Edinburgh’s festive skating axed as property owners ban it from St Andrew Square

Edinburgh’s iconic festive ice rink has been frozen out of one its most historic squares - ending a 22-year tradition in the heart of the city.

Property owners around St Andrew Square, including Standard Life, Gleneagles, RBS and Harvey Nichols have decided to oust the ice rink from its hugely-popular home in its 18th century garden.

Growing concerns about the scale and impact of the ice rink, which was opened to the public for the first time in its history just over a decade ago, have been blamed for the decision.

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But the move, which has emerged two years after Fringe promoters were banned from staging shows in the garden in August, has been branded “disappointing and bewildering” by the organisers of Edinburgh’s Christmas festival, which is estimated to be worth £113 million to the econonmy and said to support 2260 jobs.

Skaters on the ice rink in St Andrew Square. Pic: Neil Hanna Photography

Introduced in East Princes Street Gardens by Fringe promoter Karen Koren after she visited New York’s Central Park, it was relocated to St Andrew Square after event poducers Underbelly took over the winter festival in 2013.

Underbelly, which insisted it was not aware that a final decision had been made by the square’s owners, insisted it would mean Edinburgh would not have an ice rink at all this year. Around 80,000 tickets were sold last winter - around a third to Edinburgh residents.

The garden, created in 1770, underwent a £2.6 million makeover funded by the city council and Scottish Enterprise before opening to the public in 2008 and has been regularly used for events, most recently by the film festival. However Fringe operators were furious after being turfed out in 20017 in favour of it becoming a “space for relaxation” in August.

Roddy Smith, chief executive of business group Essential Edinburgh, which manages the square on behalf of the owners, said: “There will not be an ice rink in the square this Christmas. There is nothing sinister in what we are doing. This is just about looking after a prime asset in the city centre. The scale and impact of having the ice rink is just too great. The issue over the last four five or five years has been the impact that events are having. It’s creaking. We have been drawing things back, but even having just an ice rink in there has been wrecking it. It is going to be used a lot less for events in the future.”

A statement from Underbelly said: “This is a hugely disappointing decision and we’re completely bewildered. The ice rink is a world-class Christmas attraction for the whole family and is, and always has been, an extraordinarily popular part of Edinburgh’s Christmas. This decision now means the people of Edinburgh will not have an outdoor ice rink at Christmas.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The winter festival programme has yet to be agreed and we’re continuing to work with all partners, including finding a solution for St Andrew Square.”