Clipper yacht race: 'The crew this year will be very inspiring'

AT a time when the economy is in the doldrums and, from the zoo to the trams, the city doesn't have its troubles to seek, it is good to be able to welcome something positive.

And the decision to enter the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race for the second year in a row fits that description nicely.

Some may be tempted to dismiss participation as little more than a distraction, but thanks to sponsorship it costs the city nothing.

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And while we can't vouch for claims that taking part in the event is worth 10 million in publicity, it certainly does put Edinburgh on a global stage.

But what makes this year's entry particularly inspiring is the make-up of the crew.

While last year's bunch included a number of young people who had turned things around after struggling to find their way in early life, this time around the focus will be on organ transplant patients.

This brave bunch will be showing not only their own spirit for survival but also highlighting the work done by medics in this vital field - and none more so than those here in our own hospitals.

So we look forward to seeing them taking the city's name across the waves, and wish them godspeed as they try to improve on last year's lowly, if creditable, finishing place.

A mile of style

There will always be a place on the Royal Mile for shops selling so-called tartan tat.

Some tourists want kilts, Greyfriars Bobby tea towels and fridge magnets which play Scotland the Brave as souvenirs of their stay in Bonnie Scotland - and they don't want to pay the earth for them. And who are we to judge? How many of us have brought home tacky Effiel Tower souvenirs as a bit of fun from Paris?

But there is a wider and more serious question to be asked about what we really want the Royal Mile to be in the 21st century. A tartan-clad equivalent of Blackpool's Golden Mile? A treasure trove of high-quality Scottish craft stores? Or something in between?

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Most people agree a balance must be struck and that right now a walk down the Mile does little to show Edinburgh at it's best. What should be one of the heritage highlights of a visit to the Capital is in danger of leaving visitors with a lasting impression of rack upon rack of cheap souvenirs and blaring CDs of bagpipe music.

The council's plans to use it's position as the dominant shop landlord to encourage traders who will add value to the Royal Mile is as welcome as it is overdue.