Homecoming's economic impact 'was overestimated'

The economic impact of Scotland's year-long Homecoming celebrations has been "substantially" overestimated, an evaluation of the event has said.

Economist Dr Geoff Riddington said the 2009 initiative probably generated 900 jobs, rather than 1,536.

Homecoming marked the 250th anniversary of Robert Burns' birth and aimed to attract Scots from around the world.

The government defended the original report and said the event brought in £53.7m, some 22% above the £44m target.

Dr Riddington's report, which was presented to the Scottish Parliament's economy committee, said the model which had been used to evaluate Homecoming Scotland by the business consultancy EKOS was "out of date and incorrect and substantially overestimates the actual impact".

Gathering event

And he told MSPs claims of the economic benefits created by the Gathering of clan chiefs in Edinburgh - which needed a government bailout - were "completely bogus".

The Gathering 2009 Ltd - the showpiece event in the Homecoming calendar - went bust after receiving £670,500 in taxpayers' cash, including an £180,000 interest-free loan not disclosed at the time.

But First Minister Alex Salmond said the action saved an event worth £10m to the economy.

Dr Riddington's report pointed out the previous estimate that Homecoming brought 72,000 visitors was accurate, as was the finding that the event boosted the Scottish economy by £31.6m.

Scotland will stage a second year of Homecoming in 2014 to coincide with the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, as well as the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

A government spokesman said Homecoming Scotland had been a clear success and stressed that EKOS was a leading independent UK consultancy specialising in economic and social development.

"The targets and methodology used to evaluate Homecoming were communicated throughout 2008 and 2009 and follow standards used extensively by the national and international events and tourism industries," he added.

'Flawed and outdated'

Labour's tourism spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: "Alex Salmond's claims about the success of Homecoming have turned out to be more bogus than Brigadoon.

"This report finds that SNP ministers underestimated the cost of the event and overestimated the number of jobs it created."

He called for a full investigation by Audit Scotland.

Conservative tourism spokesman Gavin Brown said it was "embarrassing" for the Scottish government.

"An independent expert has asserted the errors arose from using a very flawed and outdated model," he said.

"The tourism minister needs to explain why his figures are so different and also how he intends to make absolutely sure that future reports are more robust."

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