Call for UK Government to attend Festivals Visa Summit

Home Secretary invited to join discussion on immigration issues for performers


Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has asked the UK Government to take part in a summit in Edinburgh on visas for international festivals.

Ms Hyslop this week wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Seema Kennedy MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Home Office, urging them to join devolved administrations to find practical solutions for immigration issues affecting performers across the UK.

Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Tracy Meharg, Northern Ireland’s Permanent Secretary for Communities, have already confirmed they will attend the summit.

In her letter to the Home Secretary, Ms Hyslop stated: “The issue of mobility of artists and performers is of crucial importance to the Scottish culture sector.

“While the scale of the Edinburgh Festivals and their international profile highlights these issues starkly, the challenges that they face are replicated by festivals across Scotland and indeed the UK.

“I am sure Scotland is not alone in wishing to promote the message that we remain open to cultural exchange and open for business. Key to this message is the ability to host, without incident, international visitors for conferences and gatherings.”

The Edinburgh Festivals collectively involve nearly 8,000 non-UK participants from 85 countries, and their participation helps to attract audiences of around 4.7 million, generating more than £300 million in cultural tourism value every year.

EU membership, and in particular freedom of movement, is fundamental to the attraction of non-UK participants – around a third of whom are from the EEA, with a third from visa-exempt countries and a third from countries requiring a visa. The Scottish Government is also seeking clarity on how the UK Government will implement the end of free movement if the UK leaves without a deal, and what interim system, if any, will replace it.


A date and exact location in Edinburgh for the Festivals Visa Summit will be confirmed once a full list of attendees has been finalised.

The Scottish Government has regularly raised concerns with the UK Government around the challenges for international artists and performers coming to participate in festivals.

The current process is lengthy, complex and costly, with attendees or organisers sometimes spending thousands of pounds on visas and associated costs, for a visit of only a few days.

The Scottish Government is clear that a better solution for visiting artists must be integral to any future immigration system.


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