Fears were raised after transport chiefs revealed they would consider dumping vetting procedures for adverts before they are allowed to appear on taxis.
The plans could also mean dozens of vehicles being entirely re-coated in different colours, causing the number of traditional black cabs in the city to plummet. Cabbie George Pendreigh said: “This is a crazy plan. I am all for lightening regulation but advertising is something that really has to be controlled.”
Under the plans, all existing controls on taxi advertising would be lifted – although drivers could still be ordered to remove an image if it led to a complaint.
Current licensing arrangements require all adverts or “personalised marks” to be approved after an application has been made and a fee paid.
Council officials said the current system of regulation had become difficult to monitor and that preserving it could mean application fees are increased for taxi drivers wishing to earn extra income through advertising.
Mr Pendreigh said moves to make life easier for taxi drivers during an economic downturn were welcome but insisted that removing all advertising controls was a step too far. He said: “You can’t have saunas and all that nonsense appearing on the cabs in the city.
“The current system keeps any of these silly or obscene ads from being put on – it keeps things under control.
“Edinburgh has a very good fleet – one of the best in the UK. If the approval system goes, you could have adverts everywhere on the cab. You just wouldn’t get away with that sort of thing on the streets of Edinburgh.”
But Mr Pendreigh’s fears were rejected by taxi trade leaders and advertising chiefs.
Tony Kenmuir, director of Central Taxis, hailed the proposal and said: “It’s a possibility that some of the ads put on taxis could cause offence but I think the Advertising Standards Authority would leap in very quickly and the advert would be removed.”
He said the current rules were damaging the taxi trade and depriving the Capital of lucrative advertising deals. “The process is massively slow,” he said. “It can take weeks, even months, for a single cab to get approval for an advert.
“Even for a firm that wants to run an ad on several vehicles in its fleet, every vehicle must be photographed, the photos looked at and approved, and an approval letter issued to each driver. It’s needless bureaucracy. And it’s become more of an issue to the trade recently because we are really feeling the pinch with rising fuel costs.”
Plans to overhaul taxi advertising were also welcomed by Jeremy Sweeney of Ubiquitous, the UK’s largest black cab advertising firm, who said they would create a “level playing field”.
He said: “We don’t think this review is about lowering standards at all.
“If residents are concerned about the adverts currently appearing on buses and at bus shelters, they would have reason to be worried about this.
“If not, then all that will happen is that taxis will be put on the same regulatory footing as everything else.”
No sexual or controversial text allowed
TAXI adverts have long been a source of controversy on the streets of Edinburgh and further afield.
The Subway nightclub was forced to remove its “Sorted Drinks” slogan from city cabs after licensing leaders raised concerns it could encourage binge drinking.
The West Port lap dancing bar Hooters also planned a taxi advert sporting a large American flag and the slogan “Lap dancing – live shows – girls, girls, girls” down both sides.
But the ad was later banned by licensing chiefs, who said no adverts were allowed which “contain sexual or controversial text and depicting men, women or children as sex objects”.
And in Glasgow, council chiefs decided a taxi advert promoting Reebok trainers was too racy because it showed a woman’s legs and contained the word “bum”.