The Nationalist Party will not be holding its annual Independence Day on The Granaries in Floriana but outside its headquarters in Pieta in a bid to save costs, deputy leader David Agius has confirmed.

“This is the decision of a responsible leadership that is committed to strengthen the party’s finances," he said.

"It would be irresponsible to pile further debts just to hold these celebrations, and consequently the decision was to scale down the event in line with our budget."

The celebrations have been held every year in the Granaries in Floriana since 1982, except for 2015 when they were held outside the new parliament building in Valletta.

The decision was taken during an executive committee meeting held on Tuesday evening amid rumours of a shift in venue.

While the leadership justified the decision on financial grounds, it also came at a time when the party is still reeling from the heavy MEP and council election defeats of last May.

Furthermore, last month’s extraordinary general council in which Adrian Delia was reconfirmed leader, albeit with two-thirds of the votes, has also exposed the existing split.

Sources told Times of Malta that the move to Dar Ċentrali was also taken in this context.

“While the annual Independence Day mass meeting on the Granaries has traditionally been the party’s show of force, in the current situation this would be too risky as a poor turnout would dampen morale even more and leave the leadership red-faced,” they said. 

Asked about the political ramification of this decision, the PN deputy played down such concerns.

“In this day and age when everybody takes photos and posts them on social media you cannot hide the crowds or empty spaces, be it in Pieta or at The Granaries,” he said.

Mr Agius pointed out that all of the usual activities will be held, ranging from the political discussions, the Konkors Kanzunetta Indipendenza and the mass meeting. 

“The only difference is that the stage will be smaller, meaning less costs to set up the audio-visual equipment,” he said.

The PN deputy leader noted that due to the recent extraordinary general council no fund raising marathon had been held last June, meaning less revenue.

Moreover, he said that it would not be prudent to spend lavishly on the Independence Day celebrations, just three weeks before the next fund raising marathon which is scheduled for October 6. 

The PN has been organising these celebrations since 1971, when the newly-elected Labour government decided to do away with the official celebrations.

Over the years, the event gained popularity, especially from 1982 onwards, when the Granaries became its home. 

In 2015, the party had decided to shift the venue to City Gate, but the move had been unpopular prompting the administration to go back to The Granaries from 2016 onwards.