Dundee should be compensated for Capital of Culture loss, MPs argue

Dundee MPs demand answers from the UK Government after Brexit renders the city ineligible to be the 2023 European Capital of Culture

THE UK GOVERNMENT SHOULD “FULLY” COMPENSATE DUNDEE and other UK cities for the money spent in the bidding to be the 2023 European Capital of Culture (ECOC), Dundee MPs have argued.

Chris Law, SNP MP for Dundee West, and Stewart Hosie, SNP MP for Dundee East, both argued in favour of financial compensation for Dundee in statements made to the Herald newspaper, following the European Commission’s decision that Britain would no longer be eligible for the prestigious designation due to Brexit.

Asked by the Herald if Dundee, along with all other UK cities which had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on bids for Capital of Culture status, should be financially compensated by the UK Government, Law replied: “Absolutely”. Questioned further about whether the cities should be “fully” reimbursed, Law said: “Of course.”

“If people were just strung a line and effectively wasted a lot of money, then, yes, the UK Government needs to compensate them in full.” SNP MP Stewart Hosie

Law and Hosie have also written to Prime Minister Theresa May regarding the issue, and are tabling questions to ministers, demanding to know when the UK Government became aware that British cities could lose their eligibility to be 2023 ECOC hosts, and why this was not made clear to those cities before bids were made.

Hosie told the Herald: “We need to know what the government knew and when. If people were just strung a line and effectively wasted a lot of money, then, yes, the UK Government needs to compensate them in full.”

Law added that he had previously received assurances from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the matter.

“I raised this issue last year with Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and he assured me there was no doubt about UK cities being able to bid.” SNP MP Chris Law

“The people of Dundee, like me, will feel let down by this. The city has put a huge amount of time and effort into this bid,” said Law. “I raised this issue last year with Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and he assured me there was no doubt about UK cities being able to bid.”

Johnson’s statements were made last November during Foreign Office Questions, when Law asked for Johnson’s “personal commitment” that the competition would go ahead as planned, following reports that Culture Secretary Karen Bradley wanted the UK to abandon hosting the 2023 ECOC.

“We may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe.” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Answering Law, Johnson said: “We may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe and we are certainly not leaving the EU for a small time to come.

“In that time, we are fully paid-up members and we should take part to the full, including in such cultural co-operation as he [Law] describes and we will do so. We will also continue to take part in such European cultural ventures beyond our exit from the EU.”

"It is now deeply concerning that the amount of time, effort and expense that Dundee have put into scoping out their bid could be wasted thanks to the Brexit policy of this Tory Government." First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offered further comment on the issue, saying: "I'm absolutely dismayed by the news that I've heard this morning from the European Commission that Dundee's European Capital of Culture bid looks as if it is going to be the latest victim of the Tories' obsession with taking this country out of the European Union against our will and they should hang their heads in shame.

"It is now deeply concerning that the amount of time, effort and expense that Dundee have put into scoping out their bid could be wasted thanks to the Brexit policy of this Tory Government."

The Prime Minister’s spokesperson told press that the UK Government disagreed with the European Commission’s decision on ECOC, and was now in “urgent discussion” with the Commission in consequence.

A European Commission spokesperson also commented on the matter, saying: "As one of the many concrete consequences of that UK decision, UK participation is no longer possible. It therefore makes sense to discontinue the selection process."

Picture courtesy of Bob Leckridge

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