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Council bosses wrote-off a hire fee for Mossfield Stadium just 24 hours before last weekend’s independence rally went ahead.
The revelation comes after an Oban Live director raised concerns about inconsistencies over the venue’s terms and conditions of hire.
Organisers of the All Under One Banner march and rally were only told two days before the event that they had to fork out more than £1,000 to use the pitch and its facilities.
They refused and Argyll and Bute Council waived the fee with just one day to go, said the event’s chief organiser Fiona Cameron, who said it was ‘very generous’ of them.
It should have cost £800 for the use of the grounds and £335 for staff to let rally goers in and out.
Ms Cameron said: ‘We said no way. We’ve never had to pay for any of our rally points before. Even if we had paid, we weren’t going to be allowed to go onto the shinty pitch or to use the toilets, so we thought what are we paying for? I didn’t get much sleep on the Thursday.’
She added: ‘Brendan O’Hara, by sheer chance, had a meeting with Cleland Sneddon on the Friday morning. By Friday lunchtime we were told we did not have to pay. There was a lot of pressure put on the council, specially by the police, because if we’d had to change our route and double back on ourselves to Atlantis to have the rally there, it would have put the emergency services’ plans, already in place, in jeopardy. The council very generously waived the fee for us.’
When The Oban Times asked Mr O’Hara to comment on his meeting with Mr Sneddon that Friday, he said: ‘The dates for my regular meeting with the chief executive of Argyll and Bute Council are arranged several months in advance.
‘The meetings are a very useful opportunities for us to catch up on a whole range of local and national issues. The logistics and any operational issues concerning the AUOB march in Oban are operational issues and are, quite rightly, decided at council level.’
In last week’s Oban Times Daniel Gillespie, managing and artistic director for Oban Live, called for improvements to Mossfield and said: ‘It is also highly concerning that the terms and conditions of hire are not consistent across all events and groups – this is another aspect that needs to be addressed and clarified by Argyll and Bute Council.’
While Argyll and Bute Council could not comment on individual commercial transactions, a spokesperson said: ‘The priority for the council was ensuring that the event was conducted in a safe and orderly fashion.
‘In consultation with Police Scotland, on Friday morning, concerns were raised about public safety and community disruption and a decision was taken to provide access to Mossfield. The event passed off safely.’
When asked about the meeting on Friday, the spokesperson added: ‘The chief executive meets regularly with MSPs and MP and he had a scheduled meeting with Mr O’Hara on Friday morning.’
Rally organisers had to sign a mandate before the event went ahead promising to hand the stadium back in a good state.
‘The groundsmen were very happy with how we handed it back. The Oban march and the rally was a huge success,’ said Ms Cameron.