A popular Edinburgh dance music event has been given the go-ahead despite police raising significant safety concerns after previous events were marred by drug-taking and hospitalisations.
The Terminal V festival has been held at the Royal Highland Centre several times since launching in 2017.
The first installation attracted almost 5000 people – and this year, it is set to welcome up to 20,000 people to the Ingliston venue for a Halloween-themed event on October 29.
However, after hundreds of arrests for drug incidents at previous events and medical issues – including three patrons needing to be placed in medically-induced comas – police have raised concerns as organisers appeared before Edinburgh City Council’s licensing sub-committee on Monday seeking a temporary public entertainment license.
PC Greig Stephen said police had significant safety concerns following a large number of drug-related incidents at Terminal V in the past, which have resulted in numerous hospitalisations and festival goers requiring treatment in intensive care units.
He said: “At each of the previous Terminal V events, there have been significant quantities of controlled drugs seized from patrons attending the event with serious medical incidents as a direct result of drugs misuse.”
And Claire Miller, the council’s senior public safety officer, called it the “highest-risk event” her department deals with.
Organisers insisted they had a “robust” drug detection set up.
Mr Stephen noted that at the first Terminal V in April 2017 there were 11 medical cases and two hospitalisations as a result of drug intoxication.
He added that in October 2018, the Terminal V Halloween event saw 53 medical cases and a further two hospitalisations.
By April 2019, capacity had risen to 11,000 and four attendees required hospital treatment, three of which were admitted to intensive care units and place in medically induced comas overnight.
“Despite the event being over 18s, one of these patients was a 16 year-old female. The welfare provider also assisted 65 persons with alcohol-related intoxication, two of which were aged 15 and 16,” Mr Stephen added.
Meanwhile, 110 people were charged with drug possession offences.
“In addition 11 arrests were made for drug supply offences and three for crimes of violence. This includes two persons in possession of over 1,200 cannisters of nitrous oxide.
“143 persons were charged in relation to possession of drug offences. Approximately 269 individual drug amounts were recovered over the day, including over 100 ecstasy tablets, 71 MDMA capsules, five LSD tabs, 14 deals of cocaine, 16 deals of suspected ketamine.”
Furthermore, in January this year, ambulances treated four people who had attended Terminal V for suspected drug overdoses, three of whom were hospitalised.
A similarly large quantity of illegal substances were recovered including 77 grams of cocaine, 71 grams of ketamine and 20 grams of cannabis.
Mr Stephen said: “The information collated from previous Terminal V events clearly illustrates the extremely high risk of drug misuse associated with the event. An alarming number of persons attending these events require medical and hospital treatment.”
He said while the force was not formally objecting to the license being granted officers have “serious concerns” there will be “significant drug misuse which is likely to increase further in line with increased capacity and scale of the event”.
“With the increased scale of the event its also reasonable to anticipate increased demand for medical treatment both at the event by the medical provider and subsequently at hospital.
“Greater numbers of patrons will likely require hospitalisation and subsequent monitoring by NHS Lothian staff and greater use of intensive care facilities,” he added.
Organiser Mark Currie, from Highland Centre Limited said: “We have a significant search and drug detection system at the entrance to this event, it is by far the most robust drug detection set up of any event in the UK.”
Whilst admitting there is a “drug culture” at techno music events such as Terminal V, Mr Currie said the high quantity of drugs recovered in the past is due to the effective policing and stewarding.
Councillors voted four to two in favour of granting the license.
SNP councillor Cathy Fullerton backed refusing the license and said she was “really shocked” another event was even being planned.
She said: “In order to make this event financially successful for the operator or promoter a huge amount of other costs are involved, for example Police Scotland, NHS, council, but more importantly the real threat and harm – and potential death of anybody that’s attending – through drug use.
“It is my view that this committee should not associate itself with events such as these that hold a threat to public safety.”
But Jack Caldwell, Lib Dems, argued in favour of it going ahead. He said: “Young people will be taking drugs at parties on Halloween and I would rather obviously minimise it as much as possible.
“At the end of the day I’d rather that was done near a medical tent with properly staffed and resourced medical personnel there rather than at a house party or 15,000 separate house parties across the city.”