Music industry pleads for more certainty on lifting restrictions as date is set for awards 'celebration' in Edinburgh

Music industry leaders have urged the Scottish Government to stick to its timetable for lifting restrictions on venues – as they revealed plans to stage their annual awards showcase before a capacity crowd in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall in the autumn.

By Brian Ferguson
Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 7:00 pm
The Usher Hall will be hosting the Scottish Album of the Year Award ceremony on 23 October. Picture: Clark James
The Usher Hall will be hosting the Scottish Album of the Year Award ceremony on 23 October. Picture: Clark James

Organisers hope the Scottish Album of the Year title will be a “celebration” of the revival of the sector when it is staged at the venue in October, with new awards to recognise a classic Scottish album and to help one of the country’s rising music stars make their debut album.

All contenders for the £20,000 prize, won last year by Leith-based rapper Nova, will be albums released over the course of 12 months when restrictions were in place – including work made during lockdown restrictions.

However the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA), which has launched the competition for the 10th time, has urged the government to give stronger assurances that physical distancing restrictions on audiences will be lifted over the summer.

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Under the Scottish Government’s proposed timetable, venues will finally be allowed to operate with the same distancing restrictions as bars and restaurants on 19 July and without any distancing restrictions at all on 9 August.

However Scotland’s national clinical director, Professor Jason Leitch, warned at the weekend that the dates were only “indicative” and insisted that the final decisions on whether to press ahead would depend on the impact of the vaccine roll-out and possible Covid “hotspots.”

DF Concerts chief executive Geoff Ellis, director of Glasgow’s TRNSMT festival, said the messaging from the government gave music fans “no confidence” that they would be able to see their favourite bands this summer and “cast doubt” that large events and festivals would be allowed at all this year.

SMIA creative projects director Robert Kilpatrick said: “It does feel like we’re finally on the road to recovery and restart.

Rapper Nova was crowned the youngest ever winner of the Scottish Album of the Year title last year.

“The one thing the pandemic has taught us is that nothing can be certain. But if the government is going to give us dates we need a sense of confidence and assurance around them and for it not to undermine them after they’ve been set.

“It’s really important for rebuilding consumer confidence and allowing planning and preparation time that there’s a firm commitment and understanding that those are the dates we’re working to and don’t seem tokenistic.

“The industry has been saying for months that it’s completely impossible for venues to reopen with physical distancing in place. Without them being lifted, many businesses will struggle to continue weathering the storm.

“It’s realistic for us all to think that these dates are based on things going to plan, but casting doubt ahead of anything showing those dates are not going to be possible is an impossible situation for the industry to deal with.”

The Usher Hall has been closed to the public since last March.

The government has been criticised for giving the green light to a football fanzone on Glasgow Green which does not have to operate under the tight distancing and crowd capacity restrictions imposed on live music events.

Mr Kilpatrick added: “There’s definitely a frustration over why there doesn’t seem to be a like-for-like situation between sport and culture. It’s something that needs rectified. There has to be a strong commitment and understanding over the challenges facing the live events sector, given that it’s not seeing a sense of parity.”

Nominations for this year's Scottish Album of the Year Award close on 22 July.