Conference trade 'is under attack'

BIG English cities are trying to poach visitors from Glasgow by highlighting uncertainty over independence, tourism bosses claimed today.

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The conference trade is a big moneyspinner for Glasgow
The conference trade is a big moneyspinner for Glasgow

Marketing bodies in Manchester and Liverpool have been accused of attempting to muscle in on the city's lucrative conference market by telling potential delegates that Scotland could soon be a foreign country.

Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has officially flagged up the moves as it fights increasing competition for its status as one of Europe's top convention destinations.

The council-owned company lists, "a decline in business visitors as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the 2014 referendum" as an increasing risk.

Glasgow City Marketing Bureau is chaired by Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council.

He has long argued that independence would be bad for city business. He said: "One of my greatest concerns is the potential collapse of our business tourism sector.

"This is worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Glasgow and the majority of this business comes from the rest of the UK.

"The consequences for local jobs would be disastrous."

The Evening Times understands many UK-wide organisations have rules written in to their constitutions saying they must hold an annual conference in the UK, or perhaps the UK and Ireland.

GCMB is currently working out a mechanism for such organisations to rewrite their constitutions to allow their conferences to be held in Scotland, England, Wales or Ireland.

Some bodies – eager not to lose Scottish members – are understood to be willing to make such changes. Insiders admit others will not.

The UK Liberal Democrats will hold their annual conference in Glasgow this year. They, for example, would be unlikely to do so if Scotland was independent.

But Graeme Hendry, SNP opposition leader and a member of the board of GCMB, is not convinced English cities are using possible independence as a marketing tool.

He said the marketing bureau had included concerns over UK conferences because of a "technical" problem.

Mr Hendry said: "No-one in the industry expects this to be a significant issue. Glasgow has record bookings for the coming years which is hardly a sign of there being a problem."

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