Independence issue to cost Scotland UK national conferences?

English destinations have been allegedly accused of using the Scottish independence issue to ‘poach’ Glasgow conference business.

A Scottish newspaper report published in the Evening Times, authored by David Leask, claimed UK-wide organisations would be constitutionally bound to hold their annual conferences south of the border should Scotland break away from the UK. A referendum on Scottish independence is planned for autumn 2014.

In the article, Leask wrote that Glasgow city marketing bodies had expressed fears that destinations in the North West of England had been attempting to muscle in on the Glasgow’s lucrative conference market by telling potential delegates that Scotland could soon be a foreign country.

Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB) has called a decline in business visitors as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the 2014 referendum as an increasing risk.

Scott Taylor, Chief Executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, told CN: “Since 2005, UK association conference business secured by Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has been worth some £360m in direct economic expenditure. We recognise that conference organisers asking about the 2014 referendum vote are doing so in the context of what this could mean for their association’s constitution.

“However, at this time GCMB continues to work with organisers to attract their conferences to the city in what is highly competitive environment.”

James Caldwell, Co-Owner of innov8 Conference Services, has been working with national and international association clients on the issue of where to hold their national congresses for 2015 onwards, and says: “There is often a debate with our clients over the risk of taking a UK federation or association to a potentially ’independent’ Scotland, with clients asking us about issues with constitutional changes, visas for international guests and the timelines for such a change.

“Unfortunately most of this is unknown as Scotland may have to reapply to join the EU, and there is no set timeline on when Scotland could become independent even if it voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum. However it does put off a number of our clients from holding large association events in Scotland, despite the fantastic venues and cities that Scotland has.”

GCMB Chair Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, had been quoted in the Evening Times as saying one of his greatest concerns was “the potential collapse of our business tourism sector”. It is a sector worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Glasgow and the majority of this business comes from the rest of the UK.

“The consequences for local jobs would be disastrous,” he added.

Many UK-wide organisations’ constitutions stipulate they must hold an annual conference in the UK.

The UK Liberal Democrats are to hold their annual conference in Glasgow this year, a major event that could potentially not take place in Scotland should it become independent.

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Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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