THE woman headhunted to head up efforts to promote Edinburgh around the world has quit her £100,000 job after just 18 months in the wake of a row over its first major campaign.
Lucy Bird has walked away from her job with Marketing Edinburgh following bitter behind-the-scenes rows about the £300,000 “incredinburgh” initiative, which current and former councillors had lambasted.
The 53-year-old, who was in charge of a budget of around £3 million, will leave at the end of the month after a turbulent tenure when she has faced criticism for failing to win enough private sector support for the body and the lack of any detailed business plans.
However it is thought she is not receiving any kind of pay-off after she made the decision to resign herself. She is understood not to have another job lined up.
Ms Bird was unavailable for comment but her resignation - tendered on Friday morning and announced to staff at lunchtime - was confirmed by the chairman of the board, Alan Johnston.
He said: “The board of Marketing Edinburgh is announcing with regret that it has today accepted the resignation of chief executive Lucy Bird.
“This decision has been entirely Lucy’s and while not desired the board understands her rationale and she leaves with our gratitude and best wishes.
“Lucy has led our fledgling company through a difficult birth period and created a platform on which, given the right support, Edinburgh can take itself to the world.
“The board remain passionate about and committed to the idea that Marketing Edinburgh will continue to represent this fantastic city and fulfil the aspirations of both its public and private sector partners.”
Criticism of the “incredinburgh” campaign had been leaked just weeks before its planned launch - as it emerged deputy council leader Steve Cardownie had walked out of a presentation.
The local authority was the biggest financial backer of the body, ploughing in £1.2 million.
There was further criticism from Cllr Cardownie - and in other anonymous briefings - after the launch of the campaign when it emerged that a number of slogans had been retained.
The advertising guru behind the campaign - the Leith Agency’s creative director Gerry Farrell - was then suspended for attacking Cllr Cardownie for the original leak on his twitter feed, although he has subsequently returned to work.
Insiders said relations between Ms Bird - previously head of marketing at The Sage arts centre in Gateshead - and the council had been poor for some time and reached a head when criticisms of the campaign were made public before it had even launched.
Cllr Cardownie said: “I don’t regret anything I said about Marketing Edinburgh. I expressed an opinion, which I think I was entitled to do, and that was it. There was no whispering campaign.”
Colin Paton, chairman of the Edinburgh Hotels Association, said: “If Lucy Bird’s resignation is down to the problems with the ‘Incredinburgh’ campaign, then it is very sad.
“It may have been better to have left the marketing experts to get on with their job with the campaign which, after all, was signed off by Marketing Edinburgh’s board.”