THOUSANDS of revellers from across the globe are expected to join Scots across the country tonight as Scotland gears up for Hogmanay celebrations that are estimated to be worth a £32 million spin-off for the economy.
In Edinburgh, the countdown to the New Year kicked off last night with the now traditional torchlit procession through the city centre.
The recent wild weather is forecast to clear up by this evening ahead of the capital’s main events: concerts and a series of hourly fireworks displays, starting at 9pm and continuing to midnight.
In Stonehaven, the annual fireball swinging parade is due to go ahead tonight in a bid to bring much-needed cheer and financial support for residents whose homes were flooded just before Christmas.
Stonehaven Fireballs Association chairwoman Susan Leiper said: “We want people to be generous because this is a free event and the poor people here have been gubbed for the second time in three years [by bad weather].
“There are skips in the town which are still overloaded with mattresses, carpets and personal belongings. We wouldn’t have held the event if people thought it was insensitive. But everyone was saying ‘We need something to lift us, let’s crack on’, so we have.
“We’re hoping to give people a good show, and I think the weather is not going to be too bad to us, which will be nice.”
Around 8,500 people are expected to descend on the Aberdeenshire town to watch nearly 50 swingers flinging fireballs around their heads. A separate Hogmanay celebration in Stonehaven, which was cancelled in 2011 through lack of support, is a sell-out this year.
Open Air in the Square will bring thousands more revellers to the Market Square where Scottish musicians the Red Hot Chilli Pipers and Blazin’ Fiddles will perform.
The three-day celebration in Edinburgh – the 20th anniversary of the capital’s famous street party – is expected to attract more than 100,000 people.
Visitors from 55 countries have bought tickets. Band appeared on five stages in the city centre include Simple Minds, who are headlining the Princes Street Gardens Concert, The Maccabees and Admiral Fallow.
About 300 police officers and 500 stewards will patrol the event, which is expected to generate more than £27m for Edinburgh’s economy. The total financial boost for the whole of Scotland is being put at £32m.
Inverness is hosting what Highland Council claims is Scotland’s largest free Hogmanay party, with a five-hour family-friendly extravaganza headlined by Scottish band Big Country performing after fellow Scottish group Skerryvore. Called the Red Hot Highland Fling, it will be hosted by comedian Craig Hill and is being filmed by BBC Alba and BBC Scotland.
In Stirling, The Proclaimers will entertain revellers as they see out 2012 against the backdrop of the castle.
Another dazzling fireworks display at the Bells is set to light up the skies over Aberdeen.
The display, from the roof of His Majesty’s Theatre, will last for about 15 minutes, with the best views said to be from Union Bridge, Union Terrace, Black-friars Street and Schoolhill.
In Glasgow, there will be no official celebrations at the Bells for the second year running after the council scrapped its annual midnight events in 2011.
Instead, people in the city will be entertained with a family-friendly programme called Hogmanayday!, beginning at noon today with street theatre performers in George Square.
Other events during the ten-hour celebration of Scottish music, food and drink include Highland dancing, pipe and ceilidh bands, as well as a less-than-traditional “Kilted Caricaturist”.
Defending its programme, a spokesman for Glasgow City Council said it had been a “successful” approach last year.
He added: “We took the decision to concentrate our Hog- manay activities on events for families during the day and in the evenings, and supporting bars and restaurants at midnight.”
The Scottish islands have traditionally been a stronghold of lengthy Hogmanay celebrations, and on Orkney, hardier revellers will brave the elements tomorrow to witness, or take part in, the annual New Year’s Day Ba’ Game.
Viewed as the ultimate hangover cure, the game sees a scrimmage of men battling for possession of a ball through the streets of Kirkwall.
High winds yesterday disrupted several Scottish ferry sailings, including the service between the mainland and Arran, but it is hoped normal services would resume today.