to £570 per head, includes the option of a gourmet meal in a private dining suite.

The Lord Provost can invite up to 70 guests of his choosing each year, which can include other councillors.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The Edinburgh Military Tattoo allocates a number of tickets to elected members every year. All councillors are invited to apply for tickets on a first-come, first-served basis.”

A spokeswoman for the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland confirmed no complaint has so far been made and that no investigation was ongoing.