Homecoming 2014: ‘Organisers must do better’

A committee of MSPs want to see improvememnts in the Homecoming plans. Picture: Jayne Wright
A committee of MSPs want to see improvememnts in the Homecoming plans. Picture: Jayne Wright
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A COMMITTEE of MSPs today called for a greater marketing effort for next year’s Homecoming celebrations in the wake of the fiasco of the 2009 Gathering in Edinburgh.

A repeat Gathering, titled Clans 2014, planned for Stirling, has been scrapped amid projected losses of £250,000.

Now the Scottish Parliament’s economy and tourism committee has sounded a warning note over the scaled-down substitute, an expansion of the 700th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Bannockburn to include a clan village and larger programme of events.

It said the Bannockburn event, organised by the National Trust for Scotland and scheduled for June 28-30, is unlikely to attract the same level of North American visitors as the 2009 Gathering because the “lead-in” time fell short of the two years thought to be necessary to attract overseas clan members.

The report also pointed out that 75 per cent of tickets had to be sold for each of the three days of the event to break even.

Committee convener, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said effective marketing was crucial if Bannockburn was to be a success. “We also need greater focus on marketing the additional Homecoming 2014 events throughout Scotland to international tourists to maximise the benefits of these visitors to the Scottish economy.”

The 2009 Gathering attracted 47,000 visitors and was said to have generated £8 million for the Edinburgh economy.

But it resulted in a loss of around £700,000 of public money and left more than 100 small businesses out of pocket.

The event, in Holyrood Park in July 2009, was given a £180,000 government loan but collapsed with debts of about £516,000 and the loan was written off.

Following liquidation of The Gathering 2009 Ltd, Stirling Council purchased the intellectual property rights to the event – once valued at £100,000 – for £6000 and planned to host a similar event in 2014.

But in October last year, the council and the Scottish Government agreed to cancel the event because of the projected losses. Instead, they agreed to add an extra day to the Bannockburn celebrations to “avoid the financial and reputational risks” of scrapping the event without putting anything in its place.

In today’s report, the committee requested a progress update from VisitScotland early next year and, after the event, a copy of the post-evaluation report and information on any plans for future Gathering-type events.