Aberdeen has successfully retained its Purple Flag accreditation for the eighth year in a row.

Led by Aberdeen Inspired, the BID (Business Improvement District), the standard requires excellence in the management of the Granite City’s evening and night-time offering as well as in the safety and wellbeing of visitors and citizens.

Aberdeen was the first city in Scotland to be awarded the accreditation, managed by the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), in 2014 and is held up as an example UK-wide, having been re-accredited every year since then.

Members of the Purple Flag panel were highly impressed with the city’s business resilience and COVID recovery strategy, cited as “a great example of best practice through very different and difficult times”.

Among the highlights singled out for praise were the Aberdeen Christmas Market, which attracted footfall of 25,000 to the Bon Accord centre over the festive period; phase 1 completion of the City Centre Masterplan; the city’s Business Resilience Group; and Aberdeen City Council’s socio–economic rescue plan.

While restrictions were in place for the evening and night-time economy for the majority of 2020, ongoing strong partnership working was cited as “instrumental during these very difficult and challenging times” in the judges’ feedback, as well as the innovation shown by the hospitality and retail sector towards restoring consumer confidence within the city centre.

This included the formation of the Aberdeen Hospitality Together forum last year, which agreed a 10-step assurance scheme. These steps included a joint commitment to having strong queue management systems in place with physical distancing and crowd control measures when premises were allowed to open. More than 130 hospitality businesses in Aberdeen joined forces to create the forum.

Aberdeen Inspired also highlighted the continued shared priorities for the night-time economy of tackling crime, ensuring safety, wellbeing and, in more normal times, delivering a vibrant city centre experience.

In response to the pandemic the city centre partnership, made up of key service delivery partners and agencies including Police Scotland, Street Pastors, NHS and Drugs Action, has worked together tirelessly to help the city centre throughout the pandemic.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said: “2020 was a year unlike any other, and never has safety and wellbeing been foremost in everyone’s mind, as well as the need to focus efforts on resilience and supporting businesses to survive and recover from the ongoing challenges caused by the pandemic.

“The awarding of the Purple Flag for the eighth year in a row is testament to the combined efforts of all the partners, including Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Hospitality Together, to support our city centre. We were heartened to see this strong partnership approach recognised by the judges as an exemplar.

“We hope the Purple Flag accreditation will help to reassure consumers and encourage them back into our cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and leisure facilities once restrictions are eased.”

Ojay McDonald, chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management, praised Aberdeen for its achievements, saying they should not be under-estimated. He said: “Aberdeen has shed its image of just industry and energy production to blossom into a visitor destination with an exciting urban arts and culture scene. Not only does Aberdeen meet the basic Purple Flag standards of harnessing excellent partnership working around safety and wellbeing, but it has gone beyond this to develop a modern city with great nightlife. Aberdeen remains a beacon for other Purple Flag destinations globally.”

Aberdeen City Council city centre spokesperson, Councillor Marie Boulton, welcomed the news, saying: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been accredited for the eighth consecutive year as this is a real testament to the work we have done since 2014 in driving the city centre economy forward despite all the massive challenges Aberdeen has faced, including the significant impact the downturn in the oil and gas industry has had on the local economy and now, of course, the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Regardless of these daunting obstacles, we have been determined to future proof the city centre’s night-time economy through our ambitious City Centre Masterplan, the benefits of which were already making themselves felt before the pandemic, with the opening of Marischal Square, the revamped Music Hall and, of course, the re-opening of our wonderful Art Gallery following its award-winning multi-million-pound redevelopment.”

Cllr Boulton added: “We still have the Provost Skene and Union Terrace Gardens redevelopments to look forward to but just as importantly we have continued to work closely throughout lockdown with licensees and other entertainment providers to ensure that, through our socio-economic recovery plan, they are in a great place to capitalise on these wonderful new attractions when normality returns.”

Stuart McPhee, chair of Aberdeen Hospitality Forum and director of Siberia Bar and Hotel on Belmont Street, said: “Partnership working was one of the ways that we as a city and a sector got back on our feet again when we were locked down locally in August 2020. It's great to see these achievements recognised and this accreditation of this renewal will showcase that we in Aberdeen have set a great example of how industries, local partners and stakeholders can work together.”

Police Scotland’s city centre Chief Inspector David Paterson said the accreditation was testament to ongoing partnership working.

"I am delighted that Aberdeen has once again been awarded the Purple Flag for excellence in managing the night-time economy,” he said. “Our officers work hard to make sure that the city-centre is as safe as possible, and a great deal of progress has been made throughout the years thanks to the willingness of organisations to work together to make Aberdeen the best it can possibly be.

“The past year has been different and challenging and just like all other organisations and businesses, our policing response has had to adapt to the Covid-19 restrictions. This achievement – for the eighth consecutive year – is testament to the strong partnership working in place, and which will be critical moving forward.”

More information about the Purple Flag scheme can be found at https://www.atcm.org/purple-flag