Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Fears of hundreds of job losses over crackdown on temporary lettings must be taken seriously – Scotsman comment

It is true that there have been well-founded concerns about the effects of the rise in Airbnb-style lettings on the housing market in Edinburgh and beyond. It is also true that, at least before the pandemic, there was a degree of public unhappiness about the size of the city’s famous festivals.

However, Covid and the current economic crisis have dramatically altered the context of both debates and politicians need to respond to the very different world that we all now inhabit.

According to the organisers of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it may shrink by a third by 2024 because of a clampdown on the renting out of spare rooms and flats, which would severely affect the number of performers able to come. And that could mean the loss of more than 700 jobs and a £30 million hit to the local economy.

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It had been thought that exemptions from new conditions for short-term letting during the festival would avoid any problems. However, under Edinburgh Council’s planned licensing regime, home-owners face paying up to £845 for an exemption, insurance and other costs, which is expected to discourage them from providing accommodation, leaving many Fringe artists without an affordable place to stay.

Given how long Edinburgh Festival has been running and how remarkably successful it has been, it is easy to fall into the trap of taking the event for granted. However, the apparent demise of the International Film Festival should serve as a warning against such complacency.

The assumption that the festival, in all its glory, will always be there is naive. And should Edinburgh make life too difficult, there are plenty of cities in the UK and beyond that would gladly take its place as the host of the world’s leading arts festival.

To allow such a catastrophe, whether in the form of one dramatic move or a gradual shift, would be a foolish act of self-harm that would not only damage Edinburgh but Scotland’s economically and culturally important arts sector, once vibrant but now struggling as people cut back on non-essential spending.

Instead of making the situation worse, politicians should be helping the festival get through these troubled times.

It is a mistake to take Edinburgh Festival for granted (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)It is a mistake to take Edinburgh Festival for granted (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
It is a mistake to take Edinburgh Festival for granted (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)



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