£1.3 million flutter for flag plan

CITY council chiefs are set to spend £1.3 million on decking out the city in flags and banners for major events. The move, which is set to be discussed by councillors this week, is aimed at making Edinburgh the "exemplar" for

what they call "city dressing". It would even include appointing a "city dressing officer" to lead the project.

While welcoming the idea, opposition councillors today questioned whether the scheme should be a top priority, given the recent wave of cutbacks to frontline services.

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But city development director Dave Anderson insisted the initiative would improve the city's appearance and attract more events to the Capital.

"For Edinburgh, city dressing is about celebrating the city, reinforcing its brand values, enhancing the experience of the city and promoting it as a world class location for national, international and civic events," he said.

"The justification for doing this work is that it raises the profile and appeal of the city, supports tourism and inward investment, enriches and animates the quality of life in the city, and supports the objectives of the Edinburgh Inspiring Capital brand.

"To date, city dressing has been carried out on an ad hoc basis and, at times, in a way that detracts, rather than enhances, the outstanding character of the city.

"By bringing together all those with an interest in city promotion and the way the city looks and performs, this strategy addresses the previous lack of coherence in city dressing delivery."

He added: "The most important principle is that dressing is temporary. It appears in relation to an event, then it is removed."

The plans would also include the display of artwork, while more landmarks would be lit up, images would be projected on buildings and temporary video screens would be installed throughout the Capital.

The location of the flags and banners would vary, depending on the significance of the event, with Princes Street reserved for the summer and winter festivals, major conferences or international sporting events.

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For other major sporting competitions, smaller festivals and concerts, banners would be put up in the east and west end of the city.

For local runs, walks or community shows, flags would only be permitted at the event location.

The project would involve capital expenditure of 1m over three years, which would include appointing the "dressing officer", buying flag poles and banner mast sockets, heraldic flags, and the cost of power supplies.

There would also be annual revenue costs of over 300,000 for the erection and removal of flags.

Councillor Ian Murray, the city's Labour finance spokesman, said today: "If this is a speculative purchase, then the money should be spent elsewhere on essential services that are being decimated.

"I don't see why we should be dressing the city when local pensioners' lunch clubs are shutting down."

But he added that the plans would be acceptable if "it is proven there is a strong business case, and this would bring in more money than it costs".

Tory group leader Iain Whyte backed the idea "in principle", but said the plans should be judged against other priorities.

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"We have to make the city look good to attract tourists," he added.

Bill Cowan, spokesman for the Old Town Association, said: "Flags and banners are a good thing, but what we don't want are huge concrete blocks cluttering up the pavements."