Smaller stands set to be built for scaled-back Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is set to go ahead in a scaled-back arena this August.

By Brian Ferguson
Sunday, 16th May 2021, 5:17 pm
Updated Sunday, 16th May 2021, 11:45 pm

Work is set to begin within weeks on Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade on temporary structures for socially-distanced audiences at the world-famous event.

The arena normally erected for the three-week event normally has a capacity of around 8,800 for each performance.

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Councillors are this week expected to agree a recommendation from officials for the planning rules to be relaxed over temporary structures during its summer festival season, after the Scottish Government urged leniency from local authorities to aid economic recovery.

An official report for the city council states the Tattoo is planning to use “smaller stands in same location as stands that are substantially erected and removed each year and which already benefit from planning permission”.

Tickets for this year’s Tattoo have been on sale since October last year, before new lockdown restrictions were introduced. Live events have only been given permission to resume in Scotland from this week, with organisers told to enforce two metre social distancing on audiences.

Tattoo chiefs told the Scottish Parliament at the start of the year they would need to know what guidance would be in place for the event by mid-May.

The Tattoo has been staged at Edinburgh Castle esplanade since 1950. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Under the latest guidance for the event industry, outdoor events for up to 2,000 socially-distanced spectators are expected to be allowed by the end of June. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last week announced that a review of future distancing restrictions would be carried out by June 7.

The government has yet to set out detailed guidelines for events due to be staged later in the summer, but applications for crowds higher than 2,000 can be pursued for events held after the end of June.

It is understood the Tattoo has been designated an “internationally significant flagship event”, which allows for crowds of more than 5,000 to be approved before restrictions have been eased.

This process has already been used to ensure European Championship football matches at Hampden Park in Glasgow could be agreed before a crucial deadline set by the tournament organisers. Up to 12,000 fans are expected to be at each of the four matches at the stadium next month.

Around 217,000 spectators normally attend the Tattoo each year. Picture: Ian Georgeson

In its submission for MSPs, the Tattoo said: “We believe that the esplanade has the potential, perhaps uniquely, to focus the creative renaissance of the city, offering a safe space as a venue for all manner of other performances.

“If the Scottish Government and the council judge that live events can be conducted safely at scale, we will be prepared confidently to execute the Tattoo as a rousing and highly symbolic step toward normality and welcome others to showcase with us.”

The council report, by director of place Paul Lawrence, states: “The Edinburgh festivals are key to the city’s international reputation, its economy and its recovery.

“Operators have been exploring options for how the summer festivals could be held in 2021 on a limited basis and subject to government public health guidelines.

"The timescales for preparing and determining applications, coupled with the uncertainties over what public health requirements will be in place when the festivals will be held, mean that it is difficult to plan.

"If planning applications are required, the timescales are such that it could stop the reintroduction of core elements of the summer festivals this year.”

A spokesman for the Tattoo said: “We’re in constant conversation with the Scottish Government and all of our relevant stakeholders as we continue to explore how to safely and confidently deliver a live show this August. We will, of course, keep everyone updated.”

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