Hogmanay cancellation fears as Ross Bandstand considered for Covid testing centre

Talks have been taking place about using the Ross bandstand in Princes Street Gardens as a testing centre for people with symptoms of Covid.

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But council chiefs are expected to rule out the move amid fears it would force the cancellation of key events, including Hogmanay celebrations.

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The UK government is looking for a new venue to replace the Usher Hall which has been used as a test centre since February, but is now about to reopen its doors to concert-goers.

The Ross bandstand in Princes Street Gardens Picture Lisa Ferguson

The new centre would begin operating in September and run indefinitely.

The government said it was local councils who put forward the venues for test centres.

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Culture Secretary and Edinburgh Central MSP Angus Robertson is among those who have voiced concern over the idea of using the Ross bandstand.

In a letter he said if the test centre went ahead in Princes Street Gardens it would mean plans by Fly, Scotland's largest youth music brand, to run events in September for 4,000 young people would have to be scrapped and the viability of the Edinburgh-based business would be threatened.

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He added: "Using this cultural space would also prevent other events from going ahead over the next six months."

Unavailability of the Ross bandstand could hit any plans to stage Hogmanay celebrations this year.

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Depute council leader Cammy Day said he did not believe the Ross bandstand was the right place for a test centre.

He said: "Our preferred venue was the Assembly Rooms, but the government has to pay for any loss of business and they weren't prepared to pay the level of costs we needed to cover because we would have had to cancel events.

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"Other venues were looked at, but there are also pressures with the bandstand because there are events planned which would again have to be cancelled.

"I think that's wrong because these events have not been able to happen for the last year and a half or more - and they were gearing up to use the bandstand for the Fly Festival, for example, and we would have to be cancelling that.

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"Taking the Ross bandstand out of action for the rest of the year is not a particularly helpful move, nor do I think it's the right place to put a testing centre."

A source said empty shop units on Princes Street had been suggested for the test centre but the government was not willing to pay a commercial rent.

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A UK Government spokesperson said: "Proposals are being considered for a test site at Ross bandstand but a decision is yet to be made.

"The specific location of testing sites is chosen by the relevant local authority in the area, not the UK Government's Department of Health and Social Care.

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"We are opening new test sites across the UK each day. These sites are set up in locations where there is the greatest need and where we can reach as many people in the area as possible."

It is understood a formal decision is due to be taken next week and the council is expected to confirm the Ross bandstand will not be used as a test centre.

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A council spokesperson said: “We are currently in discussion with the UK Government and NHS to help them identify a suitable alternative site to the Usher Hall for a symptomatic test centre in the city centre as we get ready to welcome audiences back to live performances at the Hall in the coming weeks.”

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