Introduction and background
Scotland: The Perfect Stage was first published in 2008 in response to Scotland’s burgeoning potential to be a global leader in the events industry. It was last reviewed and updated to cover the period 2015-2025. On the 24th March 2023, the Scottish Government launched a 14-week public consultation to seek views on the National Events Strategy. This consisted of an online survey and a series of nine face-to-face and one online workshops. The workshops were hosted between April and June 2023 to which 222 participants attended. The online consultation survey received 102 responses from a range of individuals and organisations.
Wavehill, an independent research company, was appointed in June 2023 to undertake a thorough, systematic and objective analysis of consultation responses received. Wavehill conducted a detailed thematic analysis, examining survey responses and workshop discussions to highlight the themes and issues raised.
Level of support for the proposed ambition
Survey responses demonstrate strong support for the proposed ambition of the strategy. The majority of people responding to the survey (92%) supported the ambition with only a small proportion (4%) opposing it. Where respondents expanded on their reasoning behind their support for the proposed ambition, they reinforced the importance of driving stronger economic and social benefits for Scotland and maintaining its role as a ‘world leader’ for events. Similar levels of support were evident in feedback captured through the series of workshop sessions, with general agreement on the key priorities included in the strategy.
Views on key strategic priorities for the events sector
Respondents were asked their opinion of the relative importance of key strategic priorities for the events sector over the next ten years. The responses suggest that boosting the economy and the events sector contributing to enhancing well-being and community engagement are considered to be the most important strategic priorities. Very few respondents indicated that the stated priorities were not important. Around three quarters (76%) of respondents suggested other strategic priorities that they felt should be included in a refreshed strategy. The most common suggestion was on promoting inward investment. The second most prevalent theme was on the strategy including a greater focus on equalities, diversity and inclusion. Similar themes emerged from the workshop discussions, although greater emphasis was placed on making the event sector a better place to work and the strategy providing a focus on enhancing well-being and community engagement.
Creating an excellent event experience
Respondents were asked to identify what was important for them in creating an excellent event experience. The most prevalent themes included the importance of events creating a welcoming, inspiring, enjoyable atmosphere, of being accessible and inclusive and the event experience being of high quality. A small proportion of respondents highlighted the interdependencies between the ability to create excellent event experiences and wider infrastructure factors relating to transport, the retail offer and hospitality.
Views on events in Scotland
The survey asked respondents to provide views on a range of statements about events in Scotland, including the extent to which events are accessible, affordable, inclusive and welcoming. Just over half (52%) of respondents agreed that events in Scotland are inclusive and a similar proportion (48%) agreed that events in Scotland are accessible. The statement that secured the relative lowest level of support across the four statements was that events in Scotland are affordable with 41% of respondents agreeing with this statement. The responses show that a high proportion of respondents held neutral views regarding three of the four statements. This perhaps highlights a difficulty in answering this question in general terms given the variation in accessibility, affordability, inclusivity and the level of welcome across all events in Scotland.
Mixed views were expressed on the extent to which event organisers involve communities in planning the events they hold. Although just over half (55%) of respondents agreed with this statement, around a quarter (28%) neither agreed nor disagreed and around one in six (15%) disagreed. More than twice the proportion of individual respondents disagreed with that statement than organisation respondents. A similar breadth of views were evident in the workshop discussions with participants both citing good practice and recognising the need to involve communities in event planning. Feedback in the workshop sessions also highlighted challenges in involving communities due to a lack of resource, training or where event organisers had limited or no links into the community in which their event was taking place.
Similarly mixed views were received regarding the extent to which event organisers communicate about how the events taking place will affect local people. The most prevalent sentiment was that respondents agreed that event organisers do communicate about how the event taking place will affect local people (52% in agreement). Around a third (30%) of respondents neither agreed nor disagreed (30%) and around one in seven (14%) disagreed with the statement. Workshop discussions echoed these, with examples given of where event organisers were communicating effectively with local communities but also concerns that this was not yet standard practice.
Increasing the benefit of events for local communities
Respondents provided a range of views on how the benefits of events could be increased for local communities. The most prevalent response highlighted by just under three quarters of survey respondents related to ensuring that events meaningfully engage communities and secure community ownership. Responses emphasised the importance of event organisers effectively communicating with and involving local communities from the outset, including in the planning and design phases. The main other themes identified in responses related to the benefits of events being increased for local communities by ensuring that they provide clear, demonstrable support for local economies and contribute to local causes.
Diversity of events in Scotland
The majority of people responding to the survey indicated that the diversity of events in Scotland is very important, with a similar proportion of respondents agreeing with its importance of in terms of the variety of type, spread of location and range of size. The most prevalent barrier to holding a diversity of events raised by around half of respondents related to inadequate infrastructure across Scotland, in particular transport and accommodation, but also an absence of suitable event spaces for major events outside of cities and the capacity of local supply chains.
The next most prevalent barrier was the difficulty of accessing sufficient funding to resource a diverse range of events across Scotland. Some respondents specifically referenced a perceived bias towards the central belt for event funding. One of the themes raised in the workshop sessions was an acknowledgement of the important role that local authorities play in engaging diverse communities as well as recognition they can be under-resourced and so unable to provide the level of support desired by event organisers.
Working in the event sector
The consultation asked respondents a series of questions about the attractiveness of the sector as a place to work and experiences around Fair Work practices in the sector. The majority of people that responded to the survey (61%) think that the event sector is an attractive place to work. Around one in six (16%) disagreed and did not think it was, and a quarter (23%) of those responding to the survey indicated that they didn’t know. Individual respondents were more likely to respond that the events sector was not an attractive place to work than organisation respondents.
For those that responded that the sector is an attractive place to work, the reasons provided broadly centred around a view that the sector supported transferable skills, that it was engaging, creative, innovative and collaborative and could be an exciting and fun environment to work in. Several respondents referenced the variety in the scale, nature and focus of events which provided a range of opportunities for developing skills. For those that thought that the sector is not an attractive place to work, the main reasons provided related to concerns around low pay, zero hours contracts and a lack of job security. Workshop participants raised concerns about these factors driving workforce and skills shortages and the related implications for the viability and sustainability of the sector.
Those working in the sector were asked whether there was anything that they would like to see change in relation to Fair Work practices. The most prevalent theme in responses was a desire for better regulation of the sector in terms of working hours, pay and conditions. Connected to this was respondents wishing to see increases in wages offered in the sector and improved benefits such as sick pay provisions or maternity leave.
Opportunities for the event sector in Scotland
Feedback highlighted that the majority of survey respondents did not think that there are sufficient opportunities to learn about what it is like to work in the sector, to gain the skills and experiences needed to work in the sector and to further a career in the sector. When asked how access to these opportunities could be improved, the most prevalent suggestions centred around better provision of training and education and increasing the use of apprenticeships, internships, and work experience. Workshop discussions covered similar areas but with a greater focus on issues relating to recruitment and career pathways.
Events and environmental sustainability
The majority of survey respondents provided views and perspectives on what would enable events to become more environmentally sustainable. The most prevalent themes related to event organisers and the wider sector providing more information and guidance around environmental sustainability, most notably to encourage or aid those attending events to make changes to limit any negative environmental impacts from their attendance or participation. Several survey respondents and workshop participants suggested that guidance resources and a standardised monitoring framework could be developed and shared with organisations hosting events.
Financial sustainability of events
A range of views were provided by survey respondents on the sources of income that the events sector should be developing to be financially sustainable. A number of responses related to securing sponsorship or working towards diversifying event organisers revenue streams such as through corporate partnerships, advertising and branding. Other sources of income referenced were through the award of public funding or from ticket sales. Some respondents emphasised the importance of core public funding in supporting events and the risks associated with overreliance on ticket sales. The importance of public sector support was highlighted in workshop sessions with participants emphasising a need for public sector financial support to implement sustainable measures and achieve long-term goals.
Measuring the importance of events
A range of themes emerged from responses to the question on what would support the event sector to measure the importance of events. The most frequent suggestion related to support for the capture of data from audiences and participants and turning these into impactful case studies. The next most common suggestion included support for measuring the direct and indirect economic impact of their events. A few survey respondents suggested that a standardised assessment should be undertaken nationally each year to enable the economic impact and contribution of events to be measured and monitored through agreed KPIs. Some workshop participants suggested that consideration could be given to establishing a dedicated team in Visit Scotland or EventScotland to support evaluation work.
Role of events in promoting Scotland internationally
Respondents provided a range of views on the ways in which events can promote Scotland internationally. The most prevalent response focused on Scotland showcasing the diversity of its culture internationally and challenging or changing stereotypes or misconceptions about Scotland as a nation. Respondents emphasised that events provide a valuable contribution to raising the profile of Scotland internationally as an aspirational destination, helping to grow the visitor economy.
Views on priorities for mega events
Common themes expressed in responses on the specific aims that they would prioritise for mega events included ensuring that they provide clear benefits for local communities, such as using local suppliers and enabling local participation, as well as skills development opportunities for those that work or volunteer in the sector. Discussions within the workshop sessions focused mainly on a desire for mega events to prioritise creating development opportunities for those working in the events industry and ensuring sustainable legacies. Benefits for local communities in terms of boosting the local economy also featured strongly.
Delivering positive impacts for society
The survey asked respondents to what extent they agreed or disagreed that event organisers make connections between events and their ability to deliver broader positive impacts for society. The majority (61%) of those responding to the survey reported positively and agreed that event organisers did make connections between events and their ability to deliver broader positive impacts for society. One in five respondents (20%) neither agreed nor disagreed and a similar proportion (17%) disagreed with the statement.
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