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Council agrees to charge for the Red Hot Highland Fling this Hogmanay

By Scott Maclennan

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Fireworks at the New Year Red Hot Highland Fling 2019-2020. Picture: James MacKenzie.
Fireworks at the New Year Red Hot Highland Fling 2019-2020. Picture: James MacKenzie.

Inverness councillors have just agreed to charge a £10 entrance to this New Year’s Red Hot Highland Fling

Critics warned against the plan claiming that it could lead to the demise of the event because of the sharp downturn in attendees since Covid.

The events and festivals working group made the decision citing the need to balance the budget and to pay for the rest of the year’s "highly popular" programme.

But attendances in recent years have dwindled from a high of around 15,000 to somewhere between 2500-3000 people who went along to last year’s free but ticket-only event.

So the concern is what sort of numbers would come through the gate on Hogmanay if they had to £10 per person when demand appears to be dwindling fast even when the night was free of charge.

It is supported by the Inverness common good fund alongside the Inverness Highland Games, Bonfire Night and Christmas light switch-on.

At bottom, there is the 40 per cent cut in funding from £303,000 for 2022/23 to £177,000 for the events programme.

The available budget is currently £141,000 but that includes £50,000 of anticipated revenue from ticket sales from the Red Hot Highland Fling which costs £97,000.

Bonfire Night costs £36,000 and the Christmas lights switch-on is £8000. As reported earlier this month, an annual Halloween event has been cut altogether.

The official report claimed that the Highland Games at Bught Park was “highly successful” but cost £122,945 but only brought in £88,876 – so it made a loss of £34,069.

Reducing risk to the common good fund

Leader of Inverness Councillor Ian Brown said: “The events and festivals programme is very popular with locals and tourists and to maintain delivery of the events - within the context of a reduced budget – entry charges will help to sustain the delivery of the programme while reducing the risk to the Inverness Common Good Fund.”

Chair of the events and festivals working group Cllr Glynis Campbell Sinclair said: “With the delivery of a highly successful Inverness Highland Games on 15 July at which over 5,000 people attended, the Highland Games income was greatly enhanced through sponsorship and promotion, and we hope to attract high quality sponsorship partners to the Red Hot Highland Fling.

"Similar to the modest charge introduced at the Inverness Highland Games this year, there will be a charge for entry to the Red Hot Highland Fling.

"However, I am absolutely sure that Hogmanay revellers will enjoy our fun filled, but traditional programme to see out the ‘Auld Year’ and to bring in 2024.

“Planning within the available budget, the working group has had to prioritise and rationalise the events programme, resulting in the removal of the Halloween event from the programme this year.

"The working group recognised and prioritised – with the support of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service – the importance of providing a single mass community civic bonfire and fireworks events in November to help reduce public risk from small unofficial bonfires and fireworks displays.

"The working group also endorsed the significant economic benefits to the area from the Christmas lights switch on and Hogmanay events.”

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