Labour MP hits out at visa issues effecting musicians coming to Scotland

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Labour’s shadow culture secretary was joined by Scottish leader Anas Sarwar at the legendary Barrowland Ballroom

Touring musicians coming to Scotland are still struggling with “massively damaging” visa issues in the wake of Brexit, Labour’s shadow culture secretary has claimed.

Speaking during a visit to Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom, Lucy Powell MP has said a Labour government would commit to resolving the visa issues.

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The Manchester Central MP joined Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar in Edinburgh and Glasgow on Tuesday to meet with creative art industry figures. Speaking as the Edinburgh International Festival and UCI World Cycling Championships in Glasgow are under way, she said the UK Government “could have done a lot more to smooth the path” for touring performers, including musicians and sportspeople.

“It’s not just that they themselves have to get a very expensive visa, which is a lot of paperwork,” Powell said. “All the equipment, everything they are taking on tour needs individual cabotage [freight] paperwork. They [the UK Government] kept saying they were going to go back to the drawing board with the EU, but they haven’t done that. The next Labour government will prioritise that. We won’t rest until we’ve got a resolution. It’s massively damaging our music industry and our festivals industry, which is so important, especially here in Scotland.”

Labour said hosting major events, like festivals and the cycling championships, is not only important to local economies but critical to Scotland’s reputation as a cultural powerhouse. It accused the UK Government of failing to unblock problems with touring in Europe after Brexit, and said Powell would push for a visa waiver for artists with the EU alongside negotiating an EU-wide cultural touring agreement, including allowances for cabotage.

She said the “creative industries are vital to Labour’s economic growth mission”. “Working in partnership with Scottish Labour, the next Labour government will put our creative and cultural sectors centre stage, fixing touring so Scottish creatives can work in Europe again hassle-free and promoting Scotland’s rich cultural heritage to the world.”

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Anas Sarwar said Powell had joined him at a roundtable meeting with “key figures in the creative arts industry for Scotland” in Edinburgh before visiting the “iconic Barrowlands here in Glasgow”.

He said hospitality venues and the concert industry are important to “not just our growth plan for Glasgow, Edinburgh and wider Scotland but also the whole of the UK”. The pair, who were joined by Pauline McNeill MSP and Neil Bibby MSP, talked to Barrowland Ballroom manager Tom Joyce, who raised issues with touts snapping up tickets for gigs and selling them on at a higher price.

Powell said discussions in Scotland had covered funding challenges for the art sector, fair remuneration for artists, intellectual property, ticket touting and the impact of the cost of living crisis.

“Culture, the arts, creative industries are absolutely vital, not just to economic growth but to creating attractive places for people to come and live and work, invest in and want to be,” she added.

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