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Would you pay a tenner to get into this New Year’s Red Hot Highland Fling?

By Scott Maclennan

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The last Red Hot Highland Fling attracted between 3500 and 5000 people, down from a high of 15,000.
The last Red Hot Highland Fling attracted between 3500 and 5000 people, down from a high of 15,000.

Inverness councillors will be asked to charge a £10 entrance fee to this New Year’s Red Hot Highland Fling prompting critics to say it may lead to the demise of the event.

Already subsidised by the Inverness Common Good Fund, the traditionally free Hogmanay gathering has often attracted between 10,000 and 15,000 revellers but in its first outing since Covid last year just 5069 tickets were issued and it was attended by just 2500-3000 people.

Now due to a 40 per cent cut in funding from £303,000 for 2022/23 to £177,000 for its events programme – which also includes last month’s Inverness Highland Games, a civic bonfire in November and a Christmas light switch-on – Highland Council’s Inverness and area committee will be asked to charge an entrance fee of £10 in order to balance the books.

The events and festivals working group, which deputy Inverness Provost Morven Reid has just resigned from, made the decision which city councillors will be asked to endorse next week.

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 left out.

Councillors will be told that the Highland Games which the council says was “delivered successfully” cost a total of £122,945 to stage at Bught Park but only brought in £88,876 – so it made a loss of £34,069.

The council’s Inverness city manager David Haas said: “Since the delivery of the Highland Games, the events and festivals working group have reviewed the remaining budget and propose that the following community events are delivered: Bonfire and fireworks night, festive light switch on and a Red Hot Highland Fling. In order to deliver this whole programme, charging for the Red Hot Highland Fling would be required.”

Inverness South councillor Duncan Macpherson fears the event is heading to the exit door, saying: “When I was on the committee we managed to get 15,000 people into the venue, that was in 2019 into 2020 for the new decade – they had to turn away the last 120 people because they had reached capacity.

“The most recent time they decided to make it all ticketed and that failed drastically because I was told by the event organiser that ‘we have only got 3000 people in the venue’.

“I think it will put the nail in the coffin. If there was a wrong way to organise getting drunk in a brewery, they would have chosen it. What materially changed from 2020 to 2023 that it suddenly has to be ticket-only and the answer came back ‘no change’, so why do it?”

Inverness Ness-side councillor Alasdair Christie believes the Hogmanay party should pay for itself, stating: “I have been really opposed to the amount of money that has been spent on the Red Hot Highland Fling in years gone by.

“The fact of spending £100,000 on five hours entertainment I think is pretty obscene from the common good fund. And that money could provide salaries for befrienders, for care projects, charities, so I think it is a disgrace that we have wasted so much money on this over the years.”

What do you think? Email: newsdesk@hnmedia.co.uk

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