A PRODUCTION manager who has represented artists including First Aid Kit, James Arthur and Chvrches has criticised a tourism body after being rejected for a Covid crisis grant because he doesn’t earn enough of his income in Scotland.

Gareth Russell, 42, former bass player with the band Idlewild, has been unable to work since lockdown with all live music cancelled. He is not eligible for any government support and said he had been turned down for around 50 other funding streams.

The production manager applied for a £6 million fund being administered by VisitScotland to support businesses involved in staging events but was rejected for it because applicants must earn 40 per cent of their income in Scotland.

Russell, who lives in Rhu, near Helensburgh, and has represented Scottish bands including Texas, Jesus And Mary Chain and Mogwai, argues that his work contributes significantly to the tourism sector here and says if those in his industry didn’t work overseas, “we wouldn’t have a business”.

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He added: “The thing that really sticks in my craw is that I’ve lived in Scotland my whole life.”

Both him and his wife Sally, who works in public relations, say they have been left with no alternative but to claim benefits.

“I stopped work on March 16. James Arthur was my last show, at the Hydro. It might actually have been the last show in Scotland if not in Europe,” he said. “I’ve not worked since then, not one day. I’ve lost the entire summer including a two-month US tour  with James.

“I’ve fallen through the criteria for furlough because you have to do PAYE monthly and I do it once a year which is perfectly legal so Sally and I were both exempt.

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"Then I started looking to see if there was any assistance to keep the overheads of the business going but every single scheme that I looked at – I think I looked at about 50 – and it was remarkable how I slipped through the cracks in every single one.”

Russell said: “Most of the time you had to have premises. Then there was an arts package announced for £1.5 billion which we got very excited about for about two seconds and then realised we weren’t getting that.

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“Then there was a small allocation given to the Scottish Government to help suppliers like me.

“The team they got together to decide the qualifying criteria said that unless you earned 40% of your wages in Scotland you weren’t getting any money which is absurd because if we only worked in Scotland we wouldn’t have a business.

“It was administered by VisitScotland, not even an arts organisation. It was issued on a lottery basis and the award was a £10,000 grant.

“That would have seen us through the winter no problem. It would have helped me retool and retrain to get some other things under my belt.”

There are more than one million employees and freelancers like Russell working as suppliers to festivals, concerts and other events, according to estimates by Plasa, an umbrella group for events businesses.

Plasa has warned the treasury that without further support, these workers, many of whom are highly skilled technicians, will lose their livelihoods and put the future of live events in the UK at risk.

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“For some reason we don’t seem to exist in anyone’s eyes but there are 200,000 of us in the UK,” said Russell,who has a 10-year-old son, Elvin.

“We don’t want to be on any benefits, we just want to be working.

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I’ve built up a successful company here on my own without any start-up help.They can’t tell us when live music will start and we understand why but the question is: do you want concerts and conferences to happen in the future?

"If you do, then you need to provide some assistance to the people who put these things together.

"We have exhausted all our possibilities, including taking a mortgage holiday. There are people way worse off but the only thing we could do was go to the job centre and get Universal Credit which gives us £875 a month.

“My mortgage is £1,100, we’ve got a kid. This is the level of UK Government support for someone who has paid into the system.”

An EventScotland spokeswoman said: “The £6m Events Industry Support Fund has been allocated to support Scottish businesses in the industry in Scotland, and particularly those in the supply chain that are facing hardship to help keep them in business while restrictions on events are still in place, so they are able to support the delivery of events in Scotland when restrictions are lifted.

“As with many funding programmes, applications need to meet the defined eligibility criteria, one of which for this fund is to support businesses whose primary source of earnings (minimum 40% in 2019/20) is derived from the supply to, organisation of, and/or delivery of or to events in Scotland.”