Hopes are high that Scotland's largest conference and events centre is set to withdraw a £100-plus charge on journalists to have access to power, to run their computers.
It follows charges levied by the SECC, when it hosted the votes count during the recent Glasgow North East by-election, and reported at the time by local, free monthly newspaper, Local News Glasgow, which was among those asked to pay £101.97 plus VAT for the electricity.
Yesterday, MSP, Bob Doris, lodged a motion at the Scottish Parliament, amid fears that continued charging will limit the number of journalists, including freelancers, able to report the counting of votes at the SECC during the General Election.
Says Erik Geddes, a freelancer with Local News Glasgow and also a third-year journalism student at Glasgow Caledonian University: “Bob Doris is not the only one to voice concerns about the levy, so too has Scottish Green Party leader, Patrick Harvey, and recent NUJ president, James Doherty. The SECC is reported to have enjoyed last year a 10 per cent rise in turnover and an increase in its profits.”
He continued: “I've spoken to the SECC chief executive, John Sharkey. He told me: 'I'm happy to have a look at this. Perhaps there will be some way that that the fee placed on journalists can be incurred in our hall hire to Glasgow City Council. However, the fundamental fact remains that we need to cover the additional costs of having to install electrical points in our halls for events such as elections.'
“I've also spoken to Bob Doris. He told me: 'With a UK General Election looming this matter must be examined speedily. I have written to the two councillors that sit on the SEC Ltd Board to ask them to raise the matter at their next meeting. We have to strike a balance between the fantastic corporate success of SEC Ltd and the social responsibility that we would expect from an organisation 91 per cent owned by Glasgow City Council. The money raised by the Exhibition Centre by charging journalists for electricity when trying to report on an election is peanuts to them given their corporate success. However, it is a significant drain on the likes of small community papers.'”