World Heritage pull-out: 'Belt-tightening may come at a cost to the city

The Forth Bridge's bid for World Heritage Site status could be dead in the water before it has even truly begun after the UK Government threatened to withdraw its £12 million a year funding of Unesco.

The Tory-Lib Dem coalition may be ready to follow Margeret Thatcher's lead and pull Britain out of the cultural organisation over concerns it is "wasting" its 186m budget.

The temptation is to simply shrug our shoulders and question what benefit the World Heritage label has actually brought Edinburgh since it was awarded to the Old and New Towns in 1995.

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Does anyone really believe it has convinced any more tourists to visit our already world-famous historic attractions?

The tourism and economic benefits of World Heritage status are certainly dubious, as a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study concluded four years ago.

The same Government- commissioned report though also highlighted a series of benefits, including attracting extra investment in conservation - 5 for every 1 contributed by the city council and Historic Scotland in Edinburgh last year - as well as education and civic pride.

Edinburgh may not lose its status if the Government pulls its funding but it can only diminish the work being done here in its name.

The Government must always pursue good value for taxpayers' money, but this belt-tightening may come at a cost to the Capital.

Fare decision

THE grumbles go on, but the 1 "kiss-and-fly tax" imposed by Edinburgh Airport since last October isn't going anywhere.

The charge was brought in to raise 1 million a year for airport improvements, starting with a new covered drop-off area. The arguments against it - that it added to the burden of tourists, leaving and arriving, and might put off business travellers - have been well- rehearsed, but they have also been lost. The "tax" is here to stay.

But one group which has been particularly vocal is the local taxi drivers who shuttle commuters back and forward. To them it isn't just an extra quid a couple of times a year, but a pound every time they drop off or pick up a passenger. Some will have been paying out 20 or more a day.

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That was an unfair burden which they could not be expected to absorb into their costs, so the council's decision to increase fares by the pound for appropriate journeys is a sensible one.

And if you don't like it, blame the airport, not the cabbies.