Watch: Edinburgh council chief hits out over 'ugliness and extremism' from critics of city's booming tourism industry

Adam McVey became Scotland's youngest council leader when he secured the post in 2017 at the age of 30.
Adam McVey became Scotland's youngest council leader when he secured the post in 2017 at the age of 30.
Share this article
0
Have your say

Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey has hit out at online trolls for tarnishing the debate on the impact of tourists and events on the city with “ugliness” and “extremism.”

He has criticised online “attacks” based on the nationality of individuals and said he had been personally targeted simply for coming from Paisley.

Speaking at the annual Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference in the Assembly Rooms, Mr McVey also hit out at suggestions there were “two tiers of Edinburghers” based on where people living and working in the city came from.

Mr McVey also urged the tourism industry to take steps to tackle the spread of misinformation and fake news about the industry head on.

And he said he would prefer that the city was still “grappling” with the tourism industry’s growth and success in 10 years’ time rather than see Edinburgh become “so insular as to think ourselves of just another city.”

Mr McVey was speaking a week after hundreds flocked to a public meeting in the city to protest against the growing “commodification” and “commercialisation” of the city for events and tourism.

City council leader Adam McVey was speaking at the annual Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference in the Assembly Rooms.

City council leader Adam McVey was speaking at the annual Edinburgh Tourism Action Group conference in the Assembly Rooms.

The SNP politician drew comparisons between anti-tourism sentiment in the city and the Brexit debate, saying he believed there were clear “synergies” between some of the online attacks he had noticed with “things that were painted on the sides of buses and printed in leaflets that were less than honest."

He cited recent anti-English and anti-Welsh attacks on council officials and business leaders as specific examples of how “extremism had seeped in.”

Mr McVey told delegates at the conference: “When you live in the city, you are a resident of this city and you are a citizen of this city. Whether you are from Europe, or anywhere else in the world you’re welcome in this city.

“It is the embracing of the painting of the other which has seeped in (to the debate) quite unfortunately now.

“I don’t say that to try to put people back into their box. I am not painting those that are raising legitimate concerns with the minority extremism of people who hold those views.

"We cannot just rely on economic good sense to tackle the issues that so many other cities around the world are dealing with in order to combat any potential backlash.

“We have to look and listen to what the concerns are and be willing to respond to them, not to respond to what is said, but try to understand the motivation for why it is being said.

“We are one city. Businesses and residents are not in some sort of separate vacuum.”

“We have to look and listen to what the concerns are and be willing to respond to them, not to respond to what is said, but try to understand the motivation for why it is being said.

“My challenge to you is this. Keep speaking. This is your industry and your city.

“Use social media and other tools to try to get the truth half way round the world before lies have a chance to get their shoes on."

Heritage groups have led the criticism of the growth in the city's tourism sector over the last decade, claiming it poses a threat to the city's historic environment. Other campaigners claim the city centre has been raised by growing "commercialisation, Disneyfication and festivalisation."

Mr McVey insisted the city council was taking steps to manage the impact of the industry by pursuing a tourist tax which would raised more than £10 million a year and take steps to clamp down on the number of city centre properties being let out to visitors.

However Mr McVey hit back at calls for the city to turn back the clock and take steps to curb the number of visitors coming to the city.

He added: "Nostalgia doesn't create good policy. Nostalgia dragging you back to a year that is gone and a place and time that is gone doesn't give you a good way of looking to the future.

"The only thing that gives you a good way of looking to the future is looking at what you want to achieve and taking meaningful action on how to get there.

"The concerns about this are not about the what. They are more about the how. I think that is addressable.

"Edinburgh is the front door to Scotland in so many ways to visitors and people want to move here and bring their skills and expertise to the country. I think if we can get things right we can lead the way in a national and international context, we can deal with the issues that people are raising and build on our success.

"Edinburgh is one of the world's must-see destinations. We are on bucket lists of people across the globe. That didn't happen by accident. It took years of hard work. The city is grateful for the opportunities that success has brought us.

"I hope that in 10 years' time we are still grappling with the issues of growth and success. I hope we have not become so insular as to think ourselves of just another city or pretend that the residential amenity in the city centre of a capital city can be the same as living in a suburb of an average town. It isn't the same and it shouldn't be the same.

"This is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world to live in. It is that vibrancy of things happening that has put Edinburgh up the rankings as one of the most liveable cities in the world."