The man in charge of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has accused police leaders of setting up a charging regime for maintaining law and order at major events which amounts to “legalised racketeering”.
Brigadier David Allfrey has also called for an overhaul of how event organisers are being charged as he revealed he was having to fork out an average of £49 an hour for each officer on duty.
And he said his costs had soared by 168 per cent in the space of five years.
Allfrey said the Tattoo, which dates back to 1950 and sells more than 220,000 tickets each year, was effectively “subsidising the police” after being “over-charged” in recent years.
Allfrey, whose event is now estimated to be worth more than £100 million to the economy, has also warned that attempts to grow and expand the event were being hampered by its policing bill.
He has called for a “sensible” nationwide debate about the charging system, which has affected a number of music festivals, as well as Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.
He revealed the number of police covering the Tattoo had been reduced following negotiations with senior officers and after the introduction of a new system for charging for the use of officers for commercial events and festivals. Police Scotland works with organisers to decided on an appropriate number of officers, based on a charging system set up and reviewed regularly by the Scottish Police Authority.
However, Allfrey, who took over the running of the Tattoo seven years ago, has accused them of effectively “marking their own homework”.
He said: “My argument is that it is unreasonable to charge events and festivals anything more than any extra costs they are incurring. They shouldn’t be subsidising the police. This has all come about from the principle that if you are charging an entry fee you should be charged for public services. What needs to happen is a sensible debate between policy-makers and the events industry.
“I understand the need to balance police budgets but as a business we’re being encouraged to grow as an event and to contribute more to Scottish tourism. It is counter-intuitive to grow and then be charged more for public services because that inhibits growth.
“I’m not suggesting for a moment it is legalised racketeering but it amounts to pretty much the same thing. It’s effectively the police and the licensing authority marking their own homework which doesn’t seem to sit quite right.”
An SPA spokeswoman said: “We approved a policy in 2013 to recover the full costs of providing police services at commercial events, where the organiser, company or organisation may intend to make a profit. This brings consistency to previous diverse approaches taken in legacy forces, and ensures a level playing field across the country.”
Bernard Higgins, assistant chief constable at Police Scotland, said: “Where police services are provided for commercial events, organisers should expect to be charged for the full policing costs associated with the event. We will continue to work with event organisers to identify opportunities to minimise policing costs through alternative solutions without compromising the safety of the event.”