Covid: Do music fans face another summer of silence? Donald MacLeod

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The further tightening of Scotland’s lockdown restrictions this week by our saturnine and ultra-cautious FM Nicola Sturgeon was hardly a surprise. Hints and warnings that this would be the case have been getting dropped at the Daily Doomcast for weeks now, certainly since the new variant of Covid -19 raised its more virulent head and rates of infection started rising rapidly.

An inevitable consequence of not cancelling Christmas, and terrible Joe Public not adhering to the rules? Possibly, but let us not forget that our plethora of senior medical advisers and epidemiologists have been warning of a dangerous second winter wave since last March, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that their auguries of calamity have been realised nor the all too predictable and depressing response from government.

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We have again been warned that in order to bring the R number down, save lives and protect the NHS, these new restrictions will be in place for some time. And so, for the foreseeable, we will only be able to click but not collect our messages. Not drink alcohol outdoors, and holler in our kebab orders from outside the takeaway, but not inside.

How long are these repressive restrictions and business-bursting tiers expected to last? Spring looks to have been bounced off the calendar and unless the Scottish Government stops being so risk averse with their handling of the pandemic, and ups their game on delivery of the vaccine, then we can also kiss goodbye to the summer. Something, I should add, that National Clinical Director Professor Jason Leitch, has already hinted at. 

Emergency funding, pivotal grants, CBIL loans, business rates relief, VAT deferment and the furlough scheme have saved thousands of jobs and businesses. However, after March 31 that particular government biscuit tin will be empty and, even more worrying, is that a month later the vital job retention scheme will come to an end. Then what?

Without any credible and robust exit strategy, something all UK governments have continually failed to deliver since the beginning of this pandemic, then any roadmap to recovery is going to be littered with cavernous potholes, which will have disastrous consequences. Not least for Scotland’s live music industry. A vital sector that, at the last count, generated a staggering £431 million in spending, sustaining around 4300 full time jobs, which is now worth the inside of a polo mint. Not to mention, the tens of thousands of people and small businesses that are reliant on its essential but very fragile supply chain. 

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Mark Mackie, of Regular Music, promoters of Castle Concerts and Kelvingrove Bandstand Summer Nights, didn’t mince his words when he said: “The wonderful scientists of the world have done the hard bit. Now we need the politicians to do theirs and get the roll out done as quickly as possible, losing another summer would wreak absolute devastation on the live music industry.”

Geoff Ellis, DF Concerts supremo, promoters of TRNSMT and Bellahouston Park, to name but a few, echoed that  sentiment. He said: “If we look back to Glasgow in 1950, the fledgling NHS was able to vaccinate 600 people per hour per clinic against smallpox. Hopefully vaccine production will speed up and we could see the roll out accelerate.” 

John Richardson, co-head of Linlithgow’s hugely popular Party at the Palace Festival, adds: “Months of planning go into putting on a music festival and for many, the new deadline is approaching at an alarming rate. Bands need booked, hotels, travel, stages, sound and lighting, first aid, security etc.”

In December we were assured by the FM that with the vaccine there was now a light at the end of tunnel. Well, with yet more restrictions in place, an unnecessary risk averse approach, and painfully slow mass vaccination roll out programme lacking in ambition, no credible exit strategy and detailed roadmap to recovery yet published, and no guarantees of government bail outs after April, it looks like this beacon of hope has been blown out. And with it any chance of a normality returning by this summer. The sound of silence and despair looks set to continue.  

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