Connery criticism: 'Observations send out mixed messages'

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IT is disappointing that Sir Sean Connery has chosen to use the occasion of the publication of his keenly awaited memoirs to make wide-ranging attacks on his home city and the manner in which it is now run.

But while after so much time abroad it is possible for those who live here to take most of what he says with a pinch of salt, it is difficult to gauge how some of his negative comments might influence those unfamiliar with Edinburgh.

His greatest criticism is reserved for what he describes as the "whoring" of the city's historical heritage by seeking to exploit "dark tourism" in and around the Royal Mile. He is heavily critical of Historic Scotland for condoning and encouraging the exploitation of tourists who he says are given a "Disneyfied haunted house" experience rather than a glimpse of what real life was like in old Edinburgh. Many would agree his observations in this instance are reasonable.

But his criticism of renaming the city's main rail station Edinburgh Waverley – rather than plain Waverley – is nonsensical. It is important that visitors travelling to the city receive accurate guidance and all cannot be expected to know that Waverley is so named because the author of the novel of the same name lived in the city and has his monument nearby.

Sir Sean's observations on the current state of the Capital in some instances send out mixed messages. While he praises the work of a handful of individual home-based architects – and the genius of the Spaniard Enric Miralles, who designed the Scottish Parliament – he contradicts himself by criticising most of the modern buildings being erected in the city, the majority designed by the architects he praises. He reserves particular scorn for Caltongate, but not for its mastermind Allan Murray.

And his attack on the lack of support for plans to build a new home for the Film Festival on Festival Square must surely be influenced by his personal involvement and the suggestion that such a centre would have been named after him, even though no detailed plan for the project was ever lodged with the City Council.

Whether he lives here or not, Sir Sean is entitled to his opinion and due to his international celebrity status his views will carry considerably more weight than most. But the fact he has not lived here for half a century cannot be completely ignored and much of what he has to say will chime with many other ex-pats. Let's hope that people elsewhere unable to form an opinion about the changing face of Edinburgh will not be unduly influenced.

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