Claims Edinburgh’s silent disco groups are turning visitors into ‘complete idiots’

Businesses and residents in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town are campaigning for a clampdown on silent disco walking groups over claims they are turning “gullible” visitors to the city into “complete idiots”.

Council chiefs are facing growing calls to curb the singing and dancing antics of large groups amid claims they are “creating a hazard to themselves, other pedestrians and passing traffic”.

The Edinburgh Old Town Association (EOTA) and the Old Town Community Council are demanding strict enforcement of where and when the silent disco walking tours can operate amid claims some that some “unrelated gatherings” are now “bulldozing” people out of the way.

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City council chiefs have admitted that the growing popularity of silent discos has “compounded” problems with overcrowding during peak festival periods. Congestion concerns have led to the drawing up of radical road closures, relocated bus services and suspended taxi ranks this year.

City groups say many groups are well-managed, but that some of the silent disco walking tours are a hazard to themselves and other pedestrians. Picture: Scott Louden

However, the authority insists it is powerless to bring many operators under control due to a loophole in the law which means they do not need a street trading licence if they only sell tickets online.

A new EOTA bulletin states: “Silent discos are a fairly new idea for extracting money from tourists and making them behave like complete idiots.

“Groups of gullible punters are fitted out with earphones through which disco music is played to them. A group leader encourages them to sing and dance along to music being pumped into their ears.

“Some groups are well-managed. Others are a hazard to themselves, other pedestrians and passing traffic.”

A separate dossier for the authority compiled by the community council states: “Some of these represent huge unregulated ‘public gatherings’ of people that completely take over footpaths, bulldozing regular users out of the way. Tours over, say, ten people, need licensed and regulated in number and timing.”

Bill Cowan, planning and transport secretary at the community council, said: “The problems with silent discos have got dramatically worse over the last couple of years, especially the unregulated ones.

“They are anything but silent. You can’t hear any music, but that doesn’t stop the participants from yelling, shouting and screaming as you would at a real disco. If you’re at a disco, you’re in an enclosed space and under supervision. These people are prancing along pavements a metre wide. If you meet 40 of them [while you are] pushing a shopping trolley up a hill it’s really serious. The council needs to figure out a way to control them.”

EOTA treasurer Rosemary Mann said: “A silent disco is a misnomer. The one thing they’re not is silent. Although the guide speaks to the group through headphones, they shout and clap along.

“They’re incredibly noisy and disruptive, far more so than ghost tours. They’re also anti-social. They can block a complete street corner.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We have limited powers to regulate walking tours, including silent discos, under the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. We encourage such operators to be considerate of the public and advise it is best practice to seek a licence, in particular to guard against the risk of action if one-off payment is taken in the street.”