Olympic Torch parade burns £800,000 hole in public finances
PARADING the Olympic torch through Scottish communities burned an £800,000 hole in the public finances, it emerged today.
Councils and police spent the cash on security, CCTV, extra bins, safety barriers, flags, and a host of entertainment for the week-long event in June this year.
Figures released under Freedom of Information show that at least £816,191 was spent on the torch relay.
The final total is likely to be much higher because figures were provided by only one of the nation’s eight police forces.
Strathclyde alone spent £195,000 to police the relay.
Among the biggest spending councils was Edinburgh which spent £95,000 on the torch relay.
The council’s spend included £49,000 on Olympic torch celebrations at Edinburgh Castle.
East Renfrewshire spent £59,329, including £4,840 on “flags for school children and school name markers for route”.
Aberdeen City Council blew £86,196 on the event, including £244 on “balloon modellers”.
The council also shelled out £3,000 for “additional CCTV”.
North Lanarkshire Council, which has reduced free transport for school pupils and removed the community warden’s service, still found £11,484.47 for the torch parade, including £7,000 to purchase “ branded street dressing materials”.
Dundee City Council revealed it spent £30,000 just on “the provision of safety barriers”.
Glasgow’s £25,007.90 bill included £870.06 on recycling bins and £1,440.00 on four tow trucks.
Renfrewshire spent £31, 485, including a £6,000 grant from Creative Scotland, on pianists, t-shirts and circus performers.
The nationwide-event saw famous faces carry the Olympic flame from the south-west of Scotland to Glasgow, then to Inverness and Orkney and Shetland, before travelling through Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh to the Scottish Borders.
Among the 700 torchbearers were well-known athletes and celebrities, including Holywood star James McAvoy, TV presenter Jenni Falconer and Olympic rower Katherine Grainger.
Eben Wilson of Taxpayers Scotland said: “They need to steward our money much more carefully.”
He added: “We all had fun but this tells us something important: our councils find it very easy to spend our money.
“We should be looking to our local councillors to be very strict with their local spending.”
Sport Minister Shona Robison praised the event in June, describing it as “spectacular”.
She said: “More than 400,000 Scots have taken in the flame tour at some of our most beautiful settings and iconic places, putting Scotland on the world stage as a destination for tourism, culture and a guaranteed warm welcome.”
The figures also show that Stirling Council spent £13,953, including £791 on “Olympic hand flags”, £790 on portable toilets and £7983 on event security.
East Ayrshire splashed £26,641.30, North Ayrshire £6,702.00, Aberdeenshire £27,381.04 and Highland Council £44,832.
Midlothian spent £36,058.78, Perth and Kinross, £11668.00, Fife £32,683, Scottish Borders £10,157.32 and East Lothian who spent £2,885.
Cllr Steve Cardownie, Festivals and Events Champion for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Given that the excellent Olympic Flame celebrations from Edinburgh Castle were broadcast live on the BBC Six o’Clock News and BBC News 24 and would therefore have been watched by millions of people around the world, I think an outlay of less than £50,000 is entirely justifiable.
“Having the Olympic Torch Relay visiting Edinburgh is a once in a lifetime experience for the people of this city and our visitors and that kind of large scale positive international exposure is absolutely fantastic for the Capital’s profile and its ability to attract future investment and increase tourism.”
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