Underbelly director labels Hogmanay concerns from Edinburgh residents a 'red herring' and a 'mis-truth'

Co-founder of the events company said the vast majority of Edinburgh residents enjoy Hogmanay.

Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 12:00 pm
Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, founders of Underbelly (Photo: Jon Savage)

Underbelly co-founder and director Ed Bartlam has slammed criticism of the access process for residents during the Hogmanay street party as a "red herring and a mis-truth".

The event had been criticised for requiring residents to apply for wristbands to access their own homes, with a potential limit to numbers.

On their website, Underbelly had stated that residents would be "entitled to receive up to six resident passes" and a "reasonable number of additional access passes may be issued".

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The Torchlight Procession, run by Underbelly, is part of the Hogmanay festival (Photo: TSPL)

'Red herring and a mis-truth'

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Mr Bartlam accused critics of taking advantage of the controversy to make a political point.

He said: "This whole issue is a bit of a red herring and a mis-truth. This event has never prevented residents coming to their own properties.

"There has been a system in place which was a system created by the council and the previous operator of the contract years ago which obviously meant that residents that lived within the event arena had to have a wristband, as many as they needed for their household and that continues and now no-one is prevented from getting access.

"There is a wider conversation going on in Edinburgh at the moment around the impact of festivals and the vast majority of people in Edinburgh understand the cultural, social and economic benefit of amazing festivals like Hogmanay.

"There are some that feel that there are too many of these and are potentially using some suggestions of residents not being allowed access which is untrue as a way of pushing that view."

Hogmanay brings £40m to city, Underbelly boss claims

Council leader Adam McVey blamed "poor communication" for the controversy but faces a petition, signed by nearly 800 people, for his resignation over the farce.

Mr Bartlam added that only nine people had contacted Underbelly worried about a potential lack of passes, and claimed Hogmanay brings nearly £40m to the city in economic benefit.

He said: "Everyone can get a pass for the number of people in their property or people they want to have.

"I think that one has to look at the positives of events like Edinburgh's Hogmanay on the city and even in Scotland. It brings huge economic benefit to the city, £39.2m under the latest economic impact survey, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city, residents themselves enjoy the festival and the fireworks.

"I don't know if [the backlash] is against our business, we are here to deliver an event for Edinburgh City Council and we have to fulfil that contract. I feel we run events very well, we do them very well in London and in Edinburgh and I think there is a debate around impact.

"Edinburgh is an amazing city and quite a small city geographically so there clearly is an impact but one has to balance that impact against the wider benefits and the fact that the vast majority of locals in Edinburgh think that Hogmanay and indeed the festivals are a good thing both for them and for the city."