Brian Ferguson: Festive attitudes have become Scrooge revisited

Dickens conceived the character of Scrooge after a walk through the Canongate Kirkyard. Picture: Contributed
Dickens conceived the character of Scrooge after a walk through the Canongate Kirkyard. Picture: Contributed
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The literary creations inspired by Edinburgh over several hundred years are many and varied. At this time of year, with the city festooned in attractions and light displays, it is always worth dusting down a Victorian classic for a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.

A stroll through the Canongate Kirkyard on a bright, but bitterly cold day offered a reminder that this was the place that had inspired Charles Dickens to write A Christmas Carol.

He had been intrigued on an evening walk through the same graveyard in 1841 by an inscription on a tombstone, which he wrongly believed described a certain Alexander Scroggie as a “mean man” – rather than meal man, thanks to his success as a corn merchant.

Two years later the miserly legend was born along with Dickens’ heart-warming tale of redemption for his Scrooge character and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Nearly two centuries on it appears the mean-spirited ways of Scrooge are still haunting Edinburgh. It was bad enough that the city council decided to cut back on Christmas lights in its town centres this year - a classic piece of penny-pinching that literally sent the city back to the dark ages. Bear in mind this is the same local authority that is funding a six-week winter festival which generates more than £240 million for the economy.

Now the council has triggered its own festive silly season by entertaining the notion that it might stage silent fireworks displays in future.

I can’t believe for a minute that Tory councillor Joanna Mowat thought that her ridiculous suggestion would be taken forward.

Imagine her surprise at having to deal with a flurry of media enquiries after her fellow councillors thought it would be a good idea to use time and resources to try explore the idea.

I suspect Cllr Mowat was spurred into action by a recent announcement that the biggest ever “midnight moment” was being planned in the capital on Hogmanay to kick-start celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival.

Despite clear warnings just over a year ago from consultants about the risks of complacency in Edinburgh about its festivals, here was a politician actively campaigning to dilute one of the most prominent features of the city’s events.

Dogs in the street realise the global publicity that is generated every summer and winter by the remarkable photography and footage of fireworks above Edinburgh Castle during the Tattoo, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Hogmanay celebrations.

It has been found that Edinburgh’s festivals now support more than 6,000 jobs - up by a quarter in the space of just five years.

Yet Cllr Mowat says she is being inundated with complaints about Edinburgh being turned into a “tourist city,” as if this is something to be feared rather than nurtured and developed.

She also gives the impression of being more concerned about the impact of fireworks on animal welfare than jobs.

I suspect Cllr Mowat has had her ear bent by some over-sensitive constituents in the New Town.

I cannot help but wonder how many of those who live in this part of the city benefit from letting out their lavish properties during the city’s festivals. For the remainder, perhaps Cllr Mowat should organise an alternative night out for them in a dreary location where they can wallow in their collective misery.