UK minister pledges to look for solution on Edinburgh festival visas

Deidre Brock says political will is needed to find a solution
Deidre Brock says political will is needed to find a solution
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A PROMISE by the UK Government to look at what can be done about visa refusals and delays affecting Edinburgh festival performers has been hailed as a step forward.

Edinburgh North and Leith SNP MP Deidre Brock welcomed the undertaking by Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes which she made at a meeting with festival organisers. But Mr Brock warned political will was needed to ensure a solution.

Last month Edinburgh Pentlands SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald called for “cultural passports” as a way to overcome problems with performers being refused entry to the country.

And the Edinburgh International Book Festival has warned it faces losing out on international authors unless it can resolve mounting problems securing visas for them.

Ms Brock said last week’s meeting between Ms Noakes and Julia Amour and Sorcha Carey, director and chair of umbrella body Festivals Edinburgh, been useful.

She said: “The problems that Edinburgh’s festivals have had with getting visas for international performers have been well documented. Every year we have events cancelled or delayed because visas have been refused or are taking too long to process and last year directors from 25 festivals across the UK penned a joint letter to the UK Government asking for action.

“I managed to get Caroline Noakes to sit down with a couple of representatives of Edinburgh’s festivals to discuss these issues and I was pleased to hear her tell them that she was looking at what can be done. It’s always the case, of course, that actions speak louder than words in politics and we’ve still to see what she’ll actually do but she was, at least, listening to the problem and that’s a step forward.”

Ms Amour said: “The Festivals are working with agencies, parliamentarians and governments to shape policy at both Scottish and UK level, including Caroline Noakes, helping to find solutions to recurring problems with complex visa rules that can deter artists from accepting our invitations and threaten the free flow of culture and ideas at a time when the country needs to be even more globally engaged.”