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Culture Secretary Quizzed Over State Aid To T In The Park

PERTHSHIRE, Scotland (VIP NEWS) — Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop has appeared before a Holyrood committee to explain why the Scottish government gave £150,000 to the T in the Park music festival.

Accusations of "cronyism" were made after the MSP approved a grant to help the event move to a new site.

MSPs have questioned why the popular event needed taxpayer funds.

Ms. Hyslop insisted funding was appropriate, transparent and in line with amounts given to other events.

A former SNP aide who set up a meeting between Ms. Hyslop and festival organizers DF Concerts has since abandoned plans to stand for election.

Jennifer Dempsie, a former aide to Alex Salmond, was working on a contract for DF Concerts as a festival project manager at the time of the meeting, ahead of the grant being awarded.

She had planned to run as a list MSP for the SNP in the Highlands and Islands constituency in the 2016 elections, but decided earlier this month not to take forward her nomination.

Ms. Hyslop told the committee that festival bosses had "expressed concern" about the "long term future" of the event, due to the seven-figure cost of moving from Balado to Strathallan, and said there was a risk the festival could have moved away from Scotland.

Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon said the grant was "a done deal" because of Ms. Dempsie`s "close connections with the SNP", and asked if this was a "fraudulent application".
`Cultural offering`

Ms. Hyslop underlined that she met with DF Concerts CEO Geoff Ellis, who she said has no connection with the party.

She said she didn`t know that Ms. Dempsie had made the original request, noting that she hadn`t attended the meeting, although she had met the former party advisor at the SNP conference.

Ms. Scanlon – who said she was given 628 pages of material after 20:00 the night before the meeting – said there was a list of emails from Ms. Dempsie to the culture secretary`s office. Ms. Hyslop said she had not personally read them.

When pressed by Labour MSP Mark Griffin, Ms. Hyslop said she had been clear right from the start that her interest was in the "longer-term viability of the event", saying "I`m standing up for T in the Park".

She said: "My interest is the economic interest of this country and the cultural offering we have got for generations of young people, and the development of the contemporary music scene in Scotland."

Ms. Hyslop said she was told that DF Concerts had been considering changing or moving the event out of Perthshire.

She said: "They said that their shareholders were giving them pressure to move from being a multi-day, multi-stage event.

"They indicated that if they wanted to have the festival in that format, they might have to move out of Scotland."

Ms. Hyslop also underlined that there were conditions included in the grant which meant the government could "claw back" the funds if the event did move away, but said she had a "responsibility to act" due to the festival`s importance to Scotland. –According to BBC