Festivals and tourism are good for Edinburgh - Readers' Letters

Cliff Hague is absolutely right – questioning Edinburgh’s festivalisation does not make you a snobby anti-culture curmudgeon (Scotsman, 5 August). Raising questions about Edinburgh’s festivals does not make anyone a snob. Every organisation and citizen should have any concerns heard in a respectful manner and where appropriate taken on board.

Festiva events such as the Military Tattoo make a positive contribution to Edinburgh, says letter writer Donald Anderson
Festiva events such as the Military Tattoo make a positive contribution to Edinburgh, says letter writer Donald Anderson

However, the other part of that argument is that being pro-development and supporting festivals doesn’t make you a philistine who doesn’t care about the city or its built heritage. Nor does it mean you’re in favour of the unfettered roll out of Airbnb’s throughout the city centre.

Alas, it is increasingly challenging to conduct a healthy public debate in the internet age. Too often shouting matches take place that generate much heat but very little light.

The low point in Edinburgh’s built heritage was in the 20th and not the 21st century. Like many cities Edinburgh’s city centre suffered an exodus of population and serious physical decline ably described by AJ Youngson in The Making of Classical Edinburgh.

The 21st century has seen huge improvements to the built fabric of the city and a repopulated city centre. That has been driven by amongst other things tourism and the city’s festivals.

To give just one small example, pre Covid-19 the Scottish Government gave £38.4 million in grant funding to Historic Environment Scotland (HES). That was less than 40 per cent of its budget. Most of the rest came from Edinburgh Castle and the Tattoo. This year the HES grant had to be doubled to try to make up the huge shortfall in funding caused by a lack of tourists.

Festivals and tourism helped HES look after the 300 properties in its care and much, much more. We need a healthy debate that recognises the positive contribution tourism makes our fantastic built heritage.

Donald Anderson, Edinburgh

Festival city

What a great article by Cliff Hague of the Cockburn Society, putting to bed the ridiculous notion that somehow the society is anti-Festival. It is, as he says, against the festivalisation of Edinburgh and I heartily agree.

I have been attending the Festival (not the Festivals – an unnecessary new moniker) for decades now, and indeed have appeared in many, and I love this time of year.

However, the commercialisation of the spaces around the Festival has to be halted. I would far prefer the council to develop these spaces better.

I realise that they are continually looking to save and make money, but the aim should be to preserve the quality of our city for the benefit of visitors, performers and residents alike. Short-term gain is never a good strategy for anything.

Brian Bannatyne Scott, Edinburgh

Going for a song

Perhaps I can assist Murdo Fraser with his question (Scotsman, 4 August): “Why does the SNP show such hostility towards Rangers and their fans?”

As a lifelong Celtic supporter, I cannot wait for the forth coming Old Firm match at Ibrox.

For the first time ever, I will stand with my foes from Govan and heartily sing “Three cheers for the red white and blue”, then with gusto I will join them in a rendition of Rule Britannia, and to finish off, will with full forte belt out God Save The Queen.

I think it is fair to say that the Rangers songbook sticks in the craw of the First Minister and her merry band.

David Millar

Lauder, Scottish Borders

Football favours

Further to Murdo Fraser’s claims that the SNP has a problem with Rangers, he forgot to mention that of the £25 million Scottish Government loans to SPFL clubs, Rangers received the largest amount at £3,200,000 while Hibs received £2,882,000 to help them out. Celtic were the only top-flight team not to apply for a loan and Hearts, in common with other Championship clubs, received a grant of £500,000.

As The Scotsman reported, the Scottish Rugby Union received a £13.5 million grant rather than a loan, so it seems the SNP just doesn’t do pork barrel politics Tory-style by giving contracts to its donors or favours to its natural supporters.

Fraser Grant, Edinburgh

Runway row

It is significant that Keir Starmer, during his visit to Scotland this week, re-iterated Labour’s opposition to a third runway at Heathrow (Scotsman, 5 August); particularly as the environmental aspirations behind his policy position seem to chime with those expressed by the Scottish Government.

Although it seems to be the only plausible conclusion for those who are serious about decarbonisation, particularly as the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change has advised that there is no room within carbon targets for a net expansion of UK aviation capacity, there do seem to be some who are happier equivocating on the matter – led by vested aviation interests who are keen to win a reprieve for their industry.

In the year of COP26, the Scottish Government is doing the right thing with its targets to decarbonise aviation and its target to achieve Net Zero by 2045. But in this important year, when this significant conference is being held in Glasgow, would it not be useful for Scotland’s government to declare that it too had arrived at the only plausible conclusion on Heathrow’s expansion, especially as any increase of aviation capacity in the UK’s south could require counter-balancing restrictions in Scotland, itself?

Paul McGuinness. Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition, Middlesex

Green energy

Boris Johnson is being wrongly castigated for wanting to keep all options open, including the new oilfield off Shetland (Scotsman, 6 August) until there is a guaranteed sustainable renewable energy economy.

There is a global shortage alongside an insatiable demand for the rare metals on which information technology and renewable energy depends, such as lithium for batteries in mobile telephones, electric cars and windmills.

Mining rare metals creates ecological devastation, as now seen in many parts of China where drinking water and soils are totally contaminated. In the USA, the estimate to clean up existing rare metal mines is over $50 billion and rising, as mining continues.

Less than ten per cent of rare metals used can be reprocessed, leaving a toxic mountain of waste which has been exported to Asia and Africa by the USA and European countries.

Unless new non-toxic sustainable materials are identified and used, the rare metals now relied on will not only be used up but many parts of our Earth will be irredeemably contaminated.

High on the agenda for COP26 should be how to develop truly green sustainable renewable energy, and whether hydrogen-driven cars are preferable to electric and what new technologies and materials can be developed for a truly sustainably green global economy.

Clearly we are not there yet.

Elizabeth Marshall, Edinburgh

Good news

Stan Grodynski should try watching GB News (Letters, 5 August) and then he would realise that it is a channel that is excellent at giving airtime to differing opinions on the subjects covered by them.

He obviously lacks awareness of the channel as Andrew Neil hasn't been broadcasting on GB News for many weeks.

They have had and are still having some tech problems which no doubt has accounted for some viewers losing interest but the content and commentators are worth watching.

If they were redundant they'd be off air by now.

T Lamb, Aberdeen

Pros and cons

I was delighted to read the piece by Katharine Hay deprecating the current tendency to form a firm opinion on a subject without considering all the relevant aspects and then promote that stance with fervour without regard to other points of view (Scotsman, 6 August). That needed to be said.

On the other hand, as Hamlet came to realise, too finicky a weighing up of pros and cons can mean that, “The native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought “ and so “Enterprises of great pith and moment do lose the name of action”.


S Beck, Edinburgh

Joyce is wrong

Your columnist, Joyce McMillan, arts critic extraordinaire, is once again pontificating on issues she knows nothing about (Scotsman, 6 August).

She derides Boris Johnson for his comments on "levelling-up" and seems to be totally unable to understand any element of humour.

She complains about the regional disparity between the south of England and other regions in the UK, failing to mention that the regional economic strength of the south of England has long been built upon the outstanding success of the UK financial services market, headquartered in London.

There used to be a replication of that, based in Edinburgh, but the threat of SNP independence has caused a decline in the financial services sector in Edinburgh.

She also omits to comment at all on the value-chain and supply chain network in the UK, wherein small business supplies goods and services from the regions into the market participants in London.

With the advent of new digital FinTech, we are likely to see a gradual decentralisation of financial services, away from the London centre, but Ms McMillan chooses not to see that, and contents herself with taking yet another swipe at a UK Conservative government.

Derek Farmer, Anstruther, Fife

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